Thursday, April 10, 2008

Mark Steyn on Anglicanism and Post-Christianity

I recently ran across Mark Steyn's new book, America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It. Although it is not always obvious whether he sees it as a cause or an effect of "the end of the world as we know it," Steyn has some biting observations about the decline (one might even say the "self-destruction") of mainline Christianity.

If ever there were a time for a strong voice from the heart of Christianity, this would be it. And yet most mainline Protestant churches are as wedded to the platitiudes du jour as the laziest politician. These days, if it weren't for homosexuality, the "mainstream" Christian churches would get barely any press at all. In 2005, the big story in America was the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop; in Britain, the nomination of a celibate gay bishop; in Canada, New Westminster's decision to become the first diocese in the Anglican communion to perform same-sex ceremonies. In Nigeria, where on any Sunday the Anglicans in the pews outnumber those in America, Britain, and Canada combined, the archbishop is understandably miffed that the only news he gets from head office revolves around various permutations of gayness. Getting a reputation as a cult for upscale Western sodomites and a few attendant fetishists doesn't help when half your country's in the grip of sharia and the local Islamoheavies are just itching to torch your churches (98-99).

Most mainline Protestant churches are, to one degree or another, post-Christian. If they no longer seem disposed to converting the unbelieving to Christ, they can at least convert them to the boggiest of soft-left political cliches, on the grounds that if Jesus were alive today he'd most likely be a gay Anglican bishop in a committed relationship driving around in an environmentally friendly car with an "Arms Are for Hugging" sticker on the way to an interfaith dialogue with a Wiccan and a couple of Wahhabi imams.

...The United States has a strain of evangelical Protestantism strong enough to grow in the years ahead. Unfortunately, there is no such surging evangelicalism in Europe. In search of the guiding hand of God, some Europeans will return to Pope Benedict's church, some will accept Islam, but there will be no takers for the archbishop of Canterbury's watery obsolescent soft-left pap (101-102).

Okay, who wants to join me in being a "strong voice from the heart of Christianity?"


Timotheus said...

I'm in!

See you in July for the D.Min term.

Let's roll!!


Mike said...

Here am I! Send me!

Fr. Darin Lovelace+ said...

Good morning, Dean Munday.

When I was a student at YDS-Berkeley in New Haven, the Women's Center produced t-shirts with a quote on the reverse from Margaret Kuhn - "Speak your mind, even when your voice shakes."

Perhaps our voices shake with passion for the Gospel, but let us raise them loudly together!

Thanks for this post.

Fr. Darin Lovelace+
St. Paul's, Durant (IA)
ACN-Common Cause Parish

liturgy said...

Have you visited my "Liturgy" site?
If you link, let me know so I link back.

David Handy+ said...

I love the scathing and sarcastic description of how "post-Christian" so much of "mainline" Protestantism has become. Priceless.

But I like to make a clear and important distinction between the terms "post-Christian" and "post-Christendom." Turkey is "post-Christian," and much of Europe may be. But America is much more of a "post-Christendom" society. There are still large numbers of Christians and lots of flourishing churches, but the culture has turned against us. The famous "separation of church and state" has evolved into the virtual divorce of Christianity in general and the dominant culture. Religion is relegated to the private sphere as a matter of personal preference and increasingly excluded from the public square.

And I contend that the crisis we are dealing with in Anglicanism is not simply a matter of two rival worldviews competing for dominance, or two mutually exclusive religions futilely trying to live together under one roof. That's a large part of the problem to be sure, but the root problem goes even deeper.

And that is this. In our new "post-Chriostendom" social setting, we can't settle to just "contend for the faith once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3) and leave the old wineskins of Anglicanism's traditional structures intact. No, we are being forced to re-invent Anglicanism from the ground up, in order to adapt to our radically new cultural context in the "post-Christendom" West. And with our state church heritage, that means nothing less than a New Reformation. I think it literally changes everything.

We have to redesign orthodox Anglicanism so that it can not only survive but thrive in the post-Constantinian world of the early third millenium. And here we will find our inspiration not only coming from the dynamic Anglicanism of the Global South, but from the pre-Constantinian Church of the early first millenium.