A partial summary: When people find a faith that only aids and abets their preconceived notions, then they are participating in a form of syncretism; a form which usually leads to decline, since people eventually realize there’s no real difference between what they hear on Sunday and what they get through cultural osmosis while sleeping in.
This goes for people of all political and cultural persuasions. What should really give us pause, given this reality, is the increasing number of people whose secular politics determines their religious affiliation.
“These developments not only call into question the explanation for the decline of liberal churches offered by Kelley, Douthat and Eberstadt; it also implies that the challenges confronting both liberal and conservative churches in Europe and the United States may be more alike than is often assumed. Douthat’s article opens up a crack of acknowledgement in this direction, when he notes that the most successful churches in the United States are “theologically shallow, preaching a gospel of health and wealth rather than the full New Testament message.” Similarly, Stanley Hauerwas – no friend of liberal Christianity-has accused conservative American Protestants of being unable to distinguish between their faith in God and loyalty to their country. Intriguingly, his criticism of conservative evangelicals sounds remarkably similar to Douthat’s accusation against liberal Christianity: “the churches to which they go do little to challenge the secular presumptions that form their lives.”
There are good reasons to doubt the explanation usually given for the decline of liberal Christianity. The challenges facing both liberal and conservative churches may be more alike than is often assumed.