Notes on Religion Today

It’s hardly news any more that mainline Protestant denominations (Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc) have been shrinking fast in proportion as they’ve become politicized adjuncts of leftism, transforming themselves into the Church of What’s Happening Now instead of ministering to the horizon of eternity. Meanwhile, evangelical denominations continue to thrive and grow rapidly, not just here in the U.S., but around the world.

But what about the Catholic Church? Many parishes have also become politicized, while many have resisted. I used to say that you could tell a Catholic parish to avoid by one simple screen: find out if it offers a “guitar mass.” There seemed to be a reasonably robust correlation between guitar mass and tracts on “liberation theology” (aka, Marxism with salsa).

The Wall Street Journal yesterday reported on how evangelical denominations, especially Pentecostals, are booming in Latin America, and may soon outnumber Catholics, which would have been unthinkable even 20 years ago. (See nearby chart.)

The story includes this delicious detail that I think is a large part of the cause of this shift:

The rise of liberation theology in the 1960s and ’70s, a time when the Catholic Church in Latin America increasingly stressed its mission as one of social justice, in some cases drawing on Marxist ideas, failed to counter the appeal of Protestant faiths. Or, in the words of a now-legendary quip, variously attributed to Catholic and Protestant sources: “The Catholic Church opted for the poor and the poor opted for the Pentecostals.”

Whittaker Chambers (a Quaker) once wrote that “There is only one fully logical conservative position in the West—that of the Catholic Church. . . The Church is the only true counterrevolutionary force.” As such, I think this additional detail in the WSJ article would cheer him:

A more recent movement is in militant conservative Catholicism which stresses apologetics, or the defense of Catholic doctrine. A major leader is the Brazilian Rev. Paulo Ricardo, a priest with 1.5 million followers on Facebook who has condemned liberation theology as heresy and enthusiastically supported elements of Mr. Bolsonaro’s agenda such as relaxed laws on gun ownership.

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

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