Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Times They Are A Change'n

I've spoken at times about postmodernism and how i fancy myself as part of this group. I'm reading a book right now that is really touching on some great themes and lays out our current context quite nicely. The book is Entertainment Theology: New-Edge Spirituality in a Digital Democracy by Barry Taylor.

Taylor is concerned with three interwoven ideas: (1) the implosion of modernity and the rise of the postmodern/postsecular, (2) the spiritual condition of popular culture that signifies a return to God, and (3) a vision for Christianity in this current milieu and for the future.

We have largely been living in a world where Christianity hasn't wielded the power it once did, churches are in decline, more and more people are biblically and theologically illiterate, and the rise of "Secularism" have been cried about by many-a theologian (both conservative and liberal). Taylor, on the other hand, sees this as a good thing! it's like the chinese saying "With great challenge comes great opportunity."

Taylor sees that the western culture has largely taken the modernist pill, thinking everything can be rationalized and explained. Max Weber wrote about the "disenchantment of the world" saying that magic and mystery had been driven from the world by the dominance of bueraucracy. These are "Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart, this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved."

however, with the popularity of Harry Potter, Fight Club, The Celestine Prophecy, The Sixth Sense, Donnie Darko, and (my fav.) THE MATRIX shows that these have become the primary means of continuing the study of one's spiritual interested in the age of the democratization of the spirit. The Church has been left behind and the culture is fashioning its own form of spirituality and God-talk that Christianity must take seriously.

Rather than being cool, Christianity must be relevant, something i've been scream'n for a while on this blog. The main ways in which it can be so will be through an identity shift, a new typology for missional theology, and a new encoding of the Christian message, all of are in desperate need of imagination. The instillation of creativity from the pew and a higher rate of participation and congregational input.

Taylor writes, “The shift in times demands a new reiteration of the message, one that is a pertinent and timely iteration of the timeless Christ story for our cultural context.” Thankfully this iteration can come from both inside and outside the church as he asserts that “theology is no longer a specialized field to be left to those deemed qualified.” There is much encouragement for artists and lovers of art to get involved.

I'm totally into this book. Esp. how the new religious permutations "will lead to the emergence and advance of post-Newtonian chaotic-observer aware science." He also cites this Radiohead video as a metaphor for the reenchantment of the West, and i think this dude is right on!



Anonymous said...

The times have changed - and the church moved a little too slowly to stay relevant - instead of morally being a defining ethic it has always trailed since it left the European continent. It seems that is key problem #1 - falling behind and having little to offer in terms of morality (that we cannot find in society).

Problem #2 is beyond obvious - community - doesn't exist and when people say it does - call me up - I'll come and find the cracks and illegitimacy within it (usually a very western model complete with leaders and students - unequal levels of responsibility). Church looks more like school than a community.

Lastly I would say meaning - what is the meaning of the church exactly? Seems to me most are worried with marketing - or evangelism - and not personal care one for another...which is real community.

Tit for Tat said...

Maybe church means community, not a certain type of community. If we stop naming it maybe then it will name itself. One world.

Anonymous said...

I've never understood the rationale behind the fear of Christianity being put on the back burner. Why is the (I think inevitable) Christian loss of cultural dominance a bad thing? Why is an empty church such a terrible thing that must be feared and avoided at all costs? Is it a money issue, or the idea of losing influence and control over the personal lives of people that frightens them? Is it because people are actually afraid that if we don't go to church, society will be in a moral crisis? Are they afraid that God will smote us if we don't loudly and proudly proclaim our religious convictions, like the modern evangelical Pharisees?

It's not like church is the only place for people to get together... The best theological / philosophical / morality discussions I've ever had have been in a barstool, not in a pew.

Anonymous said...

"The best theological / philosophical / morality discussions I've ever had have been in a barstool, not in a pew" (Ineely)

Agreed! Get a few drinks in me and deep philosophical thinking just comes out...strange how that works.

Anonymous said...

Heheh, indeed. Serve some good drinks in church after the sermon and you might just see me there every Sunday. ;)

Luke said...

i love theology on tap. i'll post more on this subject later.

Luke said...

okie-dokie! back to comment on the various things said.

"Maybe church means community, not a certain type of community." -TfT

sadly, it has now taken on the meaing of "Christians Only" in the church... i think a community center would be a more appropriate model for what Christ had in mind... but hopefully we can open that up and expand it.. work to include others in the "God-talk" like Jews, Muslims, Hindus, agnostics and Atheists.. so i'm trying to model that behavior here as well as in the real world.

"The best theological / philosophical / morality discussions I've ever had have been in a barstool, not in a pew." -Ineely

dude, in my home church we make sure to do good parings with the bread.. like an herbed focaccitta with a pinot noir ;-) classy.

i too love the barstool discussions. at a local pub here in the area we have "Theology on Tap" which is the first monday of every month, we bring in an expert and they talk about whatever issue they're most informed about.. like a geneticist on bio-ethics, our NT scholar on social gospel, our theologian on the theology behind the pres. campaigns in the fall.. it's great and there's time for Q&A afterwards. they're a great sucess.

i think where this fails is that if you don't have an expert, then you can run head first into nonsence. plus there's the issue of inclusion... how many old people, recovering alcoholics, and "goodie-two-shoes" would feel comfy in a bar. that's why church is impt. for me because it's inclusive.. well.. my experience of church is, which is largely United Church of Christ. i know that this is the exception rather than the rule.. but i'm working on adding at least one more church to that list ;-)

so i'm all for theology/philosophy over beer. but i think that an intentional weekly gathering and consideration with a statement (i.e. sermon) and a followup Q&A session (i.e. fellowship table) would be ideal. this is my model for "doing church".

Chris said...

"Taylor, on the other hand, sees this as a good thing! it's like the chinese saying "With great challenge comes great opportunity.""


Living a life of faith is a life best lived when the name of your faith isn't written into every legal document (a la theocracy), isn't the default setting at all school functions, and isn't the unified theory in all approved universities.

The Postmodern/Postsecular shift was inevitable and necessary, just as the shifts were before them. To run and hide is counter-Christ, as is the reactive attempt to bulk up and fight. Heck, even attempts to battle through coopting seem superficial to me - in-church theme parks come to mind.

With struggle comes refined theology, right? With discomfort comes the need for hope, correct? Being a minority is home turf for the Christ-follower and ought not to inspire fear.

But it does. Understandable. So let's get over it and get to the refining of theology, to the bringing of hope, to the formation of true community that brings people together.

Anonymous said...

@Luke: I suggested booze in church with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. ;p Anyhow, I agree with everything you said. I'm merely suggesting that church isn't the only place for people to get together and enjoy each others' company. For me and mine, it isn't even an appropriate place (there's that issue of belief).

My- er, "church" happens to be at my home, in a bar with live music, or at the parties I might attend, and it would be that way even if I did believe in a god. Organised worship isn't my cup of tea.

@Chris: Spot. On. When I participated in the Christian tradition, I always wondered why the more conservative sects -- those with whom I've had the most experience** -- insisted so often on voting for laws enforcing their religious dogma. After all, politics corrupts religion, and vice-versa.

If refined theology brings about refined religion, I'm all for it. ;) The first step is separating dogma from deity.

** I live in the Bible Belt where people worship the bible instead of God