October 24-28, 2016
In North American contexts, observers may ascribe a decline in religiosity to the rise of what is sometimes called "secularism." But what is secularism exactly? And this decline in religiosity, is it really a decline, or is it a shift? And how would we know? Because many faith leaders remain in the dark about these cultural transitions, both advocates or detractors of secularization misunderstand the phenomenon and are ill-prepared to engage the "post-Christian" context in which they actually find themselves. As just one example, more and more people are interested in theology but not in church. Others are spiritual but not religious, or are even developing the secular as its own spirituality. A variety of cultural observers, both secular and religious, are attempting to chart the new landscape that the multiplication of these secularities and spiritualities creates.
Even beyond the important intellectual context, average believers and seculars of all types are affected by the mixture of secular and religious that has ensued in the wake of modernity, globalization, and pluralism. This makes Christian mission exceedingly more complex than in the premodern era, and more exciting. It is one thing as evangelists to try and attract Millenials and Nones to the church. More effective, and perhaps essential in a post-modern context, is to develop facility with the language and discourse of those making a transition to a post-Christian worldview, to comprehend the history of this development, and to receive training in ethnographic practices that will equip them for mission in this emerging context. Faith leaders are called, in our era, not simply to think about these transitions in theology, but also to observe and write about them in winsome ways that open the church to the post-Christian world in which it finds itself.
“Whether we "spiritualize" our life or "secularize" our religion, whether we invite [humanity] to a spiritual banquet or simply join them at the secular one, the real life of the world, for which we are told God gave his only begotten Son, remains hopelessly beyond our religious grasp.” (Alexander Schmemann)