Posts Tagged ‘declining’

Liberal Religions Forced To Confront The Dodo-Bird Effect Of Progressivism

April 18, 2011

There was a “Far Side” cartoon that makes all the more sense to me now.  A dinosaur was standing at the podium in front of a large auditorium full of dinosaurs.  And he was explaining, “We’re facing a serious crisis, gentlemen.  The world’s climates are changing, mammals are eating our eggs, and we have brains the size of a walnut.”

The religious side of liberalism is every bit as bankrupt as the political side, and the constantly shrinking membership bears that spiritual, moral and intellectual bankruptcy out.

I saw an article in the Los Angeles Times about liberal Judaism that brought out the fact that liberal “Judaism” was as much a Dodo bird as liberal “Christianity.”  During the same week I spoke to a “Catholic” I frequently chatted with who – after telling me he was a “radical liberal” who believed in abortion and socialized medicine – proceeded to tell me that he utterly rejected the virgin birth of Christ.  Which is of course a central defining belief of orthodox/traditional Catholicism.  And that prompted me to do some thinking about these so-called “mainline” liberal religious movements, and just how utterly meaningless they are.

I better nip one objection in the bud immediately, realizing as I do that many liberals either can’t read very well or can’t understand what they read.  The following article is about the astounding decline of “Conservative” Judaism.  But “conservative” here has nothing to do with politics or even with theology.  “Conservative Judaism” is every bit as liberal as any liberal mainline “Christian” denomination.  It embraces homosexuality; it embraces the notion that the Bible is basically a meaningless book that can be interpreted and then reinterpreted according to constantly changing societal norms.  Which is to say, Conservative Judaism ultimately stands for nothing, and isn’t “conserving” anything remotely important.

That said, “Conservative rabbis” met in Las Vegas to try to deal with a crisis: they are going extinct.  What came out of the meeting is all the more hilarious:

Leaders of Conservative Judaism press for change as movement’s numbers drop
Leading Conservative rabbis gather in Las Vegas to ‘rebrand’ the movement, but there is little agreement about how to draw people back into synagogues.
April 12, 2011|By Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times

Three hundred rabbis walk into a Las Vegas martini lounge. Bartenders scramble to handle the crowd — the rabbis are thirsty. Suddenly, an Elvis impersonator takes the stage.

We are faced with two possibilities.

One, this is the beginning of a joke.

Two, they don’t make rabbis the way they used to.

The Rabbinical Assembly, the clerical arm of Conservative Judaism, would have you believe the second message, or something like it. That’s why it launched its 2011 convention with a martini reception at a Las Vegas synagogue. The gathering was billed as an attempt to “rebrand” the Conservative movement, which has seen alarming declines in membership in recent years.

“We are in deep trouble,” Rabbi Edward Feinstein of congregation Valley Beth Shalom in Encino told the convention the next day. “There isn’t a single demographic that is encouraging for the future of Conservative Judaism. Not one.”

Those words could apply equally to a number of U.S. religious denominations, especially liberal Protestant and Jewish faiths. Membership is falling; churches and synagogues are struggling financially; and surveys show robust growth among the ranks of those who declare no religious affiliation.

The situation may be especially alarming to the Conservative movement because it was, for many years, the largest denomination in American Judaism. It was the solid center, more traditional than Reform, more open to change than Orthodoxy.

A decade ago, roughly one of every three American Jews identified as Conservative. Since then, Conservative synagogue membership has declined by 14% — and by 30% in the Northeast, the traditional stronghold of American Judaism.

By 2010, only about one in five Jews in the U.S. identified as Conservative, according to the American Jewish Congress.

The Reform and Orthodox movements also saw declines, although not nearly as steep. Reform Judaism for a time claimed the most adherents, but today that distinction goes to people who identify themselves as “just Jewish,” meaning they don’t associate with any of the traditional denominations. Many are entirely secular.

“We’re all in trouble,” said Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly and one of those trying to save the Conservative movement. Correcting herself, she said, “We’re not in trouble, but we’re in urgent need of rethinking the institutions of Jewish life.”

[…]

The movement’s problems, many agree, begin with its name, which has nothing to do with political conservatism and doesn’t accurately describe a denomination that accepts openly gay and lesbian rabbis and believes the Bible is open to interpretation. But that’s just for starters.

