The river of Christian orthodoxy

Wunderkind Ross Douthat has a book out, called Bad Religion. If the review in The New Republic is any guide, it’s about what you’d expect from Douthat.

Most troubling of all are the mistakes that bear directly on his central argument. And what is that argument? “A chart of the American religious past would look like a vast delta, with tributaries, streams, and channels winding in and out, diverging and reconverging—but all of them fed, ultimately, by a central stream, an original current, a place where the waters start. This river is Christian orthodoxy.” In the 1950s, Reinhold Niebuhr and Bishop Fulton Sheen carried the arguments for orthodoxy while Bing Crosby and Karl Malden brought the presbyterate onto the Hollywood screen and Charlton Heston came down from Sinai with God’s Holy Law. Everyone went to Church and understood the value of chastity. Then came the 1960s and liberal theology, the pill, and Vietnam, and America went to hell.

Oh for the days of yore, when everyone went to church and nobody was unorthodox.


  1. jamessweet says

    I actually agree with that entire quote if you just change the last two sentences to this:

    Everyone went to Church and had unhealthy ideas about the value of chastity. Then came the 1960s and liberal theology, the pill, and protests against Vietnam, and America got much better.

  2. RW Ahrens says

    The only problem is, that after the Reformation, there WAS no “orthodoxy”. Prior to that, the RCC was, but once the Protestants got going, “orthodoxy” became whatever some guy who called himself a preacher says it is. Yeah, it was a bit more organized for a while, since you needed some secular force behind you to protect you from the RCC and all the other Protestants who disagreed with you, but eventually, especially once this country got going, any nut with a bible (or maybe just some fake gold plates) could call himself a prophet, or a cleric or a preacher, and if he could fool some gullible idiots to follow him and support him, he was magically a church!

    No, that statement is pure wishful thinking, and more crap from those who want this to be called a christian country.

  3. Ken Pidcock says

    As best as I understand, Douthat never claims that Christian beliefs hold any truth whatsoever, just that we would all be better off if we could manage to delude ourselves as before.

  4. hypatiasdaughter says

    And all that pleasant orthodoxy survived by keeping all the unorthodox in their place – out of sight and out of mind.
    Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Catholics, atheists and any non-mainstream religions knew to keep their views personal and private.
    Blacks knew that they belonged on the other side of the street from the white women, with their eyes glued to the sidewalk.
    Women knew to keep their knees locked together. If they didn’t they were sluts – society’s disposable women.
    Gays were invisible.
    When a society tolerates only the orthodox, it makes the unorthodox into outsiders and pariahs.

  5. says

    Yes, every orthodoxy needs its companion unorthodoxy, to provide it with enemies to be criticised, attacked, burnt at the stake, buried up to their necks and stoned to death; whatever.

    Without outsiders there can be no insiders.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *