The thoughtful Orthodoxen behind Notes from a Common-Place Book writes today his reflections on a “Country Wedding.”
The back roads drive down there and back was pleasant and gave my wife and I time to catch up on some things. We talked of a number of people who are close to us and whose current situations give cause for concern. (There’s the old joke: Southerners are not gossiping, they are just concerned.) But seriously, my wife and I were in complete agreement as to the particulars of the several problem situations. Of interest to me, however, was that we each arrived there following completely different paths.
The fact that I am Orthodox and she is Protestant is certainly part of it, but it really goes beyond that. I would say that my wife is perhaps too quick to resort to moralizing, just as she would likely say I am too quick to assert that morality has little or nothing to do with it. The older I get, the more I am convinced that morality, as currently defined, is only incidentally, or at most tangentially, connected to the Faith–and is certainly not the way one approaches Christianity. But I am equally guilty of overstating the case on most anything ….We talked on, speculating about when everything changed and why. But here again, we were coming at it from different directions. First, I doubt that the past she misses was ever really all that grand, for I have never entertained any idealized image of my own childhood world. But beyond that, (and here is where the Orthodox view enters in) I find that things are only playing out much as one would expect them to, given the particulars of our society–our rampant materialism/consumerism, our notions of progress and technology, the inherent flaws within our Americanized Protestant/evangelical culture, and the adaptation of Americanism as a near religion itself. Why would we think that things would be any different? Events are taking their natural course. I am neither surprised nor alarmed at it—“situation hopeless, but not serious.” Between the two of us, I feel I got the better deal—she gets the angst, I settle for a “love among the ruins” resignation.
He then turns to some thoughts he had upon reading a review of George Barna’s The Seven Faith Tribes: Who They Are, What They Believe, and Why They Matter. The Seven Tribes?:
- Casual Christians: Two-thirds of all adults, they profess to be Christian but it’s not a priority and not integrated into their lives.
- Captive Christians: One-sixth of the population, they hold what Barna describes as “biblical beliefs” and live it out in their lives.
- Skeptics: Nearly 11 percent of the population, it is the largest group of non-Christians. Includes atheists and agnostics.
- Jewish: At two percent, he describes them as “more of a community with a shared history and culture than a group connected by a shared doctrine.”
- Mormons: Less than two percent, Barna calls them the “Rodney Dangerfield of the Christian world.”
- Pantheists: About 1.5 percent, includes Eastern religions and the hybrid of New Ageism.
- Muslims: Barna says they are less than 1 percent of the population, but the most ethnically balanced.
Barna reportedly thinks these groups share some common values (forgiveness, respect for the elderly, generosity) that are the keys to America’s enduring success. Another reviewer concludes with “[Barna] believes that if the seven faith tribes assert themselves and promote their shared values, the United States will reverse the recent decades of ‘cultural chaos and disintegration.'”
I hope the leap doesn’t seem too bizarre, but I was struck by a comment of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, interviewed recently in the New York Times Magazine (their interviews are, by the way, some of the shallowest things in an otherwise serious newpaper). She apparently excludes Islam — or at least “radical Islam” — from Barna’s “shared values” reverie:
We who don’t want radical Islam to spread must compete with the agents of radical Islam. I want to see what would happen if Christians, feminists and Enlightenment thinkers were to start proselytizing in the Muslim community.
I don’t want to read too much into this, but Ali seems to me to be looking for concerted proselytizing by groups ostensibly at odds with each other on many points. But I’ve come to see over the past decade that “Enlightenment thinkers” is not at all a set with minimal overlap with the Christian set. The overlap is quite extensive. (I think that, insofar as it is true, represents a victory for the Enlightenment and a defeat for traditional Christianity, by the way.)
As the author of Country Wedding might say, those three can only get together to promote “materialism/consumerism, our notions of progress and technology, the inherent flaws within our Americanized Protestant/evangelical culture, and the adaptation of Americanism as a near religion itself.” Why would we think that this brew will entice Muslims? I suspect it’s near the heart of what offends them.