A small roundup

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  • I've been pretty busy this week, so I'd missed that the Volokh Conspiracy has been having a series recently on the same-sex marriage debate, by Maggie Gallagher, beginning around Monday. I haven't read all of the posts yet, but check it out. I especially wanted to point out this one. Gallagher is arguing against same sex marriage, and is responding to a question about what marriage is supposed to accomplish. She writes, in part:
    Here's my short answer: marriage serves many private and individual purposes. But its great public purpose, the thing that justifies its existence as a unique legal status, is protecting children and society by creating sexual unions in which children are (practically) guaranteed the love and care of their own mother and father. The vast majority of children born to married couples begin life with their own mother and fathers committed to jointly caring for them. Only a minority of children in other sexual unions (and none in same-sex unions) get this benefit. ... Please note: Procreation is not the definition of marriage. It is the reason for marriage's existence as a public (and yes legal) institution. People who don't have children can still really be married (just as people who aren't married can and do have babies).
    I don't think she's quite got the purpose right. I mean, that certainly is a benefit of marriage -- but it's not a fundamental one, as we increasingly see as marriage becomes more and more often just a temporary state, and more and more people get divorced. I suppose this is one reason to try and fight against the increase of divorce. But I digress. While protecting children certainly is for the good of society, that's not the fundamental reason I think we ought to have marriage, and particularly same-sex marriage. I think we ought to have it because God established it. He established it as a permanent, inviolable union which two people, a man and a woman, can enter into. It isn't merely a human institution established for convenience or to foster public good. I firmly believe that it does public good, but I don't think that's the whole reason for having it. Rather, God established it, and since he established it, he defines it. We can't just redefine it on a whim. Anyway, that's probably a topic for a whole different post. But check out the series over at the Volokh Conspiracy.
  • Some sociologists are suggesting that the more rapid growth of conservative churches relative to "mainline" churches is due to differences in birth rates rather than people seeking out more conservative churches.
  • This article has some interesting discussion about trying to prove whether the bacterial flagella can evolve. Unfortunately, it's a bit light on details, but it's part of the ongoing intelligent design debate on the subject. I think ID people are probably smart not to do the experiment, because if they found that the flagella can't evolve in this experiment, they might have trouble getting their results published because people would question their motives. On the other hand, anyone who can evolve it in the lab will have no trouble getting their results published, as this would be a huge discovery.
  • Jollyblogger has a good post (by C. S. Lewis, no less) on reading old books, which I think is important and rather neglected in the present. One key reason: In every era, people have their own peculiar blindnesses. By reading things written in other eras, we get to see through the eyes of people who aren't susceptible to the same sort of blindness that we are.
  • Tim Challies disagrees with many Christians on the issue of Halloween.

3 Comments

Couple of mainline seminaries recently closed down. I dont suppose that that is also due to the birth rate ???

I think that the reason why mainline churches are not growing is bec, they are spiritually bankrupt. These churches have absolutely nothing to offer to the seeker. There are people out there with acute existential anxieties regarding spiritual issues. They want to be shown something that is larger than life. So they go to one of these churches, and then they hear things like ..."the miracles never took place" or "the resurrection never took place", they leave - because they can get that skubala anywhere - esp. academia.

Also interesting is research on stewardship and giving in mainline vs. non-mainline churches. Research has indicated that people dont give much in mainline churches. Their level of committment is low.

God Bless,
Raj
Cambridge, MA

The birth rate might be a factor, but there's no way it could possibly be the main one. The mainline churches aren't just growing more slowly than conservative churches. They're shrinking rapidly. Enough of them are basically a bunch of senior citizens who couldn't get their adult children to attend if they wanted to but don't care anyway.

When my parents started attending a UCC church in Vermont, the pastor had just left, and the few long-time members were getting on in years. A few people in the congregation had a conversion experience and are now considering themselves evangelicals, and my parents arrived right in the middle of this. Now they've turned the place around. It's a thriving congregation with young families, they've left the denomination and become wholly independent, and the church is growing in more ways than biological reproduction. They've got a substantial missions budget because they've owned their building long enough to have no mortgage, and they don't have to pay a pastor's salary because they've got ten men willing to guest preach, most of them from very conservative evangelical churches within 30 miles or so who because of the pastor-centered model of ministry can't find a teaching outlet in their own congregation.

According to my dad, there's a lot of this happening in mainline churches in northern New England. Depending on the denomination, some of them have to leave their building with a few aged members remaining in a congregation to be staffed by a new pastor, while others like theirs get to keep the building because the congregation itself owns it. There's simply no way that you can explain this sort of thing in terms of birth rate.

Thanks for the comments. I'd always heard the same thing about growth (that it was due not to birth rate, but the other...) so I thought this story was interesting. Obviously there are a lot of churches which grow for other reasons, and I wonder how much birth rate really could play a role... Anyway, I just thought it was an interesting suggestion, but I don't really buy it.

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