From Catholic to Orthodox, From (Nominal) Christian to Islam
From Catholic to Orthodox, From (Nominal)
Christian to Islam - U.S. religious trends in the 21st Century
By Sean Scallon
Saturday, January 6, 2007
Demographics is destiny and that's true not just
in politics but business, education, sports,
entertainment, culture and religion.
That's because numbers and numbers of adherents
determine whether or not your faith is taken
seriously or is just another kooky cult.
There are two demographic trends that may occur
in the 21st Century inside the U.S. that could
alter several faiths in the process. Those trends
are from Catholic to Orthodox and from (nominal) Christian to Islam.
We start with the Catholic Church. It's no secret
the U.S. Catholic Church is in a deep crisis. The
numerous sexual molestation scandals and the
class action lawsuits that have followed are
draining diocesan treasuries dry. Many such
dioceses are selling off buildings like closed
churches and schools and other real estate
properties they own. On top of that, the shortage
of priests and nuns in the U.S. mean more such
closures are on the way. And because of that
shortage, the Church's institutions, its
colleges, hospitals and other charitable
foundations, will become completely secularized
within the next 20 years. The whole
infrastructure of the Church within the U.S.
could be almost gone by within that time period.
The U.S. Catholic Church will survive however. It
has faced worse challenges in its history and has
always survived. But to survive means to adapt
and adapting means change and the U.S. Catholic
Church will be transformed by this process. The
transformation will come demographically as what
once was a European-ethnic church will become a
predominantly Hispanic and Third World immigrant church.
This is also a process that's going on world wide
as well. Philip Jenkins, the Penn State
University theology professor and writer for
Chronicles, has documented this coming
transformation of the Christian world thanks to
demographics in numerous articles and books.
Numbers mean power and such power within the
Church will come from its Third World adherents.
There's no doubt the next pope will be probably
be from the Third World, perhaps Latin or South
America first (with a bishop of European
immigrant descent) followed by an African pope
after that. We've already seen the Third World's
power within the Anglican community already.
Several Episcopal churches in the U.S. have left
their local dioceses in schisms to align
themselves with Anglican dioceses in Third World
locations because their bishops are more
traditional than their Western counterparts, who
are ordaining women and homosexual bishops.
What is fueling the change in the U.S. Catholic
Church is immigration. More Hispanic immigrants
and other Catholic immigrants from the Third
World are filling the pews and in many cases what
were once empty pews, especially in big cities.
Now as immigration spreads from big cities and
the coasts to small towns in the Midwest and
South, such change will take place in churches in
these locations as well. It's the Catholic Church
that will absorb most of the new immigrants.
Although a good chunk of Hispanic immigrants are
Pentecostals, they tend to form their own
churches separately. Hispanic Catholics are
moving into existing communities and existing churches.
All this leaves the European ethnic in a
quandary. The term "Catholic" means universal and
as such it should not matter what race or ethnic
group anyone who calls themselves Catholic is.
All are welcomed. Yet such churches were the
anchors of previous ethnic communities. Such
change can be quite jarring, especially when you
add it onto change within the neighborhood,
change in the business community and change
within the schools thanks to unlimited
immigration. It doesn't take long for one
Hispanic mass to become all masses at some point.
Because of this change, some European ethnic
Catholics wish that the bishops would either take
a stand against immigration or least not be noisy
promoters of it like Los Angeles Archbishop Roger
Mahoney. Unfortunately they are whistling past
the graveyard. Not even the most conservative of
bishops, like Omaha's Roman Bruskewitz, are going
to oppose unlimited immigration nor will any be
recalled by Rome for such support like Mahoney.
The Catholic Church in the U.S. is an immigrant
church. Always has been. Always will be. To its
bishops and administrators, seeing one immigrant
group coming into the church and overtaking
another is simply the natural wave of history. It
would be unthinkable of them to turn oppose
immigration, especially when such immigrants and
their money are going to be ones to keep the
Church afloat during its time of transformation.
Opponents of unlimited immigration must
understand that is how the church thinks and
operates and it perfectly fits with its history.
It not a "Popish" plot to undermine the United
States. This writer (and Catholic) nearly deleted
VDARE.com from his list of favorite websites last
year because some of its writers began waving the
bloody shirt of "rum, Romanism and rebellion"
until Peter Brimelow thankfully set them straight
and also pointed out Protestantism's many
contributions to our nation's immigration problems.
But again the quandary for European ethnic
Catholic remains. His numbers have been reduced
by intermarriage, by the destruction of ethnic
neighborhoods by urban renewal and the interstate
highway system, by suburban sprawl, by the
church's own problems and divisions within it and
by his or her own laziness and sloth. If you
don't show up for mass or to volunteer or be a
part of the community, you will lose power and
influence to those who do. Whoever said that life
is all about showing up was dead on in this
regard. So what to do? Join the Orthodox Church.
The Orthodox Church has a number of appeals to
the European ethnic Catholic. It is a church that
is ethnically conscious and fuses the idea of the
church to that of the nation and the culture.
