The Christian Vestiges of Post-Christianity

It would be a mistake to think that Post-Christianity is a return to paganism, purely and simply. Certainly its environs include numerous strains of paganism—New Ageism, eco-feminism, “new cosmology” mysticism, etc.; and one’s post-Christianity may be amalgamated with such strains.

But the post-Christian denizen is marching to a different drummer. He may be unaware of the great distinctive teachings of Christianity, which have become embedded over the centuries in Western cultures. But, as a late product of Christian culture, he applies these teachings in ways neither envisioned by earlier generations of Christians nor Christ Himself. Thus the post-Christian has embraced a false yet fashionable version of Christianity compatible with the enlightened opinion of our cultural elites.

“Love your enemies,” says Jesus. “Do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you” (Mt. 5:44). But a post-Christian who may not do good and pray for his enemies, may breathlessly extoll them and praise them. I discussed this strange phenomenon with regard to Islamophilia in a previous article. Christianity stands as the main competitor to Islam in numbers and influence at present, and Islamists in the Middle East and elsewhere are sparing no efforts in eradicating that influence; but Christian pundits and “spokespersons” for traditionally Christian civilizations find it difficult to moderate their immoderate praises for Islam.

“Judge not, and you shall not be judged” (Lk. 6:37). The Lord admonishes us not to judge the state of soul of any individual, since we do not know the circumstances and temptations and difficulties encountered by this or that person who has fallen short of Christian moral teaching. But the post-Christian transforms this reticence about judging persons souls into a taboo about judging actions, the prohibition of being “judgmental.” Thus our encounters with sinful and even criminal behavior on the part of neighbors, co-workers, or even family, are often chalked up to “lifestyle” choices, or put into the “personal and private” category. They are left uncriticized or, if criminal, unreported.

“Why do you see the mote that is in your brother’s eye; and see not the beam that is in your own eye? First remove the beam in your own eye, and then you will see to cast the mote out of your brother’s eye” (Mt. 7:3). The standard post-Christian response to this recommendation is to focus one’s criticism apologetically on the history of Catholicism—the patriarchy and hierarchy, subordination of women and antisemitism of individuals who misunderstood the spirit of the Gospels (and let’s not forget the Inquisition and Crusades and the Galileo debacle). But with all this endless self-criticism among post-Christian Catholics, little energy remains for warranted, but politically incorrect, criticism of (for example) Protestantism.

“Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mk. 12:17). The distinction of loyalties to God and the state that Jesus preaches becomes, in the eyes of the post-Christian, the absolute “wall” that they say Thomas Jefferson promoted in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists—a complete separation that was never actually envisioned in the “establishment of religion” clause in the U.S. Constitution. As a result, God and faith become something completely private, not permitting the least clue of religious belief to raise its ugly head in the public square, while state power grows beyond the boundaries envisioned by the nation’s founders.

In Mt. 18:22, Jesus answers Peter’s question about how many times he should forgive his brother: “I say not to thee, till seven times; but till seventy times seven times.” Jesus’ admonition about willingness to forgive offenses against oneself is extended in post-Christianity to the forgiveness of offenses against others. Thus we hear about some sensitive bishops forgiving and simply reassigning abusive priests, about mothers forgiving molestation of their child by the child’s father or the mother’s boyfriend; or feminists who forgive the sexual improprieties of pro-choice politicians. And, in the world stage, the magnanimous decision of the world community to look the other way, and avoid messy interference with the genocides taking place in Sudan, Rwanda, and other countries.

“Love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus commands his followers (Mt. 22:39). For the post-Christian, this boils down to being “nice,” acceptance of others, and support of diversity, even if this involves extreme moral diversity (evil). Thus even those who deserve to be roundly and publicly criticized or rebuked (some contemporary politicians may come to mind) are warmly received in a humid atmosphere of inclusivity.

Jesus in his public life, and his disciples, performed numerous signs, God backing up the Messiah and his message with evidence of divine approval. However, Jesus also disparages those who hanker after the miraculous and sensational, warning, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign: and a sign shall not be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet” (Mt. 16:4). The post-Christian takes up this admonition and carries it to a new level: Away with religious superstitions! Our dedication to science precludes any interference with the laws of nature. Any apparent tweaking or suspension of the laws of nature by a divinity, as an answer to prayer, is explained away; and belief in such things constitute the height of irrationality. Prejudice against the supernatural kept the Nobel laureate Alexis Carrel, who had witnessed at Lourdes the miraculous cure of a woman with tubercular peritonitis in 1902, and the miraculous cure of a boy born blind in 1910, from his eventual conversion to Catholicism 30 years later. The post-Christian generation hankers after the absolute hegemony of science, and faith in the Son of God who rose from the dead poses an almost insuperable challenge to this “scientism.”

