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Re: [HoB/D] Dr. Allen Guelzo on two national publications and the health of t...

How much is the decline in the numbers of most denominations a decline
in the utility of the church as civic religion?

When I graduated from college in Texas 48 years ago, almost everyone
went to church in any community, at least in the South.   How else
could you hope to sell insurance, find teeth to fill, have patients
for your allergy speciality...?

Rumor had it that you might become an Episcopalian and remain in good
standing if you came only twice a year, and in that way you could beat the
other church crowd to the country club golf course.

Is it accurate to say?:  the utility of the church as civic religion
declined radically in England in the late Victorian era.  Shortly
thereafter it declined in the Northeast, and it probably never had
much utility on the West Coast.

I noticed the decline of the social utility of church attendance in the
black South when I returned in 1988 to a campus where I had taught 17 years
earlier.  In 1971 almost all of my colleagues at a UNCF United Methodist
campus were in church most Sundays.  By 1988, only the older generation
maintained that loyalty, and there was no loss of status if a faculty member
did not show up.

When I moved to Rutgers in 1989, most of my colleagues viewed with suspicion
the attention that I give to church.  "Louie, you're bright and I don't
understand it.  Don't you know what they think about persons like you?" one
close Jewish colleague asked.

Has civic religion begun to lose its social utility in the white South
as well?

I personally find a great deal of advantage as a disciple to attend
with other disciples, with people who are active primarily for faith
reasons rather than for civic advantage

I think a Gideonized church, lean and focused for ministry, serves
as spiritual leaven in ways for which civic religion has no interest.

Sometimes churches are tempted to sell their prophetic soul to keep
the social set comfortable.

Chair of the Newark Deputation

      Louie Crew, 377 S. Harrison, 12D, E. Orange, NJ 07018 973-395-1068

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