A Marginal Church

In my last post I mused on the relative poverty of our political and social predictions, then I went ahead and predicted a bunch of stuff anyway, specifically about the church in America.

My prognostications can be seen as pessimistic: I predicted that America will become more culturally pagan and fragmented, that there will be far fewer people calling themselves Christian, and that those who chose to retain their faith will do so at a price. I’m not fantasizing about government storm-troopers making martyrs, but believers having narrower and less glamorous career choices, few large institutions to serve them, and being conspicuous by their choices.

Will there be increased harassment from the powers that be? Of course; all societies demand conformity. The risk of non-conformity, however, is generally nothing so glamorous as death or imprisonment, just marginalization.

The American Christian of the mid-21st century will be conspicuously and at times uncomfortably counter-cultural, or he will not be Christian. He will be somewhat marginal, something of an alien in his own land, or he will not be a Christian.

A further prediction: he will live embedded in an rich Christian subculture and operate in a largely Christian social network, or he will not be a Christian.

The American Christian of the mid-21st Century will be conscious of the broad traditions of the faith. He will have a historical memory of twenty-one centuries. He will be formed by the aesthetics of the church, and he will develop his core friendships within the church. His primary loyalty will be to that community and that culture, or he will not be Christian.

The entire description above fits the experience of the whole church in its first three centuries. It also fits the description of the church in the Arab world and in China for the last fourteen centuries. It fits the description of the church in Persia and in India for nineteen or twenty. There is no reason why the church of America should somehow be exempt.

This might mean for many of us a painful realignment of loyalties, but the truth is that this process has been going on for some time. Any conscious believer has had to make decisions, more or less painful, to be different. In the end he usually finds he is happier for having made them.

 

 

 

Advertisements

13 comments

  1. “This might mean for many of us a painful realignment of loyalties, but the truth is that this process has been going on for some time. ”

    Yes, I rather agree with you much more in this post. I have felt that squishing in a winepress, that need to make a decision, becoming more and more frequent as of late. As to pessimism or optimism, I suppose that’s just a matter of perspective. Optimism says this will help to separate the wheat from the tares, the sheep from the wolves, to produce some clarity in a world now ruled by moral ambiguity. Pessimism suggests there will be times of testing and of being squished.

    1. Is there moral ambiguity in your life?

  2. What in the world have you been watching? Catholicism is still the majority religion in Germany, France, Spain and Italy. And Greece, Eastern Europe and Russia. Even after the migrants, Islam only represents 5% of the German population.
    The difference with America is that in America religion is being used a constant political pawn. Elsewhere people feel they can live their beliefs without having to make other free citizens adhere to the tenets of their faith.
    Religious freedom is about applying a religious doctrine to your own life, not about imposing it on your neighbours.

    1. You are correct that religious issues are a cynical ploy to get the vote, whether leftist fantasies of theocracy or rightist fantasy of gulags. You are incorrect in your assertion that religion is private. It is done in a group and it implies submission to a law. Wherever you have groups of people arranging their lives by different laws, there is conflict. They can’t all be equal, they can only coexist if the smaller ones are pushed to the margin. This is what tolerance means. We put up with you unless you threaten us.
      I’m sure that my predictions are flawed, all predictions are, but I’m attempting to do two things, first unsentimental projection of current trends and second trying to apply the logic of contemporary American to further conclusions.

      1. That wrongly implies people cannot coexist when coexistence is perfectly possible- it just depends on the application of a set of rules that the great thinkers of the late 18th century put into place.
        Secularism allows for every group to freely believe and apply the tenets of their faiths to their own lives- as long as they respect the rights of their fellow citizens to do the same.
        What you seem to be proposing is a religious aristocracy.

      2. I’m proposing realism. The broader society will be arranged one way, whatever that may be. Sub-groups are tolerated but marginalized. That is the general way of the world.
        Now, our 18th century friends had a good idea that worked so long as everyone still agreed on the general outlines of morality under the concept of natural law. It worked quite well for Jews, non confomrists, and in my country Catholics. But the presumption for natural law is long gone.

      3. Oh please. We’ve got successful, well functioning democracies right now. No obscurities or superstitions being necessary to that good functioning.
        The division/aristocracy approach only benefits the leaders of opposing movements, never the average tax paying citizen or society at large.
        The problem we have today, the real problem, is a lack of a sense of society. I say that in the Pope Francis, greater humanity sort of way.

      4. I agree the problem is the lack of a social sense. We have created societies based on an atomized individual, reduced all values to market values, and deny the possibility of a common morality, and then we wonder why we can’t all get along.

      5. Build on that concept. How do we create a social sense of real value? How do we coexist productively? That’s what everyone who’s genuinely concerned with society should be preoccupied with.
        What are the effects and damage caused by hip hop/rap culture? What harm is done by people thinking marriage is disposable? I believe there is a common morality; the thing is, it isn’t arbitrary. It’s based on the general well being of the greatest possible number of people. The equation should be eudaemonia as per percentage in society.
        We’ve got to put aside that garbage indians vs. cowboys model that doesn’t benefit anyone (except the sectarians) and look at the real problems affecting society. I’d venture to say that baking gay rainbow cakes isn’t one of them. Neither is letting people who want to pray, pray before whatever ceremony. Both of those “issues” are fabricated and then exploited by opportunists.

