Religion & Beliefs

Then God Created Protestants

So, now that I've stepped on the toes of Catholicism and Christian Orthodoxy, it seems fitting that I innacurately explain Protestantism, which is what we call everything else Jesus-filled. Quick and dirty back-story– in the sixteenth century, a smart anti-Semitic … Read More

By / April 30, 2007

So, now that I've stepped on the toes of Catholicism and Christian Orthodoxy, it seems fitting that I innacurately explain Protestantism, which is what we call everything else Jesus-filled.

Quick and dirty back-story– in the sixteenth century, a smart anti-Semitic monk named Martin Luther came up with a bunch of crazy ideas about all the things that were wrong with the Catholic Church.  You've heard this story before, about how he got pissed off about the sale of indulgences, and nailed a big list on a church door and changed the world?  Well then the Church fired back, calling for Luther's death… So  Luther went into hiding, translated the bible, and thanks to the invention of the printing press, was able to spread his heresy far and wide.  The Reformation was like, totally ON!

Initially, Protestants identified with a few charismatic leaders and there were relatively few flavors of Protestants:  Lutherans, Calvinists (Reformed), those wacko Anabaptists, and the Church of England (Anglican, Episcopal)  Each group had specific theological foci, and/or political reasons for plitting from the Catholic Church.  All were European movements. 

But bear in mind, this was 400-500 years ago.  And so of course each of those groups splintered, and splintered again. Calvinism gave birth to the Puritan Movement (remember the Pilgrims?) and then those folks turned into Baptists, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists.  And now they've redivided all over the place, and so and so and so… The same thing happened with the other groups.  Now, today, there are over 1500 denominations in North America alone!  Which is why it can be so confusing for us poor Jews to try and figure out the distinctions.  This site seeks to sort it all out for you in a number of ways, but I find it hard to navigate.  And of all the branches of Christianity, the fastest growing groups are the non-denominational independent ones, so it's only going to get more bewildering.

But for the purposes of simplicity, the largest Christian groups in the US (roughly 80% of the overall poulation) right now (after the Catholics, who dominate with 25%) are: Baptist (about 17%) Methodist (about 8%) Non-denominational (7%) Lutheran (5%) Presybeterian (3%) Pentecostal (2%) Episcopal (2%) Mormon (1%) Church of Christ (1%)

Now, bear in mind that leaves a LOT of percentage points, split up among the other 1490 churches. 

And consider that many of these groups are not really "groups" so much as loose organizations with shared histories.  For instance, Methodist churches don't all use pastors ordained by the same seminaries.  An AME church and a United Methodist Church are very different, though congregants all call themselves Methodists.  So it's not quite the same as a "Reform Jew", in the sense that Reform Rabbis all went to the same school, basically.

I realize I haven't come close to giving you as much info as I want here, but there's always Google if you're interested…