That's why there are Greek Orthodox churches,
Russian Orthodox Churches, Romanian Orthodox
churches and so forth. (Only the Polish Catholic
Church and Uniate churches loyal to Rome are that
way amongst Catholics). It is a decentralized
church, which means its doctrines and practices
of worship are not subject to the whims of a
whole Vatican Council. It's a church that has
avoided a lot of the doctrinal disputes that has
divided the Catholic churches because it stays
true to its traditions and doctrines which it
traces back to the original Christian church. Its
mass has gone unchanged forÊmany centuries and
one doesn't have to worry about whether the new
priest is going to allows guitars and drums
during the worship service, disallows bells or
kneeling or whatever fashion of mass is in vogue
from the seminary. It's a church who's priests
are married which means the problems the Catholic
Church has had with homosexual priests (the one's
that don't take their vows of celibacy seriously
anyway) aren't a problem with the Orthodox. It is
the Orthodox that is going to be more suspicious
of mass immigration (especially immigration from
Islamic nations) than other religions.
Of course, if you are an Irish, Italian, French
or German Catholic, you just can't pop into
Serbian Orthodox Church and say "I'm a new
convert!" unless you marry a Serb. It just
doesn't work that way. To solve that problem, the
Orthodox Church of America (OCA) exists. Formed
in the early 1970s by the Russian Patriarchy and
separate from it, the OCA is an Americanized
version of the of the Russian Church with its
services in English and with pews and so forth
(the Orthodox church who's fall festival I
annually attend in Clayton, Wisconsin, Holy
Trinity, is part of the OCA.) Many of the
churches are old Russian ones like Holy Trinity,
but the OCA also incorporates other ethnic groups
like Albanian and Romanian Orthodox that never
had separate ethnic bishoprics like the Greeks or
Serbs do. The OCA could very easily incorporate
ethnic European Catholic refugees in their own
churches. Right now the OCA has over 100 churches
and a million members, slow but steady growth
that I think could easily accelerate in the 21st
Century. Conservative writer Rod Dreher of
Crunchy Cons fame has already made the switch
from Catholicism to Eastern Orthodoxy and I think others will to.
The other trend that will take place will be
those from nominal Christian backgrounds
converting to Islam. Such conversions have taken
place among African Americans for long time and
famous ones like Lew Alcindor to Kareem
Abdul-Jabbar and Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali.
The Nation of Islam, an organization of Black
Muslims, has dominated the Islamic discourse
within U.S for many years. However, the NOI's
racist rhetoric against whites has kept Islam's
numbers in the U.S. down from what they could potentially be.
This will change too in the 21st Century. Growth
in Islam will come from Third World immigration
of course. But it will also come from white
converts as well and they will come from two sources of thought.
Islam always has had an ideological appeal to
those on the far left and right. To a cultural
Marxist, Islam is the God that hasn't failed
(unlike Communism), at least not yet. Its
diverse, multicultural following and the fact
that it is the religion of the Third Word i.e. it
was founded there and expanded there outside of
Europe and the West, makes it a perfect vehicle
for cultural upheaval and egalitarianism. Marxism
derided religion which limited its appeal while
Islam is a religion and has mass appeal. And
within an adversarial culture, converting to
Islam becomes the perfect vehicle to shock one's
parents and friends and peers. Indeed, Jean-Paul
Sartre himself became more and more fascinated
with Islam as the communist left declined in his
later years. This has more of chance of happening
with the nominal baptized or secular Christian
than anyone else. Think of John Walker Lindh, the
Marin County, California teenager who got fed up
with empty secularist lifestyle of parents and
neighbors and converted to Islam and joined the
Taliban in Afghanistan, and you'll understand the
type. Since 9-11 and since George Bush II give
Islam his stamp of approval by calling it a
"religion of peace," there's been a growing study
of Islam within in the media and with others who
are curious to know more about it. Such study, no
doubt, will increase the size of the pool of converts for Islam within the U.S.
On the other side, Nazis have always appreciated
Islam's marshal spirit and ascetic, non-bourgeois
lifestyle along with its ability to submit the
will of the mass towards one deity or person.
They found it far superior to Christian piety
which they found to be nothing more than religion
for wimps, not the supermen they were supposed to
be. Those who are not inclined towards Nazism
still find these same qualities admirable, along
with Islam's male-dominated patriarchy. Women and
men do not pray together. If you are a fellow who
is unchurched right at the moment because you
think the modern church in the U.S. is too female
dominated and has no place for you, then Islam
may be your scene. Think of guy who used to
attend Promise Keeper rallies in football
stadiums and spent his time crying on the
shoulder of another guy while being told what an
awful person he was. When he realized the whole
thing was nothing more than a religious version
of 1990s male bonding without the tom-tom drums,
campfires and war paint and when he realized his
wife and her friends were laughing their heads
off at him down at the solon, then you'll know
the kind of person I'm talking about. In fact the
crisis of the maleless church has become such a
concern that, according to religious news
reports, that certain pastors have gotten to the
point of parking Harley Davidson motorcycles out
front of the entryways of their churches and
putting on football uniforms and using football
metaphors to attract males back into the pews
again. But Islam's call may be more enticing than
that just more passing Christian fads.
Islam and Eastern Orthodoxy have never played
major roles within the cultural, political or
economic milieus of the United States largely
because their numbers have never been large
enough to do so, let alone attract any attention.
But in this century, that could change as numbers
and demography head in both faiths' direction.
Sean Scallon is a writer and freelance journalist
living in Arkansaw, Wisconsin. His weblog is
Beating the Powers that Be at www.beatingthepowersthatbe.blogspot.com.