Front page at The Independent today contains an interesting article by Peter Popham about secularism in the UK. The British still have an official state church, and 71% ticked the “Christian” box in the last census. If you don’t want to read the whole article (it rambles), it’s worth it just to scroll to the bottom and read all of the quotes… pretty telling stuff.
Popham says “secularism is the bastard child of monotheistic religion.” He quotes John Gray’s book Straw Dogs, “secularism is like chastity, a condition defined by what it denies.” I think this is almost right, but it is not monotheism which is to blame, it is fundamentalism.
Evangelicals have consistently misunderstood the nature of secularism.
Through the 70s and 80s the secularists were evangelical’s public enemy number. It’s still this way today. I wrote about this in an article at HuffPo in regard to a poll which said, “92 percent of those surveyed from the U.S.said that secularism is major threat to evangelical Christianity.”
In the UK, the secularists are not gaining any traction.
I believe this is not because the British church is facile and weak, but because secularism requires a robust fundamentalism in order to thrive?
What if secularism is really just a reaction to religious fundamentalism? If they are two sides of the same coin, one of the best ways for Christians to stand against secularism would be to eschew fundamentalism.
Christian fundamentalism seems to be more and more intent on institutionalizing religious control over society. Their beliefs are rooted in their interpretations of the bible; interpretations they belief to be above criticism. Fundamentalism becomes strident, rigid, and often shrill about the certainty that their way of running the world is the right way. Fundamentalism is defined in part by its all out opposition to secularism.
Secularism seems more and more intent to keep God and religion out of public life, especially the political realm. Secularist beliefs are rooted in science and the natural world, which they also take to be above criticism. Secularism becomes strident, rigid, and often shrill about the certainty that their way of running the world is the right way. Secularism is defined in part by its all out opposition to fundamentalism.
Notice any similarities?
Fundamentalism and secularism exist on a continuum. Fundamentalists rail about the dangers of secularism, secularists do opposite, each providing a never ending supply of pull quotes for the other’s fundraising newsletters.
Ultimately, it’s possible that there is at least a bit of wisdom in the Brit’s intransigence with regard to the role of faith in public life.