A Tough Season for Believers

I want to add a hearty “amen” to Ross Douthat’s column in today’s New York Times. He writes:

“Christmas is hard for everyone. But it’s particularly hard for people who actually believe in it.

“In a sense, of course, there’s no better time to be a Christian than the first 25 days of December. But this is also the season when American Christians can feel most embattled. Their piety is overshadowed by materialist ticky-tack. Their great feast is compromised by Christmukkwanzaa multiculturalism. And the once-a-year churchgoers crowding the pews beside them are a reminder of how many Americans regard religion as just another form of midwinter entertainment, wedged in between ‘The Nutcracker’ and ‘Miracle on 34th Street’. . .

“This month’s ubiquitous carols and crèches notwithstanding, believing Christians are no longer what they once were — an overwhelming majority in a self-consciously Christian nation. The question is whether they can become a creative and attractive minority in a different sort of culture, where they’re competing not only with rival faiths but with a host of pseudo-Christian spiritualities, and where the idea of a single religious truth seems increasingly passé.

“Or to put it another way, Christians need to find a way to thrive in a society that looks less and less like any sort of Christendom — and more and more like the diverse and complicated Roman Empire where their religion had its beginning, 2,000 years ago this week.”

Read the rest here.

9 Responses to A Tough Season for Believers

  1. Steve Hayes December 20, 2010 at 11:16 am #

    “Or to put it another way, Christians need to find a way to thrive in a society that looks less and less like any sort of Christendom — and more and more like the diverse and complicated Roman Empire where their religion had its beginning, 2,000 years ago this week.”

    That’s a bit overstated. We’re a far cry from the culture of the baby Jesus, but even if this were true, it wouldn’t be a bad thing. I don’t think being a Christian and celebrating Jesus’ birth is supposed to be the easiest thing… It’s still the best thing.

  2. Derek December 20, 2010 at 11:30 am #

    Douthat agrees with sociologist Davison’s assertion:

    both conservative and liberal believers to frame their mission primarily in terms of conflict, and to express themselves almost exclusively in the “language of loss, disappointment, anger, antipathy, resentment and desire for conquest.”

    But is this really true? Gina Welch, author of “Land of Believers” said that this is an overblown media construct and that Christians are not defined by culture wars, nor does it consume them the way it is described relentlessly by the media. She discovered this in Jerry Falwell’s church, no less!

    The media will not rest from their narrative until Christians (i.e. that we are defined and consumed by the culture wars) until we become completely apolitical, like the Amish. Frankly, I don’t think it helps when Christians and writers like Douthat feed into this myth.

  3. Diane Woerner December 21, 2010 at 11:21 am #

    “Or to put it another way, Christians need to find a way to thrive in a society that looks less and less like any sort of Christendom…”

    I would say Christianity thrives best in anti-Christian cultures. Our efforts to engage and accommodate the secular are the precise reason we have lost our bearings. As I see it, the church took a serious misstep when she began to see her mission as the Christianizing of humanity. Christ clearly defined His kingdom as being not of this world (John 17:14, 18:36), and said there would be only a few who will find it (Matthew 7:14).

  4. Larry Geiger December 21, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

    Whining. We have it SO EASY that we look for things to whine about. Good grief.

    When they drop Ross in an arena full of lions or start building fires around poles stuck in the ground, then it will be time to actually start worrying.

    “The question is whether they can become a creative and attractive minority in a different sort of culture, where they’re competing not only with rival faiths but with a host of pseudo-Christian spiritualities, and where the idea of a single religious truth seems increasingly passé.” Christians aren’t “competing”. God is not “competing”. This whole sentence, the entire article, assumes that God is not real and that it’s all about us.

  5. Derek December 21, 2010 at 1:52 pm #

    Larry,
    I’m sure that Ross would concede that if we’re talking about overt and hostile oppression, you’re right. But it has been noted by a wise man or two that materialism, secularism and wealth is a greater threat to a Christian’s faith than the sword, largely because it is more subtle. Indeed, this was more or less a running theme in Christ’s teaching ministry.

  6. Larry Geiger December 22, 2010 at 2:40 pm #

    Ok. But it seems to me that wasn’t his point. He said “Christmas is hard for everyone.” I guess that I don’t get that. It’s not hard for me. It’s one of the best and most joyous times of the year. That and Easter.

  7. Michele Foley December 23, 2010 at 6:37 pm #

    Larry, I’m sure that Ross would concede that if we’re talking about overt and hostile oppression, you’re right. But it has been noted by a wise man or two that materialism, secularism and wealth is a greater threat to a Christian’s faith than the sword, largely because it is more subtle. Indeed, this was more or less a running theme in Christ’s teaching ministry.

  8. Martina Dotson December 25, 2010 at 7:39 pm #

    “Or to put it another way, Christians need to find a way to thrive in a society that looks less and less like any sort of Christendom…” I would say Christianity thrives best in anti-Christian cultures. Our efforts to engage and accommodate the secular are the precise reason we have lost our bearings. As I see it, the church took a serious misstep when she began to see her mission as the Christianizing of humanity. Christ clearly defined His kingdom as being not of this world (John 17:14, 18:36), and said there would be only a few who will find it (Matthew 7:14).

  9. Larry Geiger December 27, 2010 at 4:37 pm #

    All cultures are anti-Christian. That’s the definition of “the world”. We live in an anti-Christian world. Always have, always will. Since Adam and until Jesus returns.

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