On the last day of June, the midpoint of the year, 2015, it is the opinion of Times op ed writer David Brooks that Christianity is dying, his actual words being, “Christianity is in decline in the United States.”
And why is this? According to David it’s all because of sex. Was sex meant to be the engine of Christianity’s end? Probably not, but David is dismayed, appalled that the Christians who continue to practice their faith seem totally obsessed by the country’s changing attitudes towards sex. The present sexual revolution, as David rightly says, is not going away, and the believers, the Christians, whom he otherwise admires, are waging a cultural war they are bound to lose.
David asks his Christian friends to consider putting aside a cultural war based upon what is really a sexual revolution:
Put aside, he says, a culture war that has alienated large parts of three generations from any consideration of religion or belief. Put aside an effort that has been a communications disaster, reducing a rich, complex and beautiful faith into a public obsession with sex. Put aside a culture war that, at least over the near term, you are destined to lose.
Well David, and with all due respect, your “put asides” are not going to happen. We do change, and change does happen, but never because of our being told to change. In any case the driving force of Christianity that you would restore has never been the words of Jesus Christ such as from Mark 10/24:
Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and [then] come, take up the cross, and follow me.
It was always something else that drove the Christian ship. Today it’s a war with the sexual liberators. And of course David’s right, there are many real christian actions that the believers could take if they were to “set aside” their present fixation with sex.
Social conservatives, that is Christians, (what about the social liberals, are they also Christians? —David doesn’t mention them) could be the people who help “reweave the sinews of society. They could be the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. They could help build community institutions in places where these are sparse.”
And in any case their culture war, if you would call it such, should not be so much about sex. It ought to be more about how they could by their own actions bring more real help to the many who are in need (in accordance with the words of Jesus).
If they would wage a war it should be a war led by Albert Schweitzer and Dorothy Day and their like, with no place given to Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham and their like. It should be more Salvation Army than Moral Majority. This would be a war of doing much more in public the same Christian inspired acts of goodness that are probably characteristic of their private lives.
Is David correct in what he believes, that social conservatives are well equipped to repair a society plagued by formlessness and radical flux, in which bonds, social structures and commitments are strained and frayed. And that while doing so that they could serve as messengers of love, dignity, commitment, communion and grace.
Maybe so, but it seems to me to be wishful thinking. That is, he’s not thinking. It’s more probable that social conservatives will only change, and get off the sex obsession, when circumstances force them to change. And at this time what’s happening instead is that all while waging a unwinnable war their own numbers are diminishing.