Religion: Those Mainline Blues

America's Old Guard Protestant churches confront an unprecedented decline

In the beginning was mainline Protestantism. At Plymouth Rock and Jamestown, and for 3 1/2 centuries thereafter, the denominations known today by that label defined the spiritual and moral ethos of the U.S. These prominent Wasp bastions nurtured the founders, imparting to them notions of republican government and individual freedom. Dominating American Protestantism, these churches shaped virtually every aspect of an evolving nation: its pioneering colleges, its 19th century novels of sin and rectitude, its capitalist ethic of striving and saving, and a world-conquering spirit that was shared by missionaries and entrepreneurs alike. Mainliners were at the forefront of social crusades...

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