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

Globalizing “Bad Religion”

Written by: on February 16, 2013

After reading Douthat’s book: Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, I am compelled to ask if the ‘bad religion’ of American Christianity is bad only for America? Has it left just America in a crisis?  In the wake of globalization, I believe this same version of Christianity has reached the urban shores around the world particularly those of developing nations like India.   Globalization, which to some extent is also undeniably Americanization, has not only caused a homogenization of urban culture in the recent years but has also homogenized the nature and expression of ‘Christianity’.

Indigenous expressions of the Christian faith, relevant to the needs and the culture of the context are replaced with a religion that is imitated right down to the décor of the church buildings to the PA system, the style of worship and music.  The urban independent churches in India are now entangled in the same predicament of growing mega churches and preaching a ‘health and wealth’ gospel that patronizes the capitalist and consumerist culture ushered in by globalization.  

The adverse effects of globalization on culture, that supports a highly individualistic, self-centered ideology, on the one hand, and the imitation of the American heretical ‘bad’ Christianity of the urban church is only creating an ephemeral experience of faith that is restricted to Sunday mornings. The Christian faith, as it is supposed to, does not dictate and dominate all of life giving it purpose and meaning but is increasingly viewed as just another necessary component of life.   Such a faith and ‘spirituality’ has little or no relevance to the believer working in an MNC who is bombarded by ethical choices and decisions in relation to his or her life and work.  Increasingly, it isn’t uncommon to find Christian youth disenchanted with this ‘religion’ where the emotional high ends after the ‘praise and worship’ time. 

However for now, the urban independent churches are riding on the high wave of this new found ‘trendy’ religion.  It may seem as a long awaited alternative to the subdued lifeless mainline churches but it nevertheless has taken the shape and form of an alternative and an ‘accommodative’ religion. Looking back to when Christianity was first introduced to India, it brought with it development and progress in realms of government, health, education, science and technology, proving it to be a faith that was relevant and contextual to the needs of the people and culture then.   It was a faith that rose above the culture to influence it.

However, the present trend of aping the ‘bad religion’ of America, will only cause the churches to lose the credibility to influence and witness in a pluralistic society.  Without a return to the “Orthodox Christian faith” as suggested by Douthat, one that is “political without being partisian, ecumenical but also confessional, moralistic but also holistic, and oriented toward sanctity and beauty”, the urban churches will be consumed by globalization itself.   They will fail to be the ‘Salt and Light’ in the community fulfilling the mission of God as it was originally intended.

Douthat, Ross Gregory. Bad religion: how we became a nation of heretics. New York: Free Press, 2012.

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