How might Christianity evolve to become a better global citizen?
I remember, years ago, being startled by the idea that “Jewish” could be an ambiguous term. It might mean an ethnic identity, or a cultural one, or a religious one. In other words, someone could be a Jewish atheist, identifying with Judaism culturally but not religiously. Indeed, Israeli Jews are predominantly secular.
Christian belief within America has changed, going through Great Awakenings and spawning new flavors of Christianity such as Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Seventh-Day Adventist church, and the Christian Science church. At the turn of the early twentieth century, during the Golden Age of Freethought and decades after Darwin’s The Origin of Species, observers saw Christianity on the wane. But Christianity rebounded, with Pentecostal and other new charismatic churches. Today, Christianity continues to change, lately becoming more polarized within America while Europe becomes more secular.
If Christianity will continue to evolve, might it follow the example of Judaism, creating secular Christianity as a viable position?
Consider what this might be like. A secular Christian—I could be a candidate, for example—might go to church for the beautiful or traditional or inspiring music. The church building might be a draw, whether it were awe-inspiring or quaint. Sermons about finding the right path or avoiding the shallow temptations in life or even Bible stories might be edifying. Services could mark the important events in life such as births, marriages, and deaths. Whether the secular Christian went weekly or only a few times a year, the community of good people, eager to help others, would be welcoming. It might give focus to good works, providing opportunities for volunteering and direction for charitable giving.
But—and here’s the interesting bit—this secular Christian would reject the supernatural origin of Christianity, would be open about it, and would be accepted within the church community.
Of course, keeping the good parts of Christianity and discarding the supernatural beliefs wouldn’t solve all the world’s problems. There would still be human folly.
But perhaps there would be a little bit less.
- Moment magazine has is “Elephant in the Room” contest for the best answer to the question, What does it mean to be Jewish without belief in God?
- Kimberly Winston, “Atheist Jews: Judaism Without God,” Huffington Post, 9/23/11.
- The Celebrant Foundation and Institute trains people as nonreligious life-cycle celebrants.