Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Chalko – Bad Religion

Written by: on March 24, 2018

Ross Douthat in His book Bad Religion[1] clearly informs us of how America has become, as the subtitle says, a nation of heretics. Douthat walks us through American history, explaining how Going America started with an overwhelmingly Christian background, and experienced two great revivals and saw God in many places along the way, and yet somehow bring us to today, where the Christian voice of the nation has being minimized. Douthat in my opinion, is one of the more persuasive and writers we’ve engaged with so far in this class. And Douthat is equally as persuasive when interviewed and debating with live like he did when he was a panelist on Bill Maher’s HBO “news” show. Douthat hits this topic of the rise and fall of American Christianity from many angels and ends with a helpful and hopefully prophetic word for how the Church can redeem it’s place in our nation’s conscious.


One of Douthat’s strongest (and most painful) points came in chapter three where he talked about the Church’s unfortunate accommodation tendencies. For over the half the 20th century the public grew and a certain type of awareness and began witnessing the church, reinterpret centuries of Christian tradition and theology to accommodate the new consensus of the culture. This had huge repercussions for the public’s general attitude toward the church, most of all a lack of confidence that the Church holds all the truth. This lack of credibility was multiplied by the church being racked with scandal, which then lead to even more scrutiny from every variety of the elite and leading voices in America. With all of this our nation lost its dominant voice that it took for granted for many centuries. This process that Douthat enlightens his reader with is sobering. Among many things I am convicted first and foremost to to buckle down and really consider what I believe. We all obviously have lenses and backgrounds, and how much of how I read the Bible is due to the fact that I have been influenced by a                                      (fill in the blank) culture.


Another rather enjoyable part of this book for me actually came from Samuel Chand in his book Leadership Pain[2] which we will be reading shortly. I have gotten a head start into this book because it is what the leadership team at my church has decided to go through with together. Sam Chand summarizes much of this book in chapter 2: External Challenges. Chand summarizes that Douthat identifies “a number of ways Christianity positively influenced America up to the last decades of the twentieth centuries.” Then he lists the five major social catalysts that happened somewhat simultaneously to produced a combined effect that greatly stunted the strength of the church.


  1. Political polarization
  2. The sexual revolution
  3. Globalization and modern communication
  4. Rising prosperity
  5. The elite of each communities are most affected by these previous four problems and have lead the masses further away from Christianity because of this.


On a side note, one of my highlights of this year has been to see how these books have interacted together and how each any of the books have referenced each other. Chand references Douthat, and Douthat referenced Hunter[3], and there have at least a handful of other connections as well.


Toward my dissertation topic, I highlighted some of the sections of the book that talked about clergy and seminary trends and statistics. Because of shift of culture in America, Seminaries began experiencing huge drops in attendance. Those were in interested in pursuing full time vocational began finding more appealing callings. With the dropping of perceived respect/admiration of clergy and the rising frequency of scandals, skepticism, and suspicion of the public to the pulpit, many seminaries began facing serious enrollment problems. This led to budgetary concerns and many institutions began to water down their admission process or grow hybrid programs to try and attract more students. Still many decided to pursue “secular work” in the social sector, where they could be on the front lines and still actively doing the same type of work that they might have been in ministry. Ie. counseling or teaching. that came with minsiteral work. What also exasperated this migration was America’s reaction to it’s families and its new desire to prefer therapy over theology, and counseling over pastoral care.  Douthat writes, “”As [the philosopher] Ronald Dworkin pointed out … the United States has witnessed a hundredfold increase in the number of professional caregivers since 1950. Our society boasts 77,000 clinical psychologists, 192,000 clinical social workers, 105,000 mental health counselors, 50,000 marriage and family therapists, 17,000 nurse psychotherapists, 30,000 life coaches–and hundreds of thousands of nonclinical social workers and substance abuse counselors as well.”[4] This helps me hone in my on my writing, as I consider other reasons why perhaps there was a nation wide migration away from ministry degrees. Is there anything I can do to make it a “hybrid” in a good way that will better equip more saints and ministers.

I was surprised that this book became one of my favorite reads. Me ending question was Douthat right? I like what Randall Balmer said in his NY Times Review of Bad Religion “Finally, the fact that we are having this conversation at all (much less in the pages of this newspaper) is testament to the enduring relevance of faith in what sociologists long ago predicted would be a secular society.”[5] Many have shouted for decades that the US will become post-Christian as Europe did decades ago, but perhaps they were always wrong, and perhaps as Douthat prays, it can become the majority voice again.




