That we are living in a time of increasing globalization and pluralization should not surprise anyone. Christians in the West increasingly have to learn how to exist in a world that is increasingly post-Christendom in orientation. I am one that would agree with those who claim the increasing pluralization does not mean we are necessarily becoming more secular. It seems to me at least, that many Christians witness the loss of Christian influence in the wider culture and politics in particular and simply call it ‘secularism’. But the loss of Christian influence in a pluralistic culture does not mean we are becoming more ‘secular’. What pluralization does mean is that our world (and North America included) is more and more religiously and ideologically diverse (having even more non-Christian faiths and ideologies represented) and that these religious expressions and ideologies are increasingly bumping up against each other.
And many Christians, to be honest, are not making the transition well. It saddens and grieves me that so many turn to the wider ‘culture wars’ to ‘fight’ things out and maintain Christian influence. But not only are the culture wars bad, I believe, for democracy (in that they ruin our ability to converse effectively, only increase polarization on both sides, and simply feed into a political system that upholds the already rich and powerful), but I believe fervently the culture wars are also bad for the gospel (in that they have the tendency to make a the gospel a bludgeon, to name just one reason) and hinder the missional faithfulness of a gospel shaped people in our context.
There is a way to contend for the gospel of the kingdom of God in our context, but I do not believe it to be the ‘power over’ way of the culture wars (especially the variety of culture wars that are entangled in American politics). It is so hard to truly love like Jesus when we are all busy ‘warring’ with each other. I would much rather see Christians live out our faith as peacemakers in the line of Jesus and as cruciform agents of self-sacrificial reconciliation – to be those that live the gospel and Jesus story as our core identity among our neighbors (be they Muslim, Buddhist, straight, LGBTQ, Hindu, Black, White, or however else people may self-identify). In order to do this well we have to take account of what it means to live in a common world with multiple faiths.
Miroslav Volf (who grew up in a totalitarian state) has written a very good book called A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good in which he discusses how to live the gospel well in the midst of post-Christendom pluralization. The video below provides a good introduction to the theme of ‘Multiple Faiths, Common World‘.
(HT: Allan Bevere)
May the peace of our liberating King Jesus be with you.