I'm confident that in the years to come, there will be people living in this country who still call themselves Christians. But what will that mean, anyway? If the church -- by which I mean all those who identify as Christians -- has lost its awareness that Christianity means something apart from the subjective impressions and whims of those who call themselves Christian, then it will dissolve in the corrosive solvent of modernity. I think this is more likely to happen than not, because we are living in a post-Christian era. Those churches that will survive and thrive will be those who have held onto the older, objective understanding of the faith -- which is to say, those that still believe that small-o orthodoxy exists. But they will suffer persecution from an increasingly hostile secular culture, especially if they insist on holding on obstreperously to truths that most contradict the Zeitgeist, e.g., traditional Christian moral teaching on sexuality and family.
Even so, there is always reason to hope. NPR reported this month that Christianity is booming in China. China! Imagine that. There are said to be more Chinese Christians now than there are members of the Communist Party. The sun of the Christian faith may set in the West even as it rises in the East. To be hopeful is not to be optimistic, but rather to be confident that there is meaning in what we endure, and that these painful events hide within them the seeds of our redemption. We who anticipate another Dark Age (however materially rich this one may be) await, with the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, a new St.Benedict, a Christian religious genius whose charismatic teaching and example may prove fertile ground for the seeds of rebirth.