Today’s New York Times features a front-pager on the decline of institutional religion in Europe by Frank Bruni. Running for a full page on the inside, it sheds as much light on the changing nature of “church” in America as in Europe — a perspective especially welcome in view of what may be the disintegration of American Episcopalianism (see “Biblical Christians” in Friday’s blog). The basic story is familiar: Throughout Europe, the great cathedrals stand empty but for tourists, as fewer and fewer Europeans see a need for regular mass or services. The details, though, make this piece’s threads worth following. For instance, the extremism of the Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, said to be a front runner for the papacy, who claims that school children “don’t even know who Jesus is,” or that of Reverend David Cornick, head of the United Reform Church in Britain, who accuses Europe of abandoning Christianity. And yet the vast majority of Europeans say they believe in God, many sport crosses, and most call themselves Catholics or Protestants — a clue that European Christianity isn’t dying so much as evolving into something new. Bruni takes a few stabs at describing what that might be, but here is where his otherwise excellent article gets shaky. First, he echoes the American canard that urbanization leads to secularism. Hardly — cities have for most of history been more religiously active, since in cities even poor people could manage to get to church on time. Then Bruni seems to find substance in the allegedly neutral “marketplace” model of theology, as if the market wasn’t a theological system in itself. The lowpoint of the article is Bruni’s citation of Philip Jenkins, everybody’s favorite “expert” on The Next Christendom, as his most famous book is called. But Jenkins is a dishonest and near-slanderous scholar, as I’ve documented elsewhere. And an imprecise one: “Americans still take biblical and religious arguments very seriously,” Jenkins tells Bruni, “and therefore give credence to the Zionist project that Europeans don’t.” Either that statement strikes you as ahistorical and absurdly vague, or unraveling it is your next story idea, courtesy of Bruni by way of The Revealer. But let’s wrap this up on a positive note: Our pastor-of-the-day award goes to the Rev. John Macauley, of Sierra Leone, who leads a popular charismatic church in London. A decade ago, Macauley took to the pulpit and got his praise on: “I was the only one clapping my hands back then, like I was from Planet Cuckoo,” he told Bruni. There it is: a great name for the next church of England.