Is it Christ V Culture?
A peculiar thing has happened in the world over the last decade or so, and no one can quite pin it down. The only thing that comes close, is to say, 'something got broken'. There is no authoritative definition to what exactly it was that got broken, but people all over the world seem much more attuned to the idea that something happened. The biblical account, given in the book of Genesis, goes some length to explain that we ultimately inhabit a fractured world, but alas, it seems far more complicated than that. Beyond the usual problems of war, economic hardship, and societal injustice, which have all been a part of the story of mankind for millennia, the last ten years has really brought around a sense of discontent.
Although the idiom goes: correlation does not mean causation, we have seen in the intervening years, a rise in the use of the internet and a more pervasive way in which others can interject into any given individual's life; this goes not only for relative strangers we perhaps shared a fleeting moment with, but also to large business, which have a vested interest in what we do or consume. It has resulted in a persistent vying for our attention. When something gains our attention, it immediately is given power; this is why God spoke at length about the dangers of idolatry.
The internet has become the perfect medium in which to monetise and monopolise people's attention span and therefore take power; in fact, the big tech companies have honed and filtered their methods to such a degree, that we have little option remaining for where we can place our attention in their absence. The teachings of Jesus could be one of those places, this would take power outwith the authority of the individual and back into a place more suited to that great responsibility. Yet culture seems more inclined to direct an individual's attention towards matters of their own identity. A deep polarisation of political belief or what