The West Coast is the frontier and the dead end all in one. Here we find the conclusion to the Protestant principle: churches are begun with no authorization, and thus beholden to no historic theology. You have to trust that the content will be related to the tradition, but you have no guarantee. There are no sacraments; no sacramental realism pervades this movement. There is no reliance on the Great Tradition. In addition hotshot prima donnas lead many churches, and their education is not at issue, only their charisma.
The mainline churches have put their fingers up in the air to test the winds of the Zeitgeist and follow it ad nauseam. But the jig is up! This is Christian burnout on our beloved left coast. Frontier and dead end all the same.
So in many a place instead of worship we get teaching.
We get admonition instead of adoration.
We get instruction rather than integration.
The body is not considered, only the mind. As Sam Keen said many years ago, “for Protestantism the organ of salvation is the ear.” The rest of the senses are left out in the cold. Rationalism prevails even if it is unnamed.
Rationalism is not only the preserve of secular humanism; it is the ground most Protestantism walks upon as well, and there’s but a fine line between belief in the Protestant world and disbelief in the humanist world. Jaroslav Pelikan keenly observed the movement over half a century ago in his book From Luther to Kierkegaard, charting the run from insight to scholasticism to pietism to rationalism and beyond. Check any series of comments about religion on Facebook or blog posts. One day a fundamentalist Christian, the next day a raging atheist. Only the object of love and/or scorn has changed. But it’s all still me-me-me centered. It’s what I-I-I believe that counts, not the content of the belief. There’s the flaw. This is the end of Protestantism, at least to my mind.
Since this is the format people know, and it is primal to California with its start-up and mega-churches, led initially by the Crystal Cathedral (which Cathedral has now, ironically, become the flagship of the Roman Catholic Diocese of LA), the problem is that many people don’t have enough basic knowledge of the options to turn elsewhere for sustenance. A recent new acquaintance said that he was left empty by the mega-church he and his family has belonged to for many years, and he has begun the search elsewhere to fill up the gap. He will wind up in Orthodoxy. But what if you don’t know there is a gap? Then it’s just over the cliff into soft (or hard) atheism.