Sunday, March 25, 2007

Son of ‘spiritual but not religious’
As I’ve written before, that expression really means ‘God is nice to have around but I call the shots’. According to Rod Dreher’s sources this has turned into something called moralistic therapeutic deism, or political correctness (Christian ethics shorn of Christianity) mixed with ‘Back off, God!’ arrogance that stops short of denying he exists:
The upshot is that even among the most religiously enthusiastic Americans, the faith has become so inculturated that it has been turned inside out, and is no longer prophetic, but therapeutic. Ken talked about an interview he did in 2005 with sociologist Christian Smith, who had just written a book on the religious and spiritual lives of American teenagers. What he found was a consistent set of religious beliefs across denominations, and even traditions (i.e., Muslim teenagers told him the same thing). But it wasn't the beliefs of the particular traditions the kids came out of; rather, it was what Smith calls "moralistic therapeutic deism." Its principles, as Ken listed them, were startlingly familiar: God exists, but you really shouldn't get overly involved with Him unless you get into real trouble or something; the point of life is to be happy; it's important to be nice; good people go to heaven, and most everybody is good; et cetera.
Obviously niceness without a solid foundation doesn’t go very far as most people my age and younger who consciously believe this codswallop in fact aren’t very nice.

Seems like secular humanism’s American cousin, still holding onto the trappings of church, unlike Europe where open unbelief is now, it seems, the norm.
What struck me when I heard Ken listing Dr. Smith's litany was how this vague message has been the basic orientation toward Christianity that I've heard in nearly every Protestant or [Roman] Catholic church I've ever been a part of.
The mainline denominations have been heading in this direction since the ‘Enlightenment’ and as Michael Cuneo (a sociologist unsympathetic to traditionalists) has admitted mainstream RC in most places likewise has become a kind of enshrinement of current middle-class decorum.

Dreher’s right: secular humanism, the Protestant religious right’s bugbear, is not the mainstream on this side of the pond. This is.
This is not something that teenagers today have arrived at on their own. This is something they were taught. Ken said that in his own conversations with pastors, they are often astonished by the level of theological illiteracy among young people today, as opposed to 50 years ago. I suppose you might say that even if a religious dissenter within a tradition rejected the tradition, he at least knew what he was turning his back on. No longer. And I thought perhaps the most important thing Ken said all night was his observation that in past generations, young people were ashamed of themselves when they became aware that they didn't know something important, and they endeavoured to learn it. Today, so many are proud of their ignorance, or at least profoundly unmoved to combat it.
I’ll add that the truth should make you feel good. If it doesn’t the problem is not with the truth.
  LORD Jesu Christ, who didst say to thine apostles, ‘Come ye apart into a desert place, and rest a while’, for there were many coming and going; grant to me thy servant that I may rest a while in this present time with thee.

May I so seek thee, whom my soul desireth to love, that I may both find thee and be found of thee; and grant that the Lenten discipline may help lead me onward through the toils of my pilgrimage, to that rest which remaineth for the people of God; where nevertheless they rest not day and night from thy perfect service, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost, livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.
— From here

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