Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ross Douthat on Our Divided Religious Culture

Ross Douthat has an interesting column in the New York Times today that discusses our divided faith world views:

Many Americans still take everything: They accept the New Testament as factual, believe God came in the flesh, and endorse the creeds that explain how and why that happened. And then alongside traditional Christians, there are observant Jews and Muslims who believe the same God revealed himself directly in some other historical and binding form.
But this biblical world picture is increasingly losing market share to what you might call the spiritual world picture, which keeps the theological outlines suggested by the manger scene — the divine is active in human affairs, every person is precious in God’s sight — but doesn’t sweat the details.       
This is the world picture that red-staters get from Joel Osteen, blue-staters from Oprah, and everybody gets from our “God bless America” civic religion. It’s Christian-ish but syncretistic; adaptable, easygoing and egalitarian. It doesn’t care whether the angel really appeared to Mary: the important thing is that a spiritual version of that visitation could happen to anyone — including you.
Then, finally, there’s the secular world picture, relatively rare among the general public but dominant within the intelligentsia. This worldview keeps the horizontal message of the Christmas story but eliminates the vertical entirely. The stars and angels disappear: There is no God, no miracles, no incarnation. But the egalitarian message — the common person as the center of creation’s drama — remains intact, and with it the doctrines of liberty, fraternity and human rights.
Read it all here.   This typology is interesting--and roughly accurate--but it ignores some important nuances.  Some of the biggest debates today are not being fought between these different world views, but within them.  Perhaps the best example is the spirited debates that rocked my own Episcopal denomination about gays and lesbians.  This was largely a battle between those of us who have a biblical worldview as Douthat describes, and not a debate between biblical worlsview and competing world views.  And within the biblical worldview, there is a huge divide between the biblical literalist, and those of us who believe the creeds, but have a less literal view of the Bible.

What do you think?

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