Works Cited

“Book Review: To Change the World, by James Davison Hunter.” 9Marks. Accessed March 18, 2018. https://www.9marks.org/review/change-world/.


Chand, Samuel R. Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2015.


Douthat, Ross Gregory. Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics. New York: Free Press, 2013.


Elmore, Tim. Generation IY: Our Last Chance to save Their Future. Poet Gardener Publishing, 2010.


Hunter, James Davison. To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010.



[1] Ross Gregory Douthat, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics(New York: Free Press, 2013).

[2] Samuel R. Chand, Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2015).

[3] James Davison Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010).

[4] Ross Gregory Douthat, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics(New York: Free Press, 2013).

[5] “Book Review: To Change the World, by James Davison Hunter,” 9Marks, accessed March 18, 2018, https://www.9marks.org/review/change-world/.

About the Author

Kyle Chalko

17 responses to “Chalko – Bad Religion”

  1. M Webb says:

    Good post! I agree, accommodation has been a major scheme that the church has fallen victim to over the past 50 years. Nice job seeing the “connections” between the authors Dr. J has given us to read, analyze, and critically digest. I am sure it was not by accident. You are using the Bayard technique of seeing books as ideas and connecting ideas and authors in a larger scale. Bayard wants us to be the “librarian” who has not read one book but knows them all.
    Thanks for the statistics on how therapy and counseling have overtaken theology and pastoral care. Wow! When I look at everything we have been reading in context and then add the advances in the information technology explosion, the ability to know what is going on around the world at any moment, coupled with unlimited communication and social media driving nation states to their knees helps my perspective on our heretical culture. I guess I am not so surprised. I do grieve for our nation and world, but have an assured faith that God reins supreme and none of this surprises Him. In fact, for the faithful, all things work together for our good, and His glory.
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

  2. Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Kyle,

    Thanks for your highlights of Douthat’s accommodation theories. I also appreciated his exposure of “self-help” heretical Christianity. I prefer to use the term hypocritical than heretical, but I certainly see his point. I was interested that this was one of your favorite books of this year. Fascinating!

    Hope you have a great Spring break, Kyle! Glad to be on this journey with you…

  3. Kyle,

    I share your response to the book to buckle down and really consider what I believe, and to critique how my own theology is infiltrated by prevailing cultural attitudes. I also found it one of the most compelling books this semester. I’ve been hearing about Douthat for years and so am finally happy to have time to read him.

  4. Jason Turbeville says:

    The discussion of accommodation theories was a favorite part of mine as well. In my reading, the church suffers the most when it strays the farthest from the scriptures. Have you seen that as well


  5. Chris Pritchett says:

    Thanks for the excellent summary and the main points you brought out. I also appreciated his response on Bill Maher’s show. He clearly exposed the stupidity of Bill Maher that all he could do was stumble and chuckle the dumbest points one could make against Christianity. Douthat went up in my book in that context. Actually, I think that’s a good context for him. Debating pop atheists in the public square. He would be most useful there with his wit and hyperbole.

    • Kyle Chalko says:

      Chris, you’re right. When I first watched the video I was assuming that Bill Maher was moving things along because he was short on time in his show, but he was squirming in his seat a little bit and simple said proceeded the show to a new topic. I wonder if Douthat was invited back.

  6. Shawn Hart says:

    Kyle, I was blessed to receive the “question of the year” (at least in my book), but a young 8 year old boy who asked, “How old were you when you preached your first sermon?” The reason it was a blessing was because he was asking me if he was too young to start planning for the ministry. He was given the chance to do a very abbreviated devotional in church a few weeks ago, and the “preaching” experience has had its impact. I wish we still had that kind of influence on our children today; it was not the money, the power, or the recognition…the boy just wants to preach.

  7. Jean Ollis says:

    Great thoughts and I’m happy to hear you are incorporating some of your readings at your church. I agree that the book was thought provoking and made some good points – one of the best being the decision of the church to pick on some sins but not all sins!

  8. Greg says:

    Kyle, I too have enjoyed how the books this semester have overlapped.
    You said…“Those were in interested in pursuing full time vocational began finding more appealing callings”-I wonder if this is not always a bad thing. Some that I went to seminary with had trouble in churches or in ministry. I have worked outside the traditional church model long enough that I would love to know if those not pursuing a seminary degree are still involved in ministry some place? If their passions for the Lord or the results of their calling were lived out in non-traditional paths of ministry. In our context we had to take the name “seminary” out of the title of our training school because it was scaring people away-We call it a ministry training center.

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