Thus the profile of a post-Christian down the street might go something like this: A Western secularist who is able to find nothing but good in the enemies of Christianity (perhaps motivated by the motto that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”), able to understand and tolerate atrocities suffered by others in other countries, very careful to make sure that religion never shows its face in the public square, and never judging anyone (except Christians) for wars and persecutions and every injustice throughout the centuries.

Howard Kainz


Howard Kainz is professor emeritus at Marquette University. He is the author of several books, including Natural Law: an Introduction and Reexamination (2004), The Philosophy of Human Nature (2008), and The Existence of God and the Faith-Instinct (2010).

  • Facile1

    A ‘post-Christian’ cannot exist by definition. Either you are a Christian or you are not.

    There are many who call themselves ‘Christian’ because they mistake ‘humanism’ for ‘love of neighbor’. But a ‘Christian’ loves GOD first and his love for his neighbor is an act of FAITH in a loving GOD.

    What you are describing, sir, is a ‘humanist’.

    A ‘humanist’ does not love GOD. And frankly, the ‘love’ a humanist professes for his neighbor is indistinguishable from the PARITY he wishes exists between himself and his neighbors. Thus, for a ‘humanist’, his ‘love’ for his neighbor is a ‘feeling’. Call it pity. Call it envy. Call it what you will. But the one thing this ‘feeling’ can NOT be called is CHRISTIAN.

  • NE Catholic

    Please note that you don’t have to be a ‘post-Christian’ or even a ‘humanist’ to fall into these errors. We get weekly reminders from the pulpit that Christians and Jews are ‘co-religionists’ with Muslims since we share Abraham in a shared religious heritage. Hence, need to be ‘tolerant, loving and accepting’ of them not judgmental.

    • Dick Prudlo

      Whomever it is that is providing such guidance should be shunned. If that means leaving your nervous ordo behind leave it behind.

  • Ita Scripta Est

    The Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft once aptly noted that the pre-Christian West was like a virgin whereas the post-Christian West is like a divorcee. It should
    also be noted that many liberal critiques strongly mirror
    Protestant critiques. Protestantism acts as modernism’s “partner in
    crime” in so many ways. We see this today in a country like Brazil, where a
    kind rootless faddish evangelical Protestantism has been making inroads.
    Correlating to this development Brazil has modernized into accepting gay
    marriage and abortion.

  • hombre111

    In his “A Secular Age,” philosopher Charles Taylor gives a long and insightful discussion about how all of this came to pass.

    • ColdStanding

      Is it too much to ask for a short blurb to whet the appetite? Can’t you give his case in a nutshell? Please?

  • Marcia Brown Castro

    I once heard a priest say that the more correct translation of Luke 6:37 “Judge not, and you shall not be judged”, would be Condemn not lest ye be condemned. We all have to make judgement calls each and everyday. Is this TV program which promotes gay marriage, something I want my children to watch? Should I take this job, knowing this company is very pro-abortion? Should I tell my neighbor ,that his language offends me as a faithful follower of Christ?
    We have to love the sinner, but hate the sin. We have to be able to tell them in a kind, loving way. If we are to live for Christ we have to judge the actions and beliefs of others.

    • Facile1

      Dear Marcia,

      I agree with you. We must judge right and wrong for ourselves. And judging for ourselves is different from judging others.

      When a “call to repentance” leads to punishment and NOT penance, it is ‘judging others’. This is why the laws that criminalize sin (such as the incarceration of sodomites and the stoning of adulteresses) are NOT Christian.

      YET as Christians, we are called upon to call other sinners to repentance. St. John the Baptist and Jesus Christ were put to death by nation states for making such calls. This is why the laws that legitimize sin (such as legalized abortion, the publicly funded distribution of contraceptives, ‘same sex’ marriage, divorce and euthanasia) are also NOT Christian (and more dangerous to Christians).

      I only hope to add clarity to your excellent point. God bless.

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  • Alphonsus

    Do not forget this one from the 13th chapter of John, which describes the Last Supper:

    23One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved,* was reclining at Jesus’ side.
    24So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant.
    25He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him, “Master, who is it?”
    This is taken as evidence that John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was a homosexual. And that Jesus was cool with that because he was secure in his own sexuality, as afterwards he swept Mary Magdalene off to France and married her.

  • ME

    That sounds about right…

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  • Lydia

    I recently read Al Kresta’s book Dangers
    to the Faith: Recognizing Catholicism’s 21st-Century Opponents and you might find it interesting reading about these topics. Kresta discusses those things in our society that are dangers to Catholics’ faith and in turn are dangerous to our society, ie: relativism, Oprah spirituality, the belief in science instead of God, Islam, and of course, that the government supersedes religion in a post-Christian world. He briefly dissects each danger and explains the Catholic teaching relating to it. I found it very informative and helpful in understanding the challenges we face. Our society needs Christians to know their faith, and fight for it, because God is the only thing that will give us hope in a world devoid of it.

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