Margaret Sanger and the Decline of Protestant Stock

Godly Seed: American Evangelicals Confront Birth Control, 1873–1973 Allan CarlsonTransaction Publishers, 2012; 170 pages, $29.95 These days, the only time mainline Protestant denominations warrant headlines is when they talk about sex and marriage. Meeting this past summer in Indianapolis, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church attracted attention from journalists and editors when its bishops approved (by a vote of 111 to 41) the creation of a liturgy for sanctioning same-sex unions. This same body approved a resolution to allow men and women who consider themselves “transgendered” people to be ordained as priests. This action follows the 2009 compromise decision that granted bishops latitude to bless same-sex unions. This year’s resolution came six years after the consecration of Gene Robinson, a priest in a long-term same-sex relationship, as bishop of New Hampshire. Meanwhile, at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Pittsburgh, commissioners narrowly defeated a proposed constitutional amendment (by a vote of 338 to 308) that would have changed the church’s definition of marriage from one between man and woman to one between “two people.” The PCUSA already allows ministers to bless homosexual unions but prohibits solemnizing civil “marriages” between two individuals of the same sex. This follows the 2011 ratification by the majority of the denomination’s presbyteries of constitutional revisions that allow the ordination of homosexuals as ministers, elders, and deacons. The embrace of homosexuality by Protestant mainline churches may look to secular Americans as instances of backward believers catching up with the times, but historians could also plausibly correlate the mainline’s declining influence to its moral capitulation. Prior to Roe v. Wade, the largest Protestant denominations still possessed credibility with a broad swath of the American public. Today, evangelical Protestants—who since the ear
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