Monday, August 9, 2010

Solid ground

Rod Dreyer is increasingly pessimistic about the future of Christianity in America, and this is why:
.... Three words: Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. That's Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith's term to describe what he documents as the emerging mainstream religious sensibility in the U.S. MTDers are in every Christian church, and in non-Christian religions as well. The MTD god is a likeable guy who is far removed from our everyday lives, and is to be called on only when we want help. He wants us to be good, which is to say nice. The main thing in life is to be happy and feel good about yourself. ....

.... As Smith has written of MTD:
This is not a religion of repentance from sin, of keeping the Sabbath, of living as a servant of sovereign divinity, of steadfastly saying one's prayers, of faithfully observing high holy days, of building character through suffering, of basking in God's love and grace, of spending oneself in gratitude and love for the cause of social justice, et cetera. Rather, what appears to be the actual dominant religion among U.S. teenagers is centrally about feeling good, happy, secure, at peace. It is about attaining subjective well-being, being able to resolve problems, and getting along amiably with other people.
Where did young Christians get this from? Their parents' generation. ....

I'm confident that in the years to come, there will be people living in this country who still call themselves Christians. But what will that mean, anyway? If the church — by which I mean all those who identify as Christians — has lost its awareness that Christianity means something apart from the subjective impressions and whims of those who call themselves Christian, then it will dissolve in the corrosive solvent of modernity. I think this is more likely to happen than not, because we are living in a post-Christian era. Those churches that will survive and thrive will be those who have held onto the older, objective understanding of the faith — which is to say, those that still believe that small-o orthodoxy exists. But they will suffer persecution from an increasingly hostile secular culture, especially if they insist on holding on obstreperously to truths that most contradict the Zeitgeist, e.g., traditional Christian moral teaching on sexuality and family. .... [more]
In Search of a Rock on Which to Stand