Dean R. Hoge, Benton Johnson, and Donald A. Luidens, "Why Mainline Churches are Declining," Vanishing Boundaries: The Religion of Mainline Protestant Baby Boomers. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1994.
Decline of mainline Protestantism: a central fact of religious landscape in United States for more than three decades. Membership losses, weakening financial support & loss of nerve characterize decline.
Sixties counterculture is not a major source of mainline Protestant decline.
Decline is a result of two long-term processes.
Kelleys "internal loss of strength" thesis: Strong churches grow and weak churches decline.
Kelleys premise: people are attracted to religious groups because they want compelling & clear-cut answers to questions about meaning of human existence.
Hoge, Johnson & Luidens: there is more to mainline Protestant membership losses than internal loss of strength.
Hoge, Johnson & Luidens thesis: mainline decline is due to a combination of institutional & cultural factors.
Hypothesized Explanatory Factors Behind Church Decline:
(from Hoge, Johnson, and Luidens, Vanishing Boundaries, p. 12)
Increase of liberal education
Rise of pluralism
Rise of individualism
Rise of privatism
Social Structural Factors
Decline of community
Changes in family life and the role of women
Decline of switching-in
Failure to be relevant
Too much social activism
Failure of leadership and programs
Loss of internal strength (Kelleys thesis)
Max Heirich, "Change of Heart: A Test of Some Widely Held Theories About Religious Conversion," American Sociological Review, 83 (3) 1977: 653-680.
Two different issues: the nature of conversion and an argument about its causes.
Usual social scientific indicators or explanations of conversion:
To Heirich, these explanations are either too general or not general enough.
Heirichs Thesis: "Rather than argue about which truth is more accurate [i.e., religious or social scientific explanations of conversion], we might more fruitfully include as complementary examples a process that seems fundamental to human experience. I refer to the assertion of a sense of ultimate groundingone that provides a clear basis for understanding reality, that provides meaning and orientation for understanding ones situation and acting in relation to it" (673).
Steven M. Tipton, "Conversion and Cultural Change," Individualism & Commitment in American Life: Readings on the Themes of Habits of the Heart. Edited by Robert N. Bellah et al. New York: Harper & Row, 1987
During the turbulent sixties, youth came to deny the traditional ethics of their parents in favor of countercultural values. Yet, however hard they tried, countercultural values were too difficult for them to live out. So at the end of their youth and the decade they converted to new religious movements that enabled them to resolve their moral dilemma of having rejected the traditions of their parents and not being able to live according to countercultural values. This meant being born again as a charismatic Christian, seeking Enlightenment along Asian lines or actualizing ones self in the human potential movement.
With the civil rights, student free speech and anti-war movements, an underlying disaffection from traditions convictions about what this society is and what its way of life were about occurred. There was increasing frustration and disillusionment with American societys apparent failure to practice its own highest idealsand this frustration and disillusionment grew particularly among the young. And although the crest of the counterculture is long past there is still confusion about Americas meaning.
So Tiptons story is a story about sixties youths efforts to make moral sense of American society and their lives within that society.
What do we go by? How do we think it out, and live it out? If you inquire into your own moral views will you find the traditional answers still clear and powerful? If not, and you find yourself unsure of what to go by, unmoved by our received ideas and symbols, and uneasy in the world around us, what then?
Then we cease being observers safely watching others healing shamanically, reaching for Hindu moksha, receiving Judaic redemption, attaining Buddhist illumination, coming into conformity with the Tao, etc.
Eager or unwilling, we join others in a cultural drama where efforts to renew or transform traditions functions as cues. Whether we take their examples as paths to follow or avoid, possibilities to test, or puzzles to solve, the answers they give us about how we should live cannot simply be dismissed. For their questions are our own.
Tiptons Thesis: sixties youth joined new religious movements to make moral sense of their lives.
Styles of ethical evaluation:
Style Tradition Oriented to Mode of Knowledge Virtue
"We think our way to moral actions. Circumstances influence our thinking, but they do not do it for us."