Tuesday, May 1, 2007

on second thought

Continuing on the theme of the last post in which I discussed preachers who are ranting that Christianity is under attack in the US...
Today I listened to an interview of theologian Douglas John Hall. His point of view is that the perception of what is being threatened is misunderstood. He said that it's not Christianity that's being threatened in the West...it's Christendom. Christendom is understood as the societies in which institutionalized Christianity is the dominant social and political force. This is a very astute perception. And I think it's correct. Chrisitanity in and of itself, as a religion, is not under attack. The institution's social and political dominance is, however, crumbling. In a lot of areas it has already crumbled.

In response to this we have a couple of options that Hall outlines. One of those options is to do as so many fundamentalist preachers do and fight against the changes in society, demanding that things go back the way they used to be. Needless to say, this approach will prove to be rather fruitless. Another possibility is to become overwhelmed by the changes, to become hopeless, and to give up altogether. This also, of course, is not a viable possibility. Another more viable option is to be mature about the situation, to accept the changes that have happened as real and then to try and understand what God is now doing in the world, or how God is moving in the world in a different way. We then can become part of the adaptive work of God in the world.

Hall further pointed out that Christendom's fall is not a bad thing. When Jesus talks in metaphors about the kingdom of God (or the realm of God, or the way things are supposed to be) he uses metaphors like yeast in the dough, a small city on a hill. These are all metaphors about quality rather than quantity. They're all metaphors about smallness being used by God for big things.

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