The ubiquitous Gene Veith, over at Cranach hits one of my hot buttons: Christians and their relationships with the culture around them. He writes:
A Christianity that generates culture! That is what is so lacking in America today. It isn’t an issue of ruling the culture, or of exercising power over anyone. And I’m not saying at all that culture, as such, is in any way what the church’s mission should be. But a vital Christianity, one that shapes people’s thinking and living, has always had cultural side-effects.
Today in America, the church tends to be either reactionary (opposing certain elements of the culture) or conformist (aping whatever the culture does in a usually futile attempt to be culturally relevant). It is generally not, however, generating culture.
Christianity played a role in the development of Western civilization, from its art to its great ideas, that it simply doesn’t play anymore. The culture that Christians generated varied greatly over time and through history. To take examples from English literature, Christianity inspired writers as varied as Dante, Milton, the Metaphysical poets, Coleridge, Hopkins, and even the modernist T. S. Eliot. Christianity generated the invention of the university, universal literacy, the rule of law, non-classical drama, human rights, and on and on.
Indeed. The 20th century was the first century in roughly 1700 years in which the predominant cultural stream and influence were not Christian, from 1900 to 2000. The 21st century has started off in the same way. However, it remains to be seen whether Christianity will make a resurgence. Veith believes it is possible, given some trends in education that are starting to emerge.
In cynical moments, I wonder whether 2100 will see a vibrant and culture-dominating religion called “Islam.”