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In Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, Ross Gregory Douthat provocatively addresses the drift of Christian faith experienced in the US during the recent past. He links this drift to the current economic, policy, and political malaise effecting the populace. The slow-motion decline of traditional faith and the rise of pseudo-Christian thinking is described and analyzed. One could argue details of Douthat’s arguments, but overall he makes a rather disturbing case for what has transpired. The thought provoking book is generally depressing. The tenor turns upbeat (or perhaps I should say hopeful) in the final sections where he proposes how Christian faith may be turned back to its roots. For my tastes, Douthat reveals his political biases in a number of places. However, Christians of all stripes would do well to at least give Douthat a hearing. The reading of Lloyd James is excellent.
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Fascinating narrative of the shift from (relatively) robust mid-century/post-war American religious institutions (morally authoritative and politically above the fray) to our current, institutionally-weakened religious climate (pervaded by heresies such as Osteen-ish prosperity preaching, Oprah-esque god within thought, or Beck-like nationalism) and enlightening connection of our religio-social climate with its different forms' various historical roots. The analysis is grim but insightful, and it concludes with thoughtful and thought-provoking reflections on possibilities of renewal.
Perhaps somewhat as an aside, one of the things I particularly enjoyed was the very incisive interaction with (and, I must say - as it seemed to me - pretty epic takedown of) the popular "real Jesus" search (those who partake in the essentially autobiographical project nearly always make him into a figure too impotent to have made much of an impact on history).
Overall the book makes Douthat look like a potential journalistic heir of Chesterton.
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