As the world turns…

CORRECTION: The commenter did not comment on my post about the Sudanese Archbishop’s comments, but about the Ekklesia article. Sorry about that! However, it all gets mixed up in the same pot, I think.
A person posted a comment to one of my recent posts covering the Sudanese Anglican Archbishop’s call for the resignation of the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire. During the press conference at Lambeth, the archbishop comments on difficulties he has with Western/American ways of living the faith and the competition for souls he is engaged in with other religions in the Sudan (and like experiences in other Global South states). For the archbishop, the reality that Anglicanism is shrinking in the West while growing in the developing world is proof that we are wrong and they are right.
The commenter wrote, “Yes, the church in the West has been shrinking, but that won’t last forever. And people who live in wealthier countries need faith, too, don’t they?” I absolutely agree, but the contexts in which we live really are different. That with which we in the West compete is not a fundamentalist Islam, but more of a fundamentalist secularism. The way both of us should proceed is not to become like the other – more fundamentalist or more permissive – but rather a third way. How we “prove” the significance and viability of our faith-system/religion is the rub, I think.
I have to look at my own “spoiled Westerner” status, too, even though because of what I’ve had to endure and struggle through I know just a little bit of the emotional and psychological and spiritual stuff that other oppressed people have had to endure. The humbling aspect for me concerning the good archbishop is that he and his folk have endured struggles I can’t imagine – 10 fold. I can’t just dismiss him like I can someone like James Dobson or Pat Robinson. They are tired and pathetic in their Culture War crusade in so many ways.
One of the problems I see is that too many and large segments of the Church universal will not or cannot understand that the West has been moving into post-modernism for a while now. This IS the way of thinking of the younger generations, and it isn’t going to change because a bunch of old men demand that these people “correct” the very constructs by which they make meaning of life. This isn’t a matter of “worldly” thinking, any more or less than Modernism is “worldly.” I content that post-modernism presents to the Church a fantastic opportunity for evangelism at least in the West, if only we can accept the challenge.
Too many Christian groups would rather demand the culture(s) not be post-modern and condemn the system as if they can stop the process/progress, rather than spending all that energy learning how to be witnesses within it. One of the problems, I think, is that post-modernism demands that Christians actually live what they say – action over words, orthopraxis over the words of orthodoxy.
If we prove the inadequacy of Christianity by our hypocrisy, then why should anyone consider Christianity or a culture/society give it a privileged position? They, it, shouldn’t. The “competitive marketplace” of ideas and the leveling out of the playing field for all competing religious systems (death of meta-narrative, supposedly) forces us in the West to live the Christian life in ways that we have not had to live for centuries. How will “they” know we are Christians or that the faith is real? By our love, by the way we live our lives and not by fine sounding arguments. (I know that Modernism and Post-modernism both seek “proof” in various ways.)
For the most part, we live a deficient Christian experience in the West. Post-modernism calls us to account, for the sake of those who do not yet know Christ. In some ways, post-modernism does to modern day Christianity what Jesus did to the Judaism of his day – to the Pharisees of his time. Jesus called the religious leaders to account, corrected them, and presented what the faith was supposed to be over-and-against their misunderstanding and misapplication of God’s Way. Post-modernism is accomplishing a very similar task with us today.
This is an exciting prospect for me, frankly, and an opportunity for God to prove to suspicious and cynical Westerners the vitality and reality of salvation, redemption, and reconciliation in ways rarely experienced in the West for a very long time. It is an opportunity, but it calls us to a level of sincerity, devotion, and the giving up of self and our own agendas and wants to a degree that many are unwilling to do. We are just like the rich young ruler who gave up discipleship with Jesus (and possibly heaven) even though he obeyed the Law faithfully – he did not go and sell all that he had. He would not give up his privileged and incorrect way of thinking and living. Will we?
Of course, this dynamic is experienced primarily in the West were post-modernism has already taken hold and in many segments predominates. In parts of the world where fundamentalism reigns – Muslin, Christian, native religions, or whatever – it will not work the same. This is where the “competition for souls” takes on a temporal militancy rather than a cerebral exercise. There is a third way, if only we are willing to seek, listen, discern, and obey (oh, how we hate that last one!).
Something like that, anyway.