A semester has passed since I concluded my class on Religion and Science Fiction. Yet I still have topics to blog about left over from that experience.
One activity from that class was asking students to imagine what the future might hold for some existing religious tradition. One possibility that was mentioned was that Christianity might persist in the absence of institutional structures. In other words, could the gospel message, the Christian faith, continue to be promulgated and perpetuated as it was originally, as a “meme” (in Richard Dawkins’ sense), an idea, a viewpoint, one that spread simply by virtue of its attractiveness to human beings and their capacity to share it with others.
In a sermon not too long ago, Rev, Bob Yount made a related point: Getting people to go to church plays a similar role in the teaching of Jesus to “becoming a Christian”: it simply isn’t in there.
As I hinted already, sometimes the future takes things in a direction that in fact brings us back around full circle to the way things were in the past.
Yet on the other hand, the cultural context of early Christianity was not so individualistic, and whatever infrastructure may or may not have been put in place early on, communities and networks began to form spontaneously as far back as we can trace. And so too today, it may be that it is unrealistic to imagine that, even if Christianity could spread simoly from individual to individual, that it would do so. Those individuals would in all likelihood remain connected at least some of the time. And they would probably form whatever that future’s equivalent of Facebook groups might turn out to be.
What do you think? Can you envisage a bright future for Christianity in the absence of churches? If not, why not? And if so, would that future represent a positive or negative change?
Other blogs have been exploring related subjects:
Stephen Woodworth’s piece about the Bible no longer being a book is relevant to the technological changes that are at least a significant part of the shift that is currently going on.
See also the very recent article in The Atlantic about the way that unchurched people voted in the recent election, which was a real surprise (as well as their earlier article about illiberal democracy).