How Much Do You Have to Hate Someone to Not Proselytize?
- Monday, July 19, 2010
Editor's note: This excerpt taken from chapter 4 of Christ Among Dragons: Finding Our Way Through Cultural Challenges by James Emery White
As a culture, we are rediscovering the validity of spirituality, once again making room for insight, intuition and even revelation. Articles on angels, near-death experiences, prayer and healing have become cover stories. Spiritual themes run throughout contemporary music. Films and television increasingly explore religious ideas and settings. People are interested in spiritual things, they're asking spiritual questions and are beginning to see that many of their deepest needs are spiritual in nature.
But in the new search for the spiritual, Christianity may lose while others gain. Or there may be such an eclectic gathering of spiritual commitments that Christianity will, at best, be only sampled. You may have heard of the term metrosexual. A metrosexual is a man found deep in the hair-care aisle or in the salon having his nails buffed to the perfect shine, while he's checking out the latest fashion magazines. He's a sensitive, well-educated urban dweller in touch with his feminine side. He loves to shop, wear jewelry and fill his bathroom counter with moisturizers — and maybe even makeup. In other words, he embodies a new definition of what it means to be a man. One that borrows heavily from what it means to be a woman, and combines it into a new identity.
Think of people becoming metrospirituals. There is a keenly felt emptiness resulting from a secularized, materialistic world that has led to a hunger for something more, but many go no further than the search for an experience. We have come to the point where the soul cannot be denied, but all we know to do is search for something "soulish." So an extraterrestrial will serve as well as an angel; a spiritualist as well as a minister. Borrowing a phrase from historian Christopher Dawson, we have a new form of secularism that embraces "religious emotion divorced from religious belief." In our current climate, people might be as likely to explore Wicca as the Word, Scientology as the Spirit. Or they may, in the end, explore nothing at all.
A Land of Swedes
When the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) was released, much was to be expected: mainlines are losing ground, the Bible belt is less Baptist, Catholics have infiltrated the South, denominationalism is on the wane. What was most alarming was the increase in "nones" — nearly doubling from 8 percent to 15 percent, making those who claim no religion at all the third largest defined constituency in the United States, eclipsed only by Catholics and Baptists. Further, "nones" were the only religious bloc to rise in percentage in every single state, thus constituting the only true national trend. As the ARIS report concludes, "the challenge to Christianity ... does not come from other religions but from a rejection of all forms of organized religion." Barry Kosmin, co-researcher for the survey, warns against blaming secularism for driving up the percentage of Americans who say they have no religion. "These people aren't secularized. They're not thinking about religion and rejecting it; they're not thinking about it at all." It is not that unbelief is driving out belief, James Turner suggests, but that unbelief has become more readily available as an answer to the question "What about God?" Unbelief is becoming mainstreamed, as evidenced by Barack Obama's recognition of people without faith, the first president to do so, in his inaugural address.
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