I Got Them Disappearin' Mainline Blues (lyrics in progress by Okie Gardener, music needed)

Today I took a walk aroun'
the center city downtown.

Big church buildin's sure enough,
Methodists, Presbyterians, and such.
Lot's of space, but empty pews,
What's the cause of this distressin' news?

Chorus. Mainline churches goin' down. Mainline churches goin' down.
Sad news, sad news. I got them disappearin' Mainline Blues.

Fifty years ago American Protestantism was dominated by the "Mainline Churches": Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Methodist, Disciples of Christ, American Baptist, United Church of Christ. Today these formerly mainline churches now are on the sideline. Why?

In this series of posts, I have endeavored to uncover the "root causes" of Mainline Decline. Verse 1. Verse 2.

Today, verse 3 (more below)

Ecumenism. That is, denominations merging, or at least working together. A good idea as an idea. Problem is, the version of ecumenism taken by the Mainline Churches has tended to downplay doctrine. In other words, we'll agree to work together, or even merge, without coming to agreement on beliefs. The assumption here at work is that beliefs do not really matter. The result is a sort of "Cream of Wheat" preaching. Smooth but bland. If a church does not affirm and stand up for its own teaching, then why should I attend that church instead of another one?

Perversion of the Social Gospel. Nearly a century ago, in the midst of the "Progressive Era" of American history, Walter Rauschenbusch wrote a seminal book entitled A THEOLOGY FOR THE SOCIAL GOSPEL. In it he argued that Christianity should make a practical difference in society. Christians should pray "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done," then go out and try to shape society into something more closely resembling God's kingdom. He critiqued the quietistic, pietistic, individualistic, Christianity that preached heaven when you die, but did not address social sin and evil. So far, so good, I think. I do not see how anyone can read the prophets of Israel and then condemn Rauschenbusch. However, some liberal preachers took Rauschenbusch's thought in an either/or direction: either the pietistic individual or social action, either individual transformation or social transformation. They so pushed the social action that personal transformation became lost. If individuals are not transformed by God's grace, then why be a Christian at all? Why not a Marxist or a Maoist or any other movement promising social change?