a few days ago, i attended a showing of a short video called "the next christians." it dealt with the shift in american culture towards what is sometimes referred to as "secularism." the bulk of the video was taken up by interviews with two christian leaders who have written about this culture-shift extensively. what struck me first in the video was the interviewer's opening statements explaining the embrace of secularism, the change from a culture where christianity was the dominant cultural force to our becoming a nation of "nones"(Q: what is your religion? A: none) . the interviewer made a comment about our abandonment of christian morality in favor of "relativism."
alarms sounded in my brain, and i can't get this phrase, "christian morality," out of my head (so-called "relativism" is a subject for another post). we christians have embraced a sort of moral imperialism which suggests that apart from christianity or judaism there can be no substantial moral foundation. i believe that it is this very attitude that has enlarged the number of "nones" in our society. to propose that adherents of others religions or those who embrace no religion cannot have a viable moral code is the height of arrogance.
my first question when i heard the interviewer's comment was, "who gets to define what christian moralty is? is it those christians who defended slavery as a system condoned by the bible? is it those who advocate the subjugation of women? is it those who believe that the economic survival of the fittest is a basic tenet of christianity or that capital punishment delights God?" we christians have allowed such people to define what christianity is, and for many of us who think of ourselves as "progressive christians" such teachings are far removed from genuine christianity. yet we hear little from our pulpits in mainstream protestant churches about the harm these teachings are doing, at least where i live.
in the discussion following the showing of the video, i suggested that the emergence of secular humanist congregations was a positive trend from which the church could learn much. in such congregations, people find friendship, acceptance, and support without the fear of being judged or belittled because of their beliefs or lack of belief. if christians could allow people to come into our congregations with the freedom to honestly express themselves, if we could embrace tolerance so that we would warmly welcome those whose lifestyles or philosophies are different from our own, we would be in a much better position to share the love that is at the center of the teachings of jesus.
my prayer today is that we will recognize that many who reject christianity as a religion nevertheless practice its teachings as they seek to love and care for their neighbors and that those of us who are christians will learn to be accepting, forgiving, and loving as jesus taught. shalom.