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.