Deep dissatisfaction with the organizations that lead Conservative Judaism prompted a number of influential rabbis in 2009 to demand urgent change, warning, “Time is not on our side.” The group won promises of substantial change from the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents Conservative congregations, and helped prompt reforms in the institutions that train and represent rabbis.

A similar revolt by prominent Reform rabbis preceded that denomination’s continuing effort to reinvent itself, a project launched at L.A.’s Hebrew Union College last November.

So what does it mean for a religious movement to reinvent or rebrand itself?

“It’s one thing for a corporation to say ‘We’re going to reinvent ourselves,'” said David Roozen, director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.

“Sometimes they get into another business,” he said. “A religion … can evolve, it can be reinterpreted, you can express it in a slightly different style, but you can’t just be doing Judaism one day and say ‘I’m going to sell cars’ the next.”

The Conservative rabbis won’t become car salesmen, but they batted around some fairly radical ideas and predictably stirred up some opposition.

There was talk of eliminating membership dues for synagogues or switching to a la carte “fee-for-service” plans — so that a parent who wants only to send his or her child to religious school won’t also be paying to support the congregation’s other programs. But some said dues give congregants a vital sense of ownership.

Wolpe, the Sinai Temple rabbi, said the movement needs a slogan, one that’s short enough to fit on a bumper sticker. He suggested “A Judaism of Relationships.”

“We don’t have a coherent ideology,” he told his fellow rabbis. “If you ask everybody in this room ‘What does Conservative Judaism stand for?’ my guess is that you’d get 100 different answers…. That may be religiously a beautiful thing, but if you want a movement, that’s not such a hot result.”

[…]

And then there was the name. Some prefer Conservative, which was adopted when the movement began in the 19th century. It denotes the founders’ determination to conserve the best of Jewish tradition while being open to prudent change. But others said it is one reason the movement is seen by young people as being hopelessly uncool.

One suggestion: Change it to Masorti, a Hebrew word meaning “traditional” that is used by Conservative Jews in Israel and Europe.

“If we really want to appeal to the new generation, if you want to create a real worldwide movement … we need a common name, and I think it needs to be a Hebrew name,” said Rabbi Felipe Goodman of Temple Beth Sholom in Las Vegas.

As the meeting ended, there were pledges to work toward meaningful change. One example of what that might look like is an effort to employ a new definition of kosher food that would require ethical treatment of the workers who produce it —something that is being called magen tzedek, or “seal of justice.”

“This is an answer for Conservative Judaism because it’s about the marketplace, it’s about the public square,” said Rabbi Morris Allen of Mendota Heights, Minn., who is leading the effort. Magen tzedek “shifts the entire message of who we are as a religious community. Suddenly, it’s about more than just what is said at the prayer service on Saturday morning.”

Let me begin my analysis by means of a contrast.  Rabbi Morris Allen says, “This is an answer for Conservative Judaism because it’s about the marketplace, it’s about the public square.”  By radical, radical contrast, Christianity is about Jesus Christ, who He is—God incarnate—and what He accomplished—the redemption of sinners who embrace His atoning death for the sin of humanity.

“Conservative Judaism … [is]… about the marketplace.”  That is so sad.  “We need to sell more widgets, or rebrand our widgets, or maybe produce a different kind of widget.”

One of the reasons that Judaism is so swiftly disappearing is because of atheism and a virulent form of Jewish secular humanism which basically holds that it’s perfectly okay to not believe in God as long as you act as though you did.

Dinesh D’Souza points out why precisely why this phenomenon would occur – given the enormous influence of liberalism in Judaism – in his examination of why liberal “Christian” churches are losing membership in droves:

“Unfortunately the central themes of some of the liberal churches have become indistinguishable from those of the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Organization for Women, and the homosexual rights movement.  Why listen to Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong drone on when you can get the same message and much more interesting visuals at San Francisco’s gay pride parade?”

And D’Souza provides a sizable pile of statistics to show that the traditional (i.e. evangelical) denominations and churches are growing leaps and bounds even as the liberal mainline churches are going the way of the Dodo bird.

His point, of course, is that these liberal religionists are dying out because they don’t stand for anything that has any spiritual power whatsoever.

Here is the story of Christian growth in the world today:

Compared to the world’s 2.3 billion Christians, there are 1.6 billion Muslims, 951 million Hindus, 468 million Buddhists, 458 million Chinese folk-religionists, and 137 million atheists, whose numbers have actually dropped over the past decade, despite the caterwauling of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Co. One cluster of comparative growth statistics is striking: As of mid-2011, there will be an average of 80,000 new Christians per day (of whom 31,000 will be Catholics) and 79,000 new Muslims per day, but 300 fewer atheists every 24 hours.