      6. Everyone wants the wellbeing of society, the problem is the definition of what a functional society looks like.
        You suggest a technocracy, which assumes way too much about available data. No one has the knowledge to run a nation effectively from above, a nation rather runs itself and the government tags along.
        The illusion of power and law motivates a lot of stupidity in American politics, which seems to come down to which 51% of the population can coerce the other 49%. Each side imagines they are perfectly rational because they engage in constant confirmation bias.
        You and I are the same age and seem to have more or less the same mentality: lets all do what seems best in our eyes and not get bent out of shape about what other people are doing. But I don’t think that is what the future holds. First because the logic of market capitalism tends to reduce all values to economic ones, second because the cultural and legal framework nowadays only acknowledges the state and the individual, not organic communities. It does not matter how much tinkering you do to a government that looks at reality that way, it has the capacity to crush human rights without even realizing it is doing something wrong.

    2. Lucretius · · Reply

      The problems with Rawls’ version of liberalism is that it only tolerates itself. Any view that doesn’t accept liberalism is rejected right off the back as “irrational.”

      Just look at your own words:

      “Secularism allows for every group to freely believe and apply the tenets of their faiths to their own lives- as long as they respect the rights of their fellow citizens to do the same.”

      What happens when groups reject that Creed? Are they to be tolerated?

      Of course, I’m ignoring the fact that, taken to its logical conclusion, this sort of tolerance makes anything justified, because the concept of right itself becomes arbritrary without a moral framework. As Dpmonahan all ready pointed out.

      “We’ve got successful, well functioning democracies right now.”

      This begs the question. What a successful democracy is is what is at issue. For us, a society that promotes the *obvious* foolishness of gay “marriage” is not functioning correctly. Again, what happens when a view doesn’t accept liberalism? And where does liberalism base “the rights of others” on? The old liberals appealed to a certain idea of natural law at least.

      Christi pax,

      Lucretius

      1. Sorry, but what ridiculous tosh. A successful society is one that offers decent living standards to its citizens. Accessible accommodation, food, the availability of quality health care, a minimum wage that allows for those at the bottom to cover their basic needs. Safety. And systems in place to guarantee some degree of order and fairness (legal, political et al.)

        Then an imbecile like you comes along as the self appointed genitalia police making the false and completely unsubstantiated argument that consensual sex between adults, or the contracts those adults sign voluntarily, are the measures of a good society.

        In case you don’t have the intellect or haven’t had the experience to comprehend it yet- let me just clarify that sexual orientation does not determine and individual’s ability to be honest, generous, kind, work, pay taxes or contribute to society. So your argument is absolute bs.

      2. Lucretius · ·

        “Sorry, but what ridiculous tosh. A successful society is one that offers decent living standards to its citizens. Accessible accommodation, food, the availability of quality health care, a minimum wage that allows for those at the bottom to cover their basic needs. Safety. And systems in place to guarantee some degree of order and fairness (legal, political et al.)”

        Why are these the criteria for a successful society? Doesn’t it make sense that the promotion of rational control over the sexual appetite also should be a part of this standard?

        Furthermore, if I don’t accept your exact standard for a successful society, are you going to force me to accept your standards? In other words, aren’t you just forcing your beliefs onto me through social pressure?

        “Then an imbecile like you comes along as the self appointed genitalia police making the false and completely unsubstantiated argument that consensual sex between adults, or the contracts those adults sign voluntarily, are the measures of a good society.

        In case you don’t have the intellect or haven’t had the experience to comprehend it yet- let me just clarify that sexual orientation does not determine and individual’s ability to be honest, generous, kind, work, pay taxes or contribute to society. So your argument is absolute bs.”

        Obviously the sexual appetite, like all emotions, ought to be rationally controlled, right? We expect fathers to control their anger, and not take it out on their children, right? Or that people should control their food intake, and not become obese, right?

        But more importantly, don’t I have the right to believe what I want, and practice my faith, in the liberal society? Then my beliefs, in part, are to promote the natural law understanding of sexuality, in both social convention and law. To dismiss these views as false would be intolerance…

        Furthermore, why should consent be the criteria? What makes consent alone as a criteria for morality less arbritrary than consent plus being married and open to procreation, from your point of view?

        Anyway, I agree that sexual orientation doesn’t necessarily affect those good qualities, but I’m not focusing on sexual orientation, but rather on how a person acts. Indulgence in the sexual appetite immorally does affect these other qualities. I can tell you from personal experience, and the experience of others, that this is fearfully true 😦

        If you want to understand this difference, I would read this man’s blog: http://beatushomo.blogspot.com/

        Christi pax,

        Lucretius

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: