Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Fundamentalists, secularists and cults

In the Guardian supplement yesterday (27/2) there was a long article on "Britain's new cultural divide...between those who have faith and those who do not." It basically summarized some of the recent debates between vociferous atheists and believers, and presented a vision of Britain as a country divided between "fundamentalist believers" (including presumably evangelicals), "fundamentalist atheists" and "thinking liberals" (of all different kinds of beliefs). I was struck by several things:

1. Obviously, the article had all kinds of superficialities, biases and terminological confusion, but essentially it summarized well the fragmentation of contemporary society. There is no longer any coherent belief system to bind us together - society is coming apart at the seams somewhat.

2. The need for Christians to be temperate, articulate and thoughtful for the sake of the gospel. We should not be afraid of being labelled "fundamentalist", but on the other hand our public (and of course private) manner, rhetoric and language should be such that invective against us is automatically exposed for what it is (e.g. Colin Slee calls us "anti-gay bigots"). I think we need great discipline and wisdom here because I think we're remarkably bad at it.

3. We are, in sociological terms, a sect/cult and should get used to it. In sociology a sect is something like a small religious group that exists in a state of tension with the predominant religion. The predominant religion of our culture is 'agnostic pluralism', and we are no longer the official religion in any meaningful sense of the term. We love to differentiate ourselves from JWs, Mormons etc by using the derogatory language of 'sect' - but, sociologically, they are just a small religious group like we are. Let's not hanker after cultural acceptance, but rather embrace marginalization for Jesus!