Africa has been the most stunning area of Christian growth over the past century. There were 8.7 million African Christians in 1900 (primarily in Egypt, Ethiopia, and South Africa); there are 475 million African Christians today, and their numbers are projected to reach 670 million by 2025. Another astonishing growth spurt, measured typologically, has been among Pentecostals and charismatics: 981,000 in 1900; 612,472,000 in 2011, with an average of 37,000 new adherents every day – the fastest growth in two millennia of Christian history.

Christianity – which views itself (and which I personally believe is) the fulfillment of the Jewish Scripture – is the fastest growing religion on the planet.  Christianity is the world’s only universal religion; the only religion with a global reach.  It is particularly spreading in the third world and in Asia.  Soon, China will be the largest “Christian country” in the world.  There may very well already be more Christians in China than there are in America.  In Korea, Christians already outnumber Buddhists.

While mainline liberal Protestant and (mainline liberal) Catholic “Christianity” withers on the vine, evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity is exploding.  And while Western Europe and America increasingly deny the Christendom that brought them to greatness in the first place – even as they increasingly become less and less great as a result – Christianity is taking deep abiding root in cultures whose transformation can only be described as “miraculous.”

Meanwhile, as the statistics prove and as Dinesh D’Souza explains, atheism is shrinking in spite of all its grandiose claims to represent the fulfillment of modernity and knowledge.  “Nietzsche’s proclamation that ‘God is dead’ is now proven false,” D’Souza writes.  “Nietzsche is dead.  The ranks of the unbelievers are shrinking as a proportion of the world’s population…  God is very much alive.”  Secular humanists have long self-servingly claimed that the progression of “reason” and “science” would conquer religion, but this is now demonstrated to be a lie, a fairy tale of secularism.

Christianity stands for something.  And as much as I may personally despise Islam, it too at least takes a powerful stand – even if it relies primarily on force and terrorism to make that stand.  Atheism and secular humanism are only parisites hanging on to Christianity and its superior moral values, and the political liberalism that theological liberalism invariably leads to is the nihilism of objective moral truth all together.

Allow me to provide a concrete example of the empty nexus of liberal politics and liberal theology.  Barack Obama, a quintessential theological and political liberal, has repeatedly stripped God out of the Declaration of Independence and its profound establishment of Creator God as the only and ultimate grounds for legitimate human dignity, freedom and rights.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” our founders assured mankind, and “that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Not so with Obama.  On his repeatedly stated version, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that each of us are endowed with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

But just what created us (random mutation or perhaps benevolent fairies?) and exactly how did we become endowed with these rights that most cultures and most worldviews and in fact most political systems throughout human history have denied?  And further, why did the Judeo-Christian worldview which inspired these founding fathers be dumped on its head, such that its antithesis in the form of the radical homosexual agenda and abortion on demand be enthroned in its place?

Basically, the Judeo-Christian worldview – “Christendom,” if you like – has been treated like a salad bar in the Western Civilization that had been forged by Christianity, and secular humanists can pick out the parts that they like and throw away the rest.  But it’s not a salad bar; Judeo-Christianity as both a religion and a worldview is far more like the foundations of a great building.  And what these secular humanists have been doing is pulling out the foundational pillars one block at a time until there is nothing left to sustain the surrounding structure.

Which is precisely why the West – which used to be called “Christendom” – is now on the verge of complete collapse on virtually every level.

I see the war on terror, and from the start I have seen the glaring flaw in our strategy (yes, even when George Bush was waging it).  Basically, we have confronted totalitarian Islam on the military, political and economic fronts.  But we have utterly ignored the religious front – which is precisely the major front by which totalitiarian Islam has been attacking us.  Like it or not, 9/11 was a religious act.  And there has been no major movement whatsoever – either by the Western powers or by the movements within Islam itself – to confront the religious grounds of the totalitarian Islamists.

And the reason is because we have nothing to confront them with.  Secular humanists/atheists have undermined public religious expression at every turn, while cultural relativists have contextualized religion in such a way to strip it of any spiritual power whatsoever.  Now when we truly need true spiritual power to confront the demonic power motivating radical Islam, basically all we’ve got is allegorical dirt clods.

