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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Je suis dans un âge séculaire et spirituelle (French for – I am in a secular and spiritual age) :)

Written by: on February 21, 2015

Charles Taylor’s book A Secular Age is a remarkable and ambitious study which explores the world of religions dating back to the 1500 and they coexist in the present times for both adherents of faith and non-believers. With the ongoing discussions of religious affairs in the media and the swelling realities of wars surrounded by terrorism, Taylor’s work material is relevant indeed.  Talk of religion and its impact in the world is ubiquitous and one might be inclined to think that it’s always been this way. Taylor asks, “why was it virtually impossible not to believe in God in, say, 1500 in our Western society, while in 2000 many of us find this not only easy, but even inescapable?”[1] It is not that the world was void of religiosity prior to 2000 since history clearly shows that notions and beliefs about the existence of a deity and gods have been part and parcel of ancient civilizations. For example the history of spirituality in places in Africa, Asia and Israel’s relationship with Yahweh. Yet belief in God seems to be a reoccurring elephant in the room of today’s public life. Is religion going away any time soon? Should we expect a version of Friedrich nietzsche’ “God is dead” only this time a version in a secular age “religion is dead”? Taylor is out to navigate through the speculative thoughts and curiosities that surrounded the historical rise of modernity with the background of religion.

Last week, I was reminded about the charged interaction between religion and secularity when I saw some of the millions of copies of Charlie Hebdo’s paper on the stand during a recent stop at one of my favorite spots along Hawthorn Street in Portland Oregon.

Even though Taylor addresses a wide range of  subjects in his book which is divided into five parts and twenty chapters with an admirable grasp of the historical development of our secular epoch which he names “exclusive humanism”; I found myself making some sense of certain current events through Taylor is idea of “subtraction stories.” According to Taylor:

Stories of modernity in general, and secularity in particular, which explain them by human beings having lost, or sloughed off, or liberated themselves from certain earlier, confining horizons, or illusions, or limitations of knowledge. What emerges from this process—modernity or secularity—is to be understood in terms of underlying features of human nature which were there all along, but had been impeded by what is now set aside.[2]

Scrubbing down modern Christianity of certain elements can be threatening and even viewed as secular in certain denominations, but do such efforts provide relief to people’s social imaginaries and social political orders? In fact the obstacles of perfecting holiness “holier –than-thou attitudes”, alternate reality “make belief spirituality” and authoritarianism found in both the historical and present Christian church among many others, might be areas where people find the need to apply Taylor theme of ‘subtraction’ from their life’s stories. When people start to question particular facets of religion, who knows what their discoveries might lead to? Will there be progress or a backlash? I sometimes wonder whether Taylor’s subtraction model was and continues to play a role in the bold deconstruction expressed in the nature of freedom of speech employed by Charlie Hebdo, Bill Mahar, and John Steward etc. I thoroughly enjoy satire. The kernel in the humor I believe, is the ability and freedom through which satire is able to at times communicate the facts, truth and reality, in ways people can hear and laugh in the face of fear and intimidation. The full effects of the recent clash between religious extremists and the cartoonists in France on global affairs are yet be known. My guess is that people will need both spiritual and secular tools to understand how to prevent such unfortunate events. Love and forgiveness are good places to begin.

 

 

[1] Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press,2007), 25.

[2] Ibid., 22.

About the Author

Michael Badriaki

10 responses to “Je suis dans un âge séculaire et spirituelle (French for – I am in a secular and spiritual age) :)”

  1. mm John Woodward says:

    Michael…I am surprised. You sarcastic? (Note my sarcasm.) Michael, I appreciate your point on subtraction stories, as it was something that stood out in my reading as well. I am interested to know more about why these stories are such a treat to the Church? Do you think is that it shows up a weak or unsustainable foundation for many church? Or because many churches just don’t know how to deal with or answer modernity? We seem to live in a very confusing and unsettled times that causes–I believe–the Church to do a lot of soul searching…which I think is good…the Church should always be reforming, always humbly seeking after the true source! Subtraction stories might encourage this process!

    Thanks Michael for your thoughts!

    • Michael Badriaki says:

      John, I think that the threat of the stories to some Churches and denominations comes about when the process of subtraction stories encroaches on the churches’ foundation stories; even when as you point out they “might show up a weak and unsustainable foundation”. Some churches act as though they live in premodernity and so they are caught up in trying to maintain the schism between the scared and the secular with certain stories. It is telling however, when some Christians pretend to be premodern in their theology but will spend a tremendous among of money on the materialism that modernity offers them. How interesting, Taylor is on to something!

  2. Michael,

    You write, “Taylor is out to navigate through the speculative thoughts and curiosities that surrounded the historical rise of modernity with the background of religion.” That summarizes well this massive work of Taylor. We are in an important age. How are we to navigate this secular age as Christians? I know that it is difficult at times, but on the other hand, it is also one of the best times to be a thinking Christian. If we are not afraid to explore different ideas and viewpoints, this just might be a great time to be alive.

    I resonated with your words, “When people start to question particular facets of religion, who knows what their discoveries might lead to? Will there be progress or a backlash?” These are important questions! Perhaps if people are truly seeking after truth, the truth will be what they ultimately find. This is why we Christians should be involved in the conversation, not cloistered away in our safe little sanctuaries hoping for Jesus to return. I don’t mean to be sarcastic; I just think that we need to embrace our reality rather than run from it. Who knows, we just might learn something ourselves and make some new friends along the way.

  3. Michael, I appreciate your comments.

    I, like you, enjoy the ability to laugh at our situations especially when that satire joke contains a kernel of reality and truth. Yet, if satire contains an element of truth, and we have freedom to use it currently in our western world, how far can we use such satire before it becomes destructive to the underpinnings of the economy and our religious makeup? At the same time, we don’t want to have a police state where we govern all types of speech and never allow a comic look at our nation, our president, or ourselves. We do not want to leave the relational aspects of Christianity in our attempt to create and govern a “civilized society.”

    Is all that we are striving for only a civilized society or are we trying to achieve something much greater? Of course I asked this only as a rhetorical question, for I believe we are to strive for the preeminence of Jesus Christ, and his character in all things. I hope we can do a better job than our ancestors but I am not to hopeful. What do you think?

  4. Telile Fikru Badecha says:

    Hi Michael, It is interesting you bring up the recent tragic event between cartoonist and Muslim extremists in France. Apparently some religions are so sensitive and disrespectful speaking of them would provoke people to a destructive action. I think it would be nice if we could choose to use our freedom in a productive way. Thanks for your insights.

  5. Miriam Mendez says:

    Michael, I loved your “yesterday, today, tomorrow” image! You write, “Scrubbing down modern Christianity of certain elements can be threatening and even viewed as secular in certain denominations, but do such efforts provide relief to people’s social imaginaries and social political orders?…When people start to question particular facets of religion, who knows what their discoveries might lead to?” Your “pencil image” reminds me of the scrubbing down – of the breaking apart, not only secular but Christian elements that have caused people damage in their beliefs and faith. I think that is where we are at now—Giving people options—but how we continue to be faithful and preach Christ in the midst of those options is the challenge. Good stuff, Michael. Thanks!

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