Culture

Seculosity: When Religion Leaves the Building, A Conversation with David Zahl

Are you spiritual but not religious? Maybe you are religious but not spiritual. What do those categories even mean? Are we always going to find ourselves in an Inigo Montoya moment, “You keep using that word . . . “

Religion observers and Christian leaders have for some time been offering explanations for a decline in church attendance in the West. Some contend we are experiencing an end of Christendom, a period where Christianity played a socio-cultural role in nearly every area of civic life. Others viewed the shift as a move away from religion altogether. New descriptions like the Nones and Dones have become new sociological categories used when conducting surveys of the religious habits of Americans. Is that too narrow?

Meet my new friend David Zahl. His new book, Seculosity: How Career, Parenting, Food, Politics, and Romance Became Our New Religion and What To Do About It, offers a different perspective on the religiosity of Americans. It is not that his idea would not have explanatory power in the West or even other parts of the world. But his personal context is the United States.

One of my friends uses the phrase to describe his departure from Christianity, “I left the building.” If you are a literalist you may miss the layers of this self-description. I have contended that some leave the building without leaving the Faith. After reading David’s book, I am left wondering if Religion has left the building. And, if it has, that is a good thing.

Christianity may be classified, categorized, as a religion. But, I would argue, at its core is anti-religion. That religion has left the building should be good news for the Church, for Christianity. Here I use Religion as a set of rules to live by. Christianity may be, and certainly has been, used or practiced by some as a Rule of Life. Doing so makes of Christianity the very thing that Jesus came to liberate human beings from. Bookkeeping according to a set of rules is not grace at any level. Submitting to a new set of rules for life is merely exchanging one capricious task master for another. Jesus offers something different – grace.

If you have not been persuaded by my little blog blurb to head over and order a copy of Seculosity, give our conversation a listen. Then, I hope you will get your copy!

David Zahl is the director of Mockingbird Ministries and editor-in-chief of the Mockingbird blog. Born in New York City and brought up elsewhere, David graduated from Georgetown University in 2001, and then worked for several years as a youth minister in New England. In 2007 he founded Mockingbird in NYC. Today David and his wife Cate reside in Charlottesville, VA with their three boys, where David also serves on the staff of Christ Episcopal Church. His first book, A Mess of Help: From the Crucified Soul of Rock N’ Roll,appeared in 2014. Most recently, David co-authored Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints) with Will McDavid and Ethan Richardson. Even after all these years, he’s still mourning the end of Calvin and Hobbes (and hoping that Morrissey and Marr will bury the hatchet). His favorite theologian is probably a cross between Johnny Cash, Flannery O’Connor and his brother Simeon.

If you find the podcast helpful, share it with your friends. Share it with your pastor friends as well as folks you know involved in leadership that touches on the pastoral. Also, consider heading over to iTunes, login, search for patheological and give us a five-star rating and a kind review.

Why Makes Justice So Controversial?

Oklahoma incarcerates more people per capita than any other State in the Union – men and women. Legislators work to reform our justice system. The gears turn slowly. Part of the issue turns on how we talk about justice.

Last year, a group of Evangelicals, some from my tribe of Southern Baptists, developed what is referred to as the Statement on Social Justice. A list of affirmations and denials, accompanied by a list of Scriptures, has been signed by a nearly 11,000 people to date. The SJS, a shorthand for the document, took center stage in a segment at the recent Shepherd’s Conference hosted by John MacArthur Jr., one of the initial signatories. Some on the panel had signed the Statement while others had not. Even among hosts and guests, it was clear there was an underlying point of contention, if not outright division.

What is it that makes justice so hard to discuss for Christians, particularly many Evangelicals? Justice, for some philosophers, is the un-deconstructable subject. Yet, listening to some Evangelicals one wonders if it is not destructive. It certainly has proven contentious in online exchanges be it blog posts or Twitter exchanges. There are intimations, if not outright assertions, that a focus on justice obscures the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

One sure way to come off dismissive is to refer to your opponent at a Social Justice Warrior, SJW for short. Take it a step further and accuse your interlocutor of Cultural Marxism. Game Over. The related labeling and acts of ascription leave us with more than a few Inigo Montoya moments. You keep using that word . . . . It appears to be quite satisfying to go in search of someone, on your team, that will give the label or ascription your preferred nuance. Now you have found your authority and can claim intellectual high ground. We call that insider baseball. Why not take up a source that appears to have not dog in your internecine squabble. Take this piece from Andrew Lynn. I have yet to see Lynn locked in a Twitter battle over the SJS.

Maybe it would be good to tak up the testimonial of someone who actually admits to being a full-on Marxist. Here is a piece, albeit a little wonky at te close, that provides an existential experience with Marxism. Haykin clearly understands many throw around Cultural Marxism the say way they use to throw around the word Liberal. It was more to incite than interrogate.

If a person takes the time to write a blogpost alleging error, maybe it would be good to look at the issue using a greater breadth of sources than simply those that confirm an existing bias. It could be one of the most Christian things to do.

The recent combination of articles and videos prompted me to invite a group of friends, all Southern Baptists, and relative nobodies, to consider what is going on, even getting done, in these internecine debates. This first part of our discussion offers a critique. We will get together again to offer some constructive ideas in a future episdoe.

If you find the podcast helpful, share it with your friends. Share it with your pastor friends as well as folks you know involved in leadership that touches on the pastoral. Also, consider heading over to iTunes, login, search for patheological and give us a five-star rating and a kind review.



If Your Pastor Did Not Preach On . . .

Have you felt the shame? Facebook and Twitter posts aplenty called out to churchgoers they should find another church if the pastor did not preach on the issue of immigration on Father’s Day a couple of weeks ago.
Read More

A Quiverful of Lessons on Sex and Gender in the SBC and Beyond

Emily Hunter McGowin agrees with me. Then she calls upon her experience and education to list several ways where a much more dangerous ideology affect “American evangelical culture and the SBC in partiular.” Read More

The Old SBC, the Age of Fear and the End of an Era?

Who knew there was another Littleton somewhere in the United States concerned about the current condition of the Southern Baptist Convention and its future? I didn’t. To say that we see things differently would not be distinctive enough. Read More