In the sphere of Islam, jihadists have the superior Qu’ranic argument that it is THEY who are carrying out Muhammad’s vision for Islam, not the liberal Westernized contextualizers who want to make very clear claims of Muhammad into metaphors and allegories representing something else.  Muhammad was a man of genuine violence; he had been in some thirty military campaigns in his life; he had committed numerous genocidal campaigns against “infidels”; and he had another thirty military campaigns planned at the time of his death, including the conquest of Western Europe as the means to spread Islam (“submission”) and the call of Allahu Akbar (a comparative which means “Allah is greater”).  If Muhammad is in any way, shape or form a representative paradigm of what it means to be “Muslim,” then the jihadists are right.

And liberalism – whether it be religious/theological or political/cultural liberalism – has exactly what to answer that?  Other than mocking or trivializing it?

Did political liberals – like the liberal rabbis from the LA Times article above – truly believe that we overcome the threat of terrorism by simply changing the name to “overseas contingency operation” from “war on terror”?

As bad as the religion of Allah may be for a free society, it has a great deal of force when the competition is cultural nothingness, the decaying leftovers of “salad bar pseudo-Judeo-Christianity.”

2 Timothy 3:5 says of such “Christians”:

“They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” (New Living Translation)

St. Paul told us, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1).  The risen and glorified Jesus told St. John of the seventh and final church age, “But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!” (Revelation 3:16).
of my mouth!

And it is with this final age of de-spiritualized, unglodly lukewarm “Christianity” and “Judaism” that makes God literally puke that staggering Western Civilization rises to the bell.

If anyone wants to know why I come across as angry from time to time in my blogging, it is because when I look around, I keep seeing the series of morally and even rationally terrible and despicable choices we have made right here in America that will invariably end with Antichrist, the Tribulation and Armageddon.  And it will not have been God that made this happen, or God who chose this end for mankind; but rather mankind that chose this end for itself.

C.S. Lewis said:

“We can always say we have been the victims of an illusion; if we disbelieve in the supernatural this is what we always shall say.  Hence, whether miracles have really ceased or not, they would certainly appear to cease in Western Europe as materialism became the popular creed.  For let us make no mistake.  If the end of the world appeared in all the literal trappings of the Apocalypse, if the modern materialist saw with his own eyes the heavens rolled up and the great white throne appearing, if he had the sensation of being himself hurled into the Lake of Fire, he would continue forever, in that lake itself, to regard his experience as an illusion and to find the explanation of it in psycho-analysis, or cerebral pathology.  Experience by itself proves nothing.  If a man doubts whether he is dreaming or waking, no experiment can solve his doubt, since every experiment may itself be part of the dream.  Experience proves this, or that, or nothing, according to the preconceptions we bring to it.” (God in the Dock, “Miracles,” pp. 25-26).

The problem with liberalism is that it “fundamentally transforms” whatever it touches – whether Christianity, Judaism or fiscal and economic reality – into a game of make-believe pretend.

Margaret Thatcher put the end-state of econimic liberalism succinctly: “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”  And then comes the collapse.

When radical Islamist jihadists attack, you can’t answer or fight with make-believe.  Any more than you can fight massive debt with make-believe mass-printed dollars.

My one consolation is this: I’ve cheated; I’ve skipped ahead and read the last pages of Revelation.  God – and most definitely not Allah or secular humanism or liberal mainline pseudo religiousity – wins in the end.  And when God wins in the end, via the return of Jesus Christ as true King of kings and Lord of lords, He will win in a very literal way indeed.

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Why Government Unions Are Proof That Democrats Have Become An Inherently Un-American Threat

February 22, 2011

FDR never wanted to see public sector unions.  FDR wrote:

“All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.”

[Well, that hasn’t really come to pass now, has it?  FDR continues]:

“Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable. It is, therefore, with a feeling of gratification that I have noted in the constitution of the National Federation of Federal Employees the provision that ‘under no circumstances shall this Federation engage in or support strikes against the United States Government.'”

Why did FDR say that?

Read this article from The Wall Street Journal and understand the inherent threat of public unions.  And then open your eyes:

It’s now official: In 2009 the number of unionized workers who work for the government surpassed those in the private economy for the first time. This milestone explains a lot about modern American politics, in particular the paradox that union clout with Democrats has increased even as fewer workers belong to unions overall.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported recently that 51.4% of America’s 15.4 million union members, or about 7.91 million workers, were employed by the government in 2009. As recently as 1980, there were more than twice as many private as public union members. But private union membership has continued to decline, even as unions have organized more public employees. The nearby chart shows the historical trend.

