Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Christianity Found Wanting

Written by: on February 15, 2013

Douthat’s Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics is aserious review of the present condition  of Christianity in America.  Christianity which once had significant influence on American life and history has fallen from those heights.  It has now come face to face with its enemy.  Douthat points out that the enemy is not any external force but one that lies right within its walls.  Within its fold are shallow theologians, prosperity preachers, pop psychology writers, heretics and adaptionists  who have all contributed to such a down fall.  As one reads on, there doesn’t seem to be much hope left for a renaissance (Hansen n.d.).  

It was encouraging to discover a simple but solid plan for such a renewal in the final pages.  He indicates that Faithful Christians can indeed make a difference.  My heart resonates with  Douthat’s call to return to the orthodox Christian tradition and for its renewal.

 Renewed Christianity must be political without being partisan

 Renewed Christianity must be ecumenical but also confessional

 Renewed Christianity should be moralistic but also holistic.

The discussion in the book is solely about the American Church and American Christianity, however the institutionalized Church worldwide can identify with much of the underlying negative forces that have brought about its decline.   

This reading has been helped me two ways:

First, To review Christianity’s unique contributions to pluralistic and multi cultural India. There are many but I will outline a few that are relevant to the present discussion:

Christianity is helping people break free from a cyclical philosophy which dominates their lives.  For someone committed to this way of belief and practice,  life gets them nowhere. People are left helpless to break free from present predicaments.   Into this never ending cyclic darkness comes the linear philosophy of the Christian Faith.   “I come quickly and my reward is with me. . . . I am . . . the beginning and the end.”  This line moves forward and upward, ending only with the return of Christ and the ultimate triumph of righteousness.” It provides the person a motivation and drive to strive the dark tunnel of the present toward the light.

Another significant contribution is that the Christian Faith highlights the worth of the individual and brings equality and harmony into otherwise fragmented communities.  In subaltern communities where people have been looked down and trampled upon by the structures and hierarchy of caste, gender and other considerations for centuries, the Christian Faith introduces the doctrine of self worth, a higher identity in Christ, and their place in society.   It teaches that they are created in the image of God, equal and endowed with rights to enjoy the ‘abundant life’ Christ came to give, to live a life of freedom of choice and decision.

Then, the Christian Faith provides the incentive for a capitalistic economy based on human values, the principles of integrity, equality, a strong work ethic and high morals. Christianity tears down hazy and negative cultural and religious beliefs that are not conducive to holistic development, both socially and economically.

Secondly,  Douthat’s Bad Religion has helped identify several dangerous pitfalls that can be avoided by the growing indigenous Church as the Christian Faith gradually takes roots in the Indian soil.   It has left me with challenging questions on my role as a Christian leader in the present context.   What should I do?  What are the snares that I must avoid?  Hindsight is 20/20.  As a Chinese proverb goes: ‘falling in a moat makes you all the wiser’.  There are many lessons to learn and pitfalls to avoid as the indigenous church is taking its baby steps forward toward growth and maturity.    

I conclude in full agreement with Douthat’s sobering thoughts applying it to my life and ministry:

“The deeper trends that  might inspire a Christian renaissance are beyond any individual believer’s control.  But the kind of faith that should animate such a renaissance can be lived out Christian by Christian, congregation by congregation, day by day without regard to whether it succeeds in changing the (American way of religion). (Douthat 2012)”   

Douthat, Ross. Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics. New York: Free Press, 2012

Hansen, Collin. The Gospel Coalition. http://thegospelcoalition.org/book-reviews/review/bad_religion/ (accessed February 12, 2013).

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