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Christian Revival?

I really appreciated being pointed to the above discussion by Bishop Peter Carrell. The panel consists of Justin Brierley (‘The Surprising Rebirth Of Belief In God’ podcast), Elizabeth Oldfield (host of ‘The Sacred’), and Alex O’Connor (otherwise known as the ‘Cosmic Skeptic’). The host is Freddie Sayers.

I particularly appreciated the respectful, listening approach – the approach I took when, for quarter of a century, I taught World Religions, Philosophy of Religion, and ethics.

There is much to highlight – and I encourage you to watch the discussion for yourself. I went on to reflect how social media (Web 2.0 – user-generated content) not only spreads misinformation (and about 10 times faster than truth!), not only incarnates postmodernism (your truth/my truth/where you stand determines what you see…), but actually brings us constantly into the presence of world-views radically different to our own.

Yes, social media can be a reinforcing echo chamber, but it can just as strongly bring us constantly into competing and contradicting world-views. Once upon a time, not that long ago, one might have learnt about another religion (academically), but we now live in a world where all world religions are exactly that – present in pretty much every corner of the world, and certainly on the web, social media, and so forth. You come home from your own particular faith’s ritual to online images of others just as intelligent, just as fervent, participating in their significantly different one.

This is strongly discombobulating. Add to that the incessant presentation of people curating images of their best lives (there’s not a lot of Reels or Instagram images of people vacuum cleaning, dusting, weeding, washing dishes, and the endless quotidian activities), it is understandable why we are being plunged into a wellbeing crisis where people’s personal sense of meaning and fulfilment includes the formula: actual quality of life minus envy (and factoring in incessant uncertainty about the point of it all).

Another point that I have been pondering: antitheism (what some refer to as the “New Atheism” – though it’s not that “new” nowadays) is great at breaking down a (theistic) worldview, but it is useless in replacing it with a narrative that gives meaning to life – and if anything, we yearn for meaning. I have been pondering the parallel to this for decades now: I am all in favour of critical (intelligent) thinking when it comes to religious beliefs. I am totally comfortable with Moses not writing Genesis, or there being at least two conflicting creation accounts, or that the names attributing a letter to someone wasn’t written by him, and so forth. But, for many who “want to do something for Jesus”, when they encounter such scholarship, they are often tossed into a crisis which in some/many cases their faith does not survive. The dismembering of a body into its component parts and analysing these in a biology lab is quite a different experience from a relationship with a living, enfleshed person. The church, Christians generally, and I have repeated this ad nauseam, is VERY poor at presenting life-enhancing spirituality which sustains faith for a lifetime including through the crisis points of challenging academic information.

Unless the church, Christians generally, work on these areas, the revival (anticipated in the discussion above), will not happen, or it will simple fizzle out: learning to live in a world of social media and Web 2.0 including helping people to wellbeing in a world of envy; agility in our (historic) Christian spiritual disciplines and practices that can sustain us in and through intelligent and academic honesty.

I conclude this post by highlighting a couple of gems from the above video that others have also noted:

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2 thoughts on “Christian Revival?”

  1. Great reflection Rev. Peters. It reminds me of Alain de Botton’s ‘religion on new atheists’ started over a decade and a half ago…I haven’t heard much about it, in recent years, though. It makes me wonder if there is something to the content of religion and not just the form, that ultimately, people find compelling. Will be pondering this the rest of the day (if not week)!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Michael. I will need to explore your recommendation, Alain de Botton. And if your reflections come up with more thoughts, do share them. Blessings.

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