The Mainline Protestant Press and the Idea of “Declining” Liberal Religion

Mark Hulsether

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the American News Media

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780195395068
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

The Mainline Protestant Press and the Idea of “Declining” Liberal Religion


Pundits routinely treat mainline Protestant intellectuals as naïve idealists who lost their constituents' confidence by veering into ultra-leftism and its institutions—including its journals—as approaching the bottom of a slippery slope leading to institutional death, greased by compromises with liberalism. Evangelicals who dominate the religious-political scene are often compared with a waning mainline. The question, however, is not whether mainline groups are failing to surge, but whether the institutional and communications networks of liberal Protestantism provide a tradition and infrastructure that allows them to continue doing important work. Despite the mainline's serious problems, its decline has been exaggerated, often by people with malicious intent. This article focuses on assumptions that frame media discourses about mainline Protestantism, treating cases related to its press as it proceeds. Its goal is to presuppose the significance of the mainline and its communications networks and reflect, first, on how media scripts about liberal decline obscure the situation, and second, on how mainline Protestant journals' internal discourses are shaped by debates about how to respond to such scripts.

Keywords: mainline Protestantism; Protestant journals; liberalism; media; press

Article.  6277 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religious Studies ; Christianity

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