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

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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).

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