For a time, it was frequently argued that Christianity was on the decline because Americans were fleeing liberal mainline denominations. This was not implausible. Looking at trends in American religion in the late 20th century, it was easy to discern that, on average, the mainline Protestant denominations were declining rapidly. And until recently, the more theologically-conservative evangelical denominations continued to experience growth, or at least hold steady.
This led the Religious Right to crow that their more conservative theological and political stances were yielding dividends in the pews. They argued that liberal churches had abandoned biblical teachings in favor of more fashionable political causes, but these efforts to “get with the times” failed to bring in new members. Even worse, it caused them to lose existing members to secularism, or nudged them toward more conservative expressions of Christianity, especially evangelical Protestantism.
One does not often hear this argument anymore.
Given the Religious Right’s [failure] on other fronts, however, the finding that it [also] expedited the decline of Christian identification and affiliation is a damning indictment of the movement.
In the realm of politics, the Religious Right was an abysmal failure. It was an effective fundraising tool for Republican politicians, but its lasting victories in terms of social policies are difficult to name.
(George Hawley, Is the Religious Right to Blame for Christianity’s Decline?)
What jumped out at me in this was the Religious Right argument that liberal/mainline churches were declining because they “had abandoned biblical teachings in favor of more fashionable political causes.”
It’s my impression that conservative Evangelicals, too, eventually were mostly putting “Bible” lipstick on a political pig. Their kids, even those who go to Christian colleges, arrive in shocking religious ignorance. Now they’re paying the same price the mainline paid.
Will they double-down, expecting a turnaround (the humorous definition of insanity), of will they turn around (i.e., repent)?