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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Why Secularism Fails

More from Eugene Peterson's Subversive Spirituality, as he talks about how secular culture fails to bring spiritual fulfillment (p. 34-35):
Our culture has failed precisely because it is a secular culture. A secular culture is a culture reduced to thing and function. Typically, at the outset, people are delighted to find themselves living in such a culture. It is wonderful to have all these things coming our way, without having to worry about their nature or purpose. And it is wonderful to have this freedom to do so much, without bothering about relationships or meaning. But after a few years of this, our delight diminishes as we find ourselves lonely amon the things and bored with our freedom.

Our first response is to get more of what brought us delight in the first place: acquire more things, generate more activity. Get more. Do more. After a few years of this, we are genuinely puzzled that we are not any better.

We North Americans have been doing this for well over a century by one, a few people begin to realize that getting more and more only makes the sickness worse. They realize that if it gets much worse, the culture will be dead - a thoroughly secularized culture is a corpse.
A culture as thoroughly secularized as ours can hardly be expected to come up with its own medicine. For the most part, North Americans come up with a secularized spirituality, which is no spirituality at all.
As I've said previously, I am really enjoying this book...


At 3:17 PM, April 28, 2005, Blogger Anne said...

It's going on the Amazon wishlist...

At 5:07 PM, April 28, 2005, Blogger Justin Dombrowski said...

dude, it's kinda scary how much you blog. I'm not sure people have the time to read that much.

...Are you spending too much time blogging?

At 7:51 PM, April 28, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

Well I hope not (after having just posted another ;-)

Seriously, this is an area I'm working to be careful at - not blogging too much (it can be addictive). So I'm trying to be much more strategic - looking for shorter things to post, things I've read, things I've written for other purposes, etc. And I feel like I'm being a pretty good steward of my time at the moment (but it's something I have to work to stay on top of too :-)

I'm looking forward to this summer when I'll actually have time to relax and study/write more...

At 9:30 PM, April 28, 2005, Blogger Mark Traphagen said...

Your post reminds me of one of the main points of Walter Brueggeman (sp?) in his book Texts Under Negotiation (his pomo-speak babble aside)...that the church must enter into the narrative of Scripture and re-imagine itself as something wholly other than the culture of present-oriented commodification.

At 9:57 PM, April 28, 2005, Blogger Charles said...

I, of course, must defend my Secularist brothers and sisters. The problem with this passage is that it equates a group of total losers with being Secularist but does not prove a correlation. I am a Secularist, and believe me when I tell you that I hate this material society. Maybe it isn’t that this culture is Secularist as much as it is materialist.

Is it OK for me to equate the actions of Jerry Faldwell and Pat Robertson to be the actions I should expect in a more Religious society? Yes, they are Christians, but are all Christians like them? Is it fair, or even correct, for me to equate Christians with the worst among them?

At 7:43 AM, April 29, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

Charles, I think he is working with a definition of 'Secular' that means 'not-spiritual' (or at the very least, 'not-Christisn'). And what he is saying is that by definition, Secularism leads you inevitably to Materialism.

If you exclude the spiritual, what else are you left with at the end of the day?

Now if you want to argue that you can be 'secular' and 'spiritual' at the same time, I'd love to hear you flesh out what you think that looks like?

At 9:14 AM, April 29, 2005, Blogger Charles said...

I think I know what he was trying to say, but I just didn't think that he properly established that link. I mean basically, he was comparing the worst kind of Secularism with the ideal type of Christianity. And that just really isn't fair.

Look at it this way. How many Mega Churches are there in the world? Is that about the Gospel or Materialism? What if this Christian society had Jerry Faldwell or some enterprising Pastor who drives a Roles Royce as their figureheads? Wouldn't this be more likely than not? But he talks about an ideal Christian society compared to a Secular society which I as a Secular person don’t even like.

So what is there when there isn't God at the center? There are what you would call God's gifts to the world. Love, Community, family, the arts, culture, and nature.

Is there spirituality without God? I don't know, and it really isn't the point. I will just say that just because it is hard for people to explain or understand does not mean that it doesn't exist. There is, however, spirituality without organized Religion.

At 11:25 AM, April 29, 2005, Anonymous Uncle Jake said...

Does he address anti-materialism, post-1950's enviromentalism (both conservationist and preservationist), communism, or the Simple Life movement in his book?


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