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Some churches are getting the job done

Letter from Ide Trotter

January 1997 edition – February 1997 – Colorado Central Magazine

Dear Martha,

Loved your Letter from the Editor in the January Central. You had me eating out of your hand right down to the last sentence of the next to last paragraph. Had I tumbled to a failure in logic on your part? Highly unlikely, I’ve come to believe. Was there some misunderstanding on my part?

I pondered. Certainly I agreed that traditional religion is supposed, among other things, “to teach us to be good to one another, to bind to our families, to behave, to be kind, to be fair, to be generous, trustworthy, and faithful.” And I agree that these virtues are in short supply, even among many claimants to a traditional religion.

Then how could I find myself in such strong disagreement with your assessment that traditional religion has failed if these ends have not been accomplished?

As is so often the case in disagreements I concluded I might be primarily influenced by a subset of the data you were considering. Don’t you also hear of accumulating reports that those more active in their “traditional” religious commitment do score higher in these virtues? (My favorite somewhat related statistic is the survey showing evangelical Christian women report a higher frequency of orgasm during sexual activity than other women do. That ought to contribute to family binding. What won’t we discuss these days?)

So perhaps there is basis for agreement after all. “Traditional” religion may indeed have failed. But the failure has two distinct faces. As you indicate all too many branches of “traditional” religion have abandoned or downplayed essential elements of the faith taught by Jesus.

Wouldn’t it have been helpful to point out that it was the liberal branches which first abandoned Jesus’s call to repentance and personal commitment and in the face of stagnant or declining membership turned to the ballot box to achieve Jesus social aims. There are evangelical branches of “traditional” religion that have stuck to their knitting.

This is not to say that those evangelical branches have not failed as well. Their emphasis on personal faith and commitment has left less room to emphasize Jesus social aims than you and many others may wish. But their real failure has been ineffectiveness in winning committed adherents in sufficient numbers to leaven the general pattern of social behavior in ways we can all approve.

Keep up the good work. I found the January issue to be about the best so far.

Ide Trotter

Poncha Springs

(or Duncanville, Texas, as you prefer)