Thursday, May 22, 2014

Eleven theses on secularization

1. European secularization is different from Canadian secularization which is different from United States secularization. There are even various stripes of secularization within Europe. In other words, there are varieties of secularization.

2. Much of the hand-wringing about secularization in the United States (the church is dying! we've lost the Millenials! What about all these Nones?!) is energized by a sublimated desire for revival by secularized Christians who want revival while remaining uncomfortable with the term.

3. Secularization slices every which way, creating what Charles Taylor calls cross-pressure. Secularization has not created a bicameral system (Christians vs. New Atheists) but rather a proliferation of ways of patching together religiosity in a post-secular world.

4. This means the freethinker and humanist tents at Block Party in Fayetteville last week are on many levels no different from the Seventh Day Adventist or fundamentalist tents at the county fair. They share more evangelical commitments than they realize. Both have been influenced by secularization to be closed rather than open.

5. In this post-secular situation, those who are religious or secular but have adopted an open posture in the face of the cross-pressure will find great commonality in being equally haunted, just by different hauntings. The so-called religious are haunted by pure immanence. The so-called secular are haunted by transcendence. And there are others. They haunt us also.

6. In a post-secular era, pure immanence phenomenologically speaking may actually be its own kind of transcendence. The peeking in of transcendence may be the new immanence.

7. A correct understanding of the phenomenon of the varieties of secularization is the most important topic for mission and indigenization of faith traditions precisely because secularization problematizes apologetics and returns mission to hermeneutics.

8. The bibliographic corollary: in a post-secular age the most influential handbook for missions will not be practical handbooks on evangelization, but rather analyses of secularization that offer shared language.

9. Fundamentalism is secularization gone rabid, precisely because it illustrates negative forms of secularization while exhibiting those same forms intrinsically.

10. The varieties of secularization drive all theology to return to what it had been in previous eras, but with a difference. All theology is now political theology.

11. Christianity, to abide in this milieu, will need to relate to the post-secular in differentiated and self-differentiated ways. This is what it means to be post-modern rather than hearken back to the pre-modern.

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