I arrived on the scene too late to fully participate in the Jesus People movement, but that, for all it’s dysfunction, left a legacy of great Christian music that got buried by CCM. What I did catch was the emphasis in the Evangelical Movement on Christianity as a world and life view, the idea that Christ was the center of every area of life and not confined to just an isolated religious aspect of life. I found that liberating and exciting, rather than the opposite. That became a leitmotif for my own life. Even though that idea has taken quite a beating, a chastened form of it still moves me greatly. 

But I am becoming more convinced that the plausibility of Christian faith has less and less to do with arguments and reasoning (although they remain indispensable) and more and more to do with trends that do not have anything intentionally to do with the reasonableness of faith and over which we have no real control in the short run. This illustrated by Charles Murray’s new book, “Coming Apart”.  The short version is that secularization created the welfare state and the welfare state then reinforced secularization. By creating incentives for delaying or avoiding work, marriage, and family, the practical need for religion also decreases. Furthermore, the impact of the history of ideas has dismissed the  philosophical foundations that make theism and ethics plausible and replaced them with sources of legitimacy at odds with the content of theology such as the esthetic, the technical, the beuracratic, and the therapeutic models of thinking. Because this is not an explicit process and because it does not affect all social classes to an equal degree, the church has for the most part simply assimilated these trends just like the rest of society. This can be seen in the turn away from denominational churches to mega-churches, moving away from ecclesial patterns of organization to bureaucratic, technique oriented ones following the new models of legitimacy. This meant abandoning the original establishments of Christianity in our culture and placing the church on the fringe of society as an elective network. The decline of the institutional church has been particularly damaging to those on the bottom, for whom there is no model of healthy discipline. 

Christianity has gone from being normal in our society to being abnormal, and the trend to simply dismiss or repel it is underway. Evidence from other societies, such as Sweden, suggests that once started it cannot be reversed. It can only be slowed in it’s forward motion. 

Our situation is similar to Judah’s in the books of the Kings. Once David had compromised his calling with Bathsheba, he set into motion a process of deterioration that lead to division and fall of his kingdom into exile. Even the Herculean efforts of Hezakiah and Joash to reverse the trend only succeeded in delaying the inevitable exile. 

Strikingly the great success of evangelicals breaking from their fundamentalist past and entering into academia may have done nothing to impact the social processes involved. It only fits the pattern of the smart getting smarter while the poor are getting poorer. 

Finally, even if there are more evangelicals in professional situations, they no longer “fit in the narrative” just as the loss of piety in the underclass outpacing that in the upperclass does not fit the narrative. Given that the “narrative” is a construct of the academy, and that the academy is an influential but sufficiently sized minority of opinion leaders, this also contributes to the weirdness of Christianity. The narrative goes hand in hand with the argument for the state subsidy establishment. It doesn’t matter that there are Ph.D.’s that do not accept the secularist interpretation of life. 

A friend warned me about providing what amounts to an argument for a conspiracy. My reply to such an objection made to this account is the same as Noam Chomsky’s.  This is institutional analysis, not a conspiracy theory. Today’s Christians and non-Christians may be said to have “Bad Religious Luck”.  From this point on, the church is now in a state of indefinitely perpetual culture shock in the West – Satan’s “little season”. 

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