This might be offensive to some and I don't mean it to be but wouldn't the end result of Protestantism be individualism... or what Mark Movsesian references in his insightful piece as Sheilaism?
In Habits of the Heart, written almost 30 years ago, sociologist Robert Bellah and his co-authors came up with a term to describe a new American religion: “Sheilaism.” The phrase comes from an interview Bellah conducted with a woman called Sheila, who described her religion as follows:
I believe in God. I am not a fanatic. I can’t remember the last time I went to church. My faith has carried me a long way. It’s Sheilaism. Just my own little voice. . . . My own Sheilaism . . . is just to try to love yourself and be gentle with yourself. You know, I guess, take care of each other.
You don’t have to be a sociologist to appreciate how well Sheila’s comments reflect the mindset of millions of Americans. You can dismiss that mindset as empty and self-indulgent, but in the land of postmodern individualism, Sheilaism has powerful rhetorical appeal. It is preached relentlessly in advertising, books, movies, music, TV programs, even presidential politics (“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for”). It is the effective religion of the “Nones”– the rapidly increasing cohort of Americans who claim no formal religious affiliation–and, one imagines, many churched people as well.
There's more and it's cutting.
The folks at the Pew Forum have come up with over 41,000 different Christian denominations, each of course telling the rest of the world that they have a unique hold of the Truth, that their interpretation of Holy Scripture is THE interpretation and that this interpretation is the authority to which all others should bow.
Why wouldn't we call this Sheilaism?
Mr. Movsesian concludes:
All these free spirits wind up believing pretty much the same things and acting in pretty much the same ways. Perhaps Sheilaism isn’t really about following one’s inner voice, but the voice of the mainstream culture. In which case, Sheilaism isn’t really about individualism, but conformity. Like the guy said, you can have a car painted any color you like–as long as it’s black.
Things I'm pondering this morning... thanks to Mr. Shea.