10 Comments When in Rome: Reframing our expectations as the post-Christendom church

  1. Stephen McAlpine

    Hi mate, thought I’d throw a comment over here too rather than just FB, to fulfil all righteousness! It’s interesting to see the traffic from my posts and the amount of US engagement with it. Perhaps this indicates that where the pendulum has swung so far in one direction, the swing back is going to be equally as hard, and, it appears, much quicker. I have no real problem with being an exile, because, hey, this is Australia! I well remember a certain M Driscoll, lamenting/boasting about only 8 per cent of Seattle being evangelicals, which pretty much sounds like revival language in Perth. Hence the confusion and shock in the US when things have been collapsing so quickly. Here I think we just go “meh!”. What I do find interesting – and this only involved SSM as a side issue rather than the issue – is that throughout the 80s it was a lonely experience being a young man at school and then uni who thought that marriage was a good thing (even though my parents divorced between end of school and start of uni). It was pooh-poohed at school as “old hat” and railed against at uni for being an oppressive dead-white-male” institution (you can tell I didn’t do engineering, right?). So the fact many traditional Xns held it so dearly, against the grain of the culture, only for the culture to turn around in the last few years to say “we have decided we like marriage after all, but we’re going to renovate it to suit a post-institutional, post-communal, and individualist framework” felt a little harsh. SSM is obviously not the issue, and I don’t even think in a secular setting it should matter to Xns, but it’s merely the proof that the cultural shift is not for turning. Dale Kuhne’s book Sex and the iWorld explores the “tWorld” (the traditional world), then the “iWorld” (obviously individualism), before moving forward to the rWorld (relational). He at least admits there is no turning back and points out the obvious flaws in the tWorld. At least one target in my posts are those who are keen to promote “SSM is bad for children”(systematic abuse by Catholic Church in Ireland anyone?) and “The end of civilisation” agendas, because quite plainly neither of those things are true. As a man of Northern Irish descent, my home country has swung, and will swing, harshly just as the US has and for all the same reasons. Cursed/blessed to live in interesting times.

    1. Walt

      Re marriage I find this article on ABC NEWS http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2015/06/03/4248037.htm very helpful and thought provoking. It argues that although hetero marriage has been honoured in society it often has been without its spiritual meaning and thus reduced it to merely an act of formalising romantic notions. Tellingly, the divorce rate is high among Christians and I think one factor is that the idea of a covenant made with God in the presence of witnesses has been forgotten.

      If marriage is sacred, it doesn’t appear so in the lifestyles of mainstream Christians. I also think the argument that marriage in the good old days was often maintained because it had social status rather than a covenantal relationship mirroring Christ and the church has merit.

      1. Aaran

        Walt, why do you say the divorce rate is so high among Christians? There have been reports that the evangelical divorce rate is the same as the general society, but this counted mainline Protestants and Catholics in the non christian wider population and skewed the results, I read a comment (but have not looked for more evidence yet) that the explanation of the higher evangelical divorce rate is that many became active after their divorce.
        This article is very interesting regarding perceptions of Christian marriages. “Many American Christians perceive that their faith is derided in public discourse. This negative portrayal is usually attributed to the secular media, which is assumed by many Christians to be liberal and biased against Christianity. This article develops an alternative mechanism for the production and distribution of bad news about Christianity – from the leaders of Christianity themselves. Church leaders may deploy negative portrayals of the church, as “failing,” in “crisis,” or otherwise not living up to Christian standards, in order to motivate their followers. We term this strategic negative portray the “Christian-failure narrative.” We develop this concept by examining in-depth one particular Christian failure narrative – the belief that Christians have inordinately high divorce rates. We compare popular perceptions of Christians’ divorce rates versus actual rates found in sociological data. “
        http://moses.creighton.edu/jrs/2012/2012-16.pdf

    2. Nathan Campbell

      Hey Stephen,

      Thanks heaps for this comment (and for your posts). When Matt Chandler was over in Australia earlier this year he mentioned that he reckons the US church has heaps to learn from Australians in terms of being Christians in a post-Christian context. I think he’s right. It’s interesting that your posts are getting such traction in the US (a Facebook group I’m part of through a journal thing I subscribe to from the States called Christ and Pop Culture is discussing your post today).

  2. Walt

    I agree that the Body of Christ will undergo the same experience as the Head, but I disagree that Rome killed Jesus.

    The religious system killed Jesus by using Rome’s political power. Hence, Jesus preached the Kingdom and was consequently killed by the religious system, whereas the church these days often preaches morals and is persecuted by the worldly system. Once the body preaches the Kingdom, it will attract the frustration of the religious system.

    1. Nathan Campbell

      Hi Walt,

      “The religious system killed Jesus by using Rome’s political power.”

      I wonder if it can’t be both? Peter certainly blames Israel in Acts 2, and the religious establishment is certainly implicated (it’s also, I think, important, that Israel rejects Jesus). But I think John 1 wants to make the point that the whole world is culpable in the death of Jesus (he came into that which was his own, but his own did not receive him). I think it’s also important that the political empire that dominated the world at the time of Jesus made the decision to execute Jesus, and I think the Revelation thing I quote is not insignificant, because I think Revelation needs to be read against a backdrop of significant Roman persecution of the Church.

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  4. Richard Chapman

    We are not called to redeem society, but to call individuals to redemption out of society. If we never encounter hostility to our loving and living, we need to examine our own level of authenticity, as our Lod would define it.

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