What is in store for the Mainline Protestant churches, as well as for the more evangelical, fundamentalist, and/or charismatic Protestant denominations and independent churches? Reason might suggest that both groups should move a little to the religious middle.
Bob believed in democracy, and he believed that Christians should fight for the common good. It was devastating to learn of his sudden death this week in a dark time when his prophetic vision has never been more sorely needed.
The death of George McGovern -- the son of a Methodist minister and himself briefly a seminary student at a Methodist institution -- is a reminder of the good of that Protestant reform impulse, rooted in the Social Gospel movements of the early and mid-20th century.
I've always felt we religiously unaffiliated "Nones" were a tiny minority. But here we are, surging in an America that's been steeped in religious dogma, where Republican politics has been overrun by zealots hellbent on controlling women's bodies and discriminating against gays.
Haven't we all met the Christian who's so compelling to us that his or her presence inspires our faith? And haven't we also met that sister or brother whose words, actions or attitudes cause us to literally doubt our faith?
While many mainline churches say "we want young people," they don't really. If young adults actually showed up and joined their church for good, the change they'd naturally bring with them would be stark, even off-putting.
I imagine Rob Bell feels a lot like I have on many occasions: it's not that the critics have understood what I'm trying to say and have explained why they disagree. They've misrepresented what I'm trying to say and have explained why the misrepresentation is audacious and ludicrous.
The point is not that Televangelists are scoundrels, or that many Christian pastors are hypocrites, but that these grand ministry failures represent examples of what many mainstream churches have, in desperation, come to believe is relevant.
The future is uncertain, but I'm convinced that there is a future for the essence of mainline Christianity -- a healthy, meaningful future that will continue to play a role both in society and in the hearts and minds of individuals.