[1unions]

Overall unionism keeps declining, however, with the loss of 771,000 union jobs amid last year’s recession. Only one in eight workers (12.3%) now belongs to a union, with private union employment hitting a record low of 7.2% of all jobs, down from 7.6% in 2008. Only one in 13 U.S. workers in the private economy pays union dues. In government, by contrast, the union employee share rose to 37.4% from 36.8% the year before.

In private industries, union workers are subject to the vagaries of the marketplace and economic growth. Thus in 2009 10.1% of private union jobs were eliminated, which was more than twice the 4.4% rate of overall private job losses. On the other hand, government unions offer what is close to lifetime job security and benefits, subject only to gross dereliction of duty. Once a city or state’s workers are organized by a union, the jobs almost never go away.

This means government is the main playing field of modern unionism, which explains why the AFL-CIO and SEIU have become advocates for higher taxes and government expansion in cities, states and Washington. Unions once saw their main task as negotiating a bigger share of an individual firm’s profits. Now the movement’s main goal is securing a larger share of the overall private economy’s wealth, which means pitting government employees against middle-class taxpayers.

And as union membership has grown in government, so has union clout in pushing politicians (especially but not solely Democrats) for higher wages and benefits. This is why labor chiefs Andy Stern (SEIU) and Rich Trumka (AFL-CIO) could order Democrats to exempt unions from ObamaCare’s tax increase on high-cost health insurance plans. To the extent Democrats have become the party of government, they have become ever more beholden to public unions.

The problem for democracy is that this creates a self-reinforcing cycle of higher spending and taxes. The unions help elect politicians, who repay the unions with more pay and benefits and dues-paying members, who in turn help to re-elect those politicians.

The political scientists Fred Siegel and Dan DiSalvo recently wrote in the Weekly Standard about the 2006 example of former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine shouting to a rally of 10,000 public workers that “We will fight for a fair contract.” Mr. Corzine was supposed to be on the other side of the bargaining table representing taxpayers, not labor.

From time to time, usually requiring a fiscal crisis, middle-class taxpayers in the private economy will revolt enough to check this vicious political cycle. (See Scott Brown.) But sooner or later, the unions regain their political advantage because taxpayers have other concerns while unions have the most to gain or lose.

This is why most Democrats once opposed public-sector unionism. Such 20th-century liberal heroes as New York Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia and Franklin Roosevelt believed fervently in industrial unions. But they believed public employees had a special social obligation and could too easily exploit their monopoly position. How right they were.

As we can see from the desperate economic and fiscal woes of California, New Jersey, New York and other states with dominant public unions, this has become a major problem for the U.S. economy and small-d democratic governance. It may be the single biggest problem. The agenda for American political reform needs to include the breaking of public unionism’s power to capture an ever-larger share of private income.

The public sector unions and their power over the people was recognized to be an un-American and an inherent danger even by advocates of unions such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  We have only to look at Wisconsin and at what fascistic Democrats such as Community Organizer in Chief Barack Obama are doing in that state and others to see how right past Democrats like FDR were.

The things about economics and the economy that FDR believed in were wrong.  They were proven wrong in history.  That’s why the industrial unions that he adored have nearly vanished; they simply create too many impediments to a strong economy – particularly in today’s competition with countries like China that do not have “a union problem.”  And so Americans in our free market system decided long ago that it was better to have an actual job than it was to belong to a union and wonder why they had no jobs.

Modern Democrats, in desperation, turned to the very thing that they saw as an inherent un-American threat in the past.  They have to be hypocrites and liars because they have abandoned the very nature of their previous beliefs about the nature of the economy in a democracy.  Now public unions – once rightly an anathema – have become the foundation of their strength.  Big Union money constitutes more than TEN TIMES any Republican special interest money; and it obviously comes overwhelmingly from the public sector unions that FDR warned us about.

And in doing so, the Democrat Party has become an un-American and inherent threat themselves.

Jesus’ words in Luke 22:25 sum up Democrats and unions so well today: “Jesus said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.'”  Because liberals and unions literally take our money from our children and then tell us they’re doing it for our own good.  And the Democrats who take and take and take from us while calling themselves our “benefactors” today is hardly anything new.  And hardly anything Jesus approved of.