Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Notice: The Future is Already Here

Well, I've been looking for a theme for this semester, and along with the editorials, a project to pad out this space. And since I just spent the last two hours pulling books from the library from noted futurists for an outside project, it would seem I have it here.

This has always been a sore spot between me and Christianity, not that it insists on traditional answers to social and religious issues, which is fine, but that it completely fails to ask non-traditional questions at all, even as society moves in markedly different directions. It then spends the next fifty years playing catch up before it can even legitimately ask what happened.

What, for example, is the Christian stand on privacy? My legal friends say that this might be the next fifty years of constitutional debate, but what does Christ or the spirit of Christ compel us to think about these issues? How are we as Christians to frame them? What about issues of copyright protection and intellectual ownership? Hmmm? Ask these questions in religious circles and you get most often crickets chirping your answer, or simply a pat admonition to follow the laws of the land - which, right or not, is not comprehensive advice, nor is it strictly biblical.

There was a time when Christianity was a forward-looking religion, when the expectation of the age of Christ to come surpassed any current issues; indeed, it seemed to relegate the first Christians to waiting in a puddle and ignoring the polis entirely. I wouldn't advocate that we return to this, obviously - but I would say that the opposite, of debating for the next hundred years issues that the broader culture has by and large moved on from, is not the cure that Christ would look for.

Rather, I would urge that Christ would have us prepare for His return and shape the future in His image by healing the world we actually live in, rather than the subculture that we imagine that we inhabit or once lived in as citizens of a long-lost America. There are issues far larger than sexuality, pop-culture and church polity that impact millions upon millions of people everyday. Climate change is one of them, but threatens to become the only voice we hear. But what about peak water? Soil erosion? The invasive presence of technology in our lives? Our increasingly fraught and complicated relationship to health and biology, the very gifts God gave us? Where is the well-considered voice of reason and Christian tradition on these topics, and many others?

You won't find it here. But you will find me, ever curious, thinking and asking further questions as I engage some of the most prescient thinkers of our time - and, of course, the time to come. Recently, our Vicar has been taking us through something of an idea about what the Emegent Church might look like. This is fine, but there are larger questions to consider and broader questions that simply living in this modern world forces each and every thinking, caring Christian to ask and answer, no matter how they feel about the current state of this church or any other.

I hope you'll join me, or at least follow along at home.


brd said...

Sometimes a wonder if we are asking too much when we want to find the "Christian" view of things. There are views of things that Christians hold, but as humans we are not going to all come to the same conclusion on issues though we might valiantly strive to figure it out. Perhaps the best we can hope is that we carry out our intellectual struggle in a manner that shows some integrity and fidelity to Christian values. However, as your post notes, it may also be important that we revisit and reconsider those commonly accepted values every once in a while to test whether they still reflect what is, um.m.m, good. It's hard isn't it?

When I was young, population growth was such a hot issue. We were going to kill the planet if we didn't get this growth under control. Now people talk about sub-replacement fertility. In about a generation, projections have changed dramatically. It is interesting.

I wonder what that means?

Monica said...

I agree with the previous commenter in raising questions about "the Christian view."

I also agree with your sense of dismay at the church always playing catch up. Though, I think we would also agree on the importance of the church not loosing its grounding.

I think good questions without clear anwswers are often more important than "good answers" to largely irrelevant questions.

WHY does the church seem to keep playing catch up? Is it the slow moving nature of institutions? Is it the conservative nature of religion? Is it a failure to appropriately integrate the "sacred" & "secular"? What other theories might explain things?

Who are the Christians of our time who are thinking in pace with our culture? What are they talking about? Where do the fit within the church & within society?

Curious Monk said...

brd, monica, i suppose i should admit here that i was using "the" christian view as a kind of rhetorical shorthand. i don't believe that christian communities could, would, or should necessary come to a consensus on many issues.

but i do think we christians ought not throw out the idea that there IS one answer and sometimes one right answer - christ, after all, was only one person and could only ever make one decision at a time.

but he did make decisions, and had firm and passionate convictions about those decisions. the thing we ought to do, not to go all WWJD, is to try to capture his character and his love and choose accordingly.

i don't think that's necessarily a many-headed beast. i think jesus was, you know, right, in the end. our own inability to see the future in its entirety ought to check our certitude, but it should not, i would think, limit our ability to engage the world and make the best judgments we can make, to really think long and hard about these things.

it's not so much that our thoughts would turn out to be wrong (i was just reading about the collapse of population growth myself) but that we should not fail to think about really important things - which population growth would have been.

sorry, apparently i'm all fired up this morning. you both do raise some good questions, and i'm afraid i don't have any answers for any of them. maybe this blog will help!

brd said...

I think the expression, "Christ is the answer," or may "Christ is truth" is a grappling with the difference between the idea that when we believe in an absolute God and absolute truth and then we stir that up with the human form of existence in culture, we end up with dilemna. What does truth look like when applied in a unique human situation? Often those situations don't yield well to lists of truths, but do much better when envisioned as a possibility for a Jesus-style response.

Then there is the expression, "All truth is God's truth." That too is attempt to lasso and understand the work of God in the world, embracing the enormity of God and Good's impact in a world where both Good and Evil are ever present. Another way of translating that would be all Christ action is Christ's action. Is it possible that when avenues of redemption and righteousness are chosen, that the choosing is redemptive, i.e. to choose Christ's way is to choose Christ?