Practices of Love in an Unimoon Era

Christianity offers something better than dating yourself.

Modern life continues apace, except arrogant scientists and millennials don’t think they need God anymore. But this is certainly a false representation. What’s most interesting about our secular age is not primarily that it’s happening but that it’s accompanied by a garden of spiritual, emotional, and social maladies: Epidemics of loneliness, isolation, suicide, despair, polarization, workaholism, family disintegration, etc etc. It’s too easy to focus on the worldview element and miss the obvious crises facing millions.

 

This morning I read the following passage in Justin Whitmel Earley’s excellent new book, The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction:

One of my favorite cultural critics, Ken Myers, argues that the kind of atheism we experience in America today is not a conclusion but a mood…If secularism is not a conclusion but a mood, we cannot disrupt it with an argument. We must disrupt it with a presence.

The truth is that we live in a culture where most people are remarkably resistant to hearing verbal proclamations of the gospel. What’s more, it seems some of them really can’t hear it. We not longer share a common vocabulary for communicating whether truth exists, what can be called good, and what love means. But that is okay. God is not alarmed. Our secular age is not a barrier to evangelism; it is simply the place of evangelism.

Ever since returning from China, I’ve had an abiding interest in asking this question: “How is it that the West can be re-evangelized?” One of the reasons I’m so compelled by the life of habit is that I see habits as a way of light in an age of darkness. Cultivating a life of transcendent habits means that our ordinary ways of living should stand out in our culture, dancing like candles on a dark mantle. As Madeline L’Engle once wrote, “We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe . . . but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”

Though I think this passage risks short changing the value of intellectual argument, the overall point being made is, I believe, extremely important. Christians sometimes talk of the West’s being secular as if such secularism is happening in an existential vacuum. Modern life continues apace, except arrogant scientists and millennials don’t think they need God anymore. But this is certainly a false representation. What’s most interesting about our secular age is not primarily that it’s happening but that it’s accompanied by a garden of spiritual, emotional, and social maladies: Epidemics of loneliness, isolation, suicide, despair, polarization, workaholism, family disintegration, etc etc. It’s too easy to focus on the worldview element and miss the obvious crises facing millions. But a myopic preoccupation with worldview completely misses just how ripe modern society is for the claims and practices of Christianity.

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