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Is the “religious right” doing good for America and/or for American Christianity, or is it hurting us? It is often seen as carrying a lot of selfishness and a lot of unawareness of the real world. There is some evidence for those perceptions. Here’s how the future of faith in the US may be developing.

I. Pessimistic

Here’s a sad quote from a good Catholic philosopher, going from his own knowledge of history:

In nearly every historical case we can think of, the bias of a group lasts the lifetime of the group… Truly moral communities hardly ever result from the reformation of a previously selfish community. They nearly always spring from prophetic leaders who gather members from among the disenfranchised in other communities.

That is, the institutions of the religious right are unlikely to reform themselves, and are likely to continue losing people to more carefully Biblical fellowships.

Fortunately there are many reformist prophetic voices out there, and many evangelicals (especially younger ones) are opting for a better way, a more Biblically honest way.

And, as I see it, many not-very-religious Americans would very much like to see that happen, so they can risk trying to go to church again. Some of them do have a hope of finding someday in church a truly Biblical, loving, honest worldview in practice, where people actually try to follow the guidance of the Christ they profess to worship.

History moves on, often riding on the wheels of the judgment of God on false prophets and Pharisaical religion.

[The quote is from Lonergan and Spirituality: Towards a Spiritual Integration, by Tad Dunne, 1985, ]

II. Optimistic

In the final analysis, loving enemies is a way of living in expectation of miracles. No one anticipated the redical new directions imaugurated by Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union or de Klerk in South Africa.

It’s interesting, though, that the examples he gives throughout his books tend strongly (always?) to involve changes in the top leadership of the nations or institutions in question.

People can and do change, and their change can make a fundamental difference.

The “people” in question being, often, those who were part of, and the force behind, the apparatus of oppression and lies. The persons in leadership were moved out and new leaders of different character and ideas were installed, but the “people” who were the strength of the old movement were either behind that change in leadership or were ready to change their attitudes to enable the success of that change in leadership.

We must pray for our enemies, because God is already at work in their depths stirring up the desire to be just.

If God can forgive, redeem, and transform me, I must also believe that God can work such wonders with anyone. Love of enemies is seeing one’s oppressors through the prism of the reign of God …

[Quotes are from Walter Wink’s The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millenium, 1998, p178.]

III. “Middle Ground”

How the middle ground will be defined will lie mostly in the hands of mainline Protestants, black Protestants, moderate Catholics, moderate Jews, and others interested in tackling the difficult tasks of being true to their convictions in ways that take full account of the complexities of the contemporary world.

His “middle ground” is that between persons “without deep religious convictions” and “Evangelicals and other religious conservatives.”

[Quote is from Robert Wuthnow, After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings Are Shaping the Future of American Religion, Princeton, 2007, p213]