Quite a bit of buzz around the blog universe over Ross Douthat's recent New York Times article, "Can Liberal Christianity Be Saved?" The article seems to have been sparked by the recent meeting of the Episcopal House of Bishops in Indianapolis and its clear trajectory while the church is in massive decline. The article captures what is very apparent in the seminary world right now, that liberal doesn't sell very well.
A former colleague of mine who went to Princeton in the seventies used to joke that all the professors he had were ex-fundamentalists angry about how stupid they used to be and whose primary goal seemed to be to get the students to become just like them. I don't think Princeton is like that at all any more, but it reminds me of a seminary I recently heard of where some professors don't even go to church. Not a good sign for a place whose job is to train ministers.
But lest I feed the fire too much, I should make it clear that fervor and truth are two different things. Truth doesn't always sell very well either. What sells is self-interest, and pleasure stands at the very center of self-interest, including excitement and fervor. If people are angry, then what will sell is an opportunity to vent their anger. If people are scared, then what will sell is a place of safety. And it will always be the perception of safety that sells, not necessarily the reality of it.
So what do you think? What "sells" in a church and how does that connect to what is true?