Martin E. Marty's Analysis of Religion in American Is Mostly Wrong Most of the Time

First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life, April 2010 | Go to article overview
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Martin E. Marty's Analysis of Religion in American Is Mostly Wrong Most of the Time


Martin E. Marty's analysis of religion in American is mostly wrong most of the time. That is because he fails to ask the right questions before moving ahead to offer the wrong conclusions. This is only our opinion, of course, and likely subject to some refinement at a later date. But, meanwhile, in his recent conclusions about the slight decline of conservative Christianity in America, he is surely mistaken. Citing some figures here and there, he comments that Catholics declined by almost 1 percent, and "the formerly swaggering and fail-proof Southern Baptist Convention" reported a loss of 40,000 members. (That's 0.24 percent, to put it in perspective.) Dr. Marty's own former denomination, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, "lost 45,735 members, or 1.44 percent of the formerly faithful." And, quoting a Religion News Service press release, "Similarly, the conservative Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) 'lost numbers for the last year for the first time in its 37-year history.'"

If this portends a great demarche, it is only because conservative Christians brought it on themselves, Marty seems to think. They deserve it, in other words. The trend in conservative growth and the readiness of conservatives "to battle for 'values'" has not proved durable, because conservatives were rather ungracious about their previous success. They became "gloaters and bashers," deriding "'mainline,' 'moderate,' and 'liberal' churches as they suffered losses.

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