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

Things are kind of really bad…but they’re also kind of really looking-up! So, choose good; choose life!

Written by: on July 14, 2014

In case you haven’t noticed a significant amount of people think something is wrong with America.  Now, it’s hard to believe that anyone really takes this idea seriously, because when you think about it, really think about it, what changes actually get made?  Are there still uncharged inmates at Guantanamo? Do we still have the largest inmate population in the world? Nuclear weapons…are they still around? Wealthy elites still around gaining their money at the expense of inadequately paid and protected labor?  America still sending troops all around the world whenever and wherever and not seeking UN approval unless it’s helpful? Any new gun laws around or any kind of legislation get passed seeking to prevent further harms?  Still the largest homeless population in the industrialized world? How about immigration…any helpful legislation passed there…have we stopped separating families yet?

So, just some suggestions among many that could be offered above.  It would seem like we have some things that we could arguably work on a bit. And yet. And yet we have not seen much if any substantive movement on a lot of the above issues.  This is why it becomes difficult to take ourselves seriously.

Ben Douthat in his book Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics wants to help us understand why we think something might be wrong with America and in doing so it just might increase the chances of getting some movement on the above issues. Maybe.

As you might guess from his book title, his suggestion of this “wrongness” in American society has to do with religion – specifically, skewed and or absent religion.  Douthat suggests conservatives believe it is due to falling away from the Founders Faith, to being bullied into secularization, to diverting from Manifest Destiny type scenarios, to a loss of moral framework that Alexis de Tocqueville predicted so long ago.[1] Liberals suggest that it’s due to draconian Christianness, to American Theocracy, basically just to too much “piety and zeal.”[2]  Of course, these positions between the two camps appear to be direct opposites, but Douthat writes that they have more in common than might be expected.  Yes, there are problems with both too much and too little religion, but the primary problem isn’t this.  The primary problem is not about much or little, but about bad; it’s about bad religion.  In a bit of hyperbole on my part, Douthat writes that Pseudo-Christianities are popping up all over and no one knows what they’re doing in relation to what he notes as traditional Christianity.  He hits hard, writing, “it’s…a place where traditional Christian teachings have been warped into justifications for solipsism and anti-intellectualism, jingoism and utopianism, selfishness and greed.”[3]

In the midst and the end however, Douthat offers some hope.  He writes a meaningful and simultaneously hilarious statement, “The history of Christianity has always featured unexpected resurrections.”[4] Christianity has managed to metamorphosize in all kinds of cultures while still maintaining its core integrity. Ages of crises have been followed by ages of renewal and G.K. Chesterton has noted that while many times “the Faith has to all appearance gone to the dogs [in the end] it was the dog that died.”[5]  Douthat shows that new revitalizing movements are taking the place of decrepit structures.  New people are replacing those that have passed on.  Behold, once again, a new day dawns for the perpetual phoenix that is Christianity.

The question for each of us is where do we fall in this? Are we part of the hindrance or part of creative new ways forward that yet remain faithful to the core of what came before?

[1] Ross Douthat, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, (New York, NY: Free Press, 2012), 2.

[2] Ibid., 3.

[3] Ibid., 4.

[4] Ibid., 277.

[5] Ibid., 278.

About the Author

Clint Baldwin

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