I’m working my way through a thought provoking book by James Emery White, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated. In chapter 4, “A Post‑Christian World,” the author explores the impact of culture on Christianity. He identifies and explains “Three Moving Cultural Currents”:
- Secularization: The church is losing its influence as a shaper of life and thought in the wider social order, and Christianity is losing its place as the dominant worldview.
- Privatization: A chasm is created between the public and the private spheres of life, and spiritual things are increasingly placed with the private arena.
- Pluralization: Individuals are confronted with a staggering number of ideologies and faith options competing for their attention.
Regarding secularization, I found the following illustration particularly insightful.
In his Guide for the Perplexed, author E. F. Schumacher relates his experience of getting lost during a sightseeing trip to Moscow during the Stalinist era. Trying to get his bearings, he found himself standing with several large churches within his line of sight. Yet none of these churches were found on his map. An interpreter came to assist him and explained, “We don’t show churches on our maps.”
Schumacher contradicted the interpreter by quickly pointing out a church that was clearly on his map.
“That is a museum,” the interpreter said, “not what we call a ‘living church.’ It is only the ‘living churches’ we don’t show.”
That, Schumacher goes on to conclude, was the cultural point. Those things that mankind has most believed in are no longer on the map of reality, or if they are, they are relegated to a museum. In reflecting on Schumacher’s story, Huston Smith notes that our world “has erased transcendence from our reality map.” Or as C. S. Lewis observes, “Almost all our modern philosophies have been devised to convince us that the good of man is to be found on this earth.”