One of the greatest challenges to living as a professing Christian in America is the lingering presence of a Christian subculture in America. In the 20th century, it was the fear of a rapidly expanding pluralism that was expected to challenge the traditional Judeo-Christian ethic. However, in an ironic turn, the thinking that comes from pluralism may actually be more of a help to Christian ideas than the kind of thinking (or lack of it) that comes from Christian subcultures in America.
Consider that Pluralism operates on at least three assumptions:
- There are multiple competing ideas floating around in our social consciousness.
- These ideas, and therefore our experience of them, is a complex reality.
- Careful thinking about these ideas will aid us in arriving at our preferred worldview and can also help us to locate our preferred community of thinkers, in which to take up residence.
These three assumptions appear at odds with a boilerplate cultural Christianity that pops up in prosperity gospel literature and church growth seminars — and that is often communicated from the stage or on the lecture circuit:
- Its relatively easy to follow Jesus if you will just keep these steps/behaviors/principles in mind.
- The Christian life is really simple, if you think about it.
- Careful thinking may actually bring about more anxiety and stress. You need to let go and let god. God wants a life of surrender. After all, only He can bring about a peace that surpasses all understanding. So, don’t worry. Be happy.
This is no doubt a caricature and a misrepresentation of Christianity (and perhaps a misrepresentation of the subcultures of the prosperity gospel and church growth seminars). That’s the point I’m attempting to drive home. Boilerplate cultural Christianity is itself a caricature and misrepresentation of Christianity. And the sad reality of our current pluralistic society is that cultural Christianity is what many Americans are often presented with as a form of authentic Christianity — which is one of many reasons why careful thinking about the Christian worldview is needed in our time.
But what about biblically consistent, striving-to-be-faithful Christianity? Can this kind of idea co-exist in a pluralistic society? I want to spend more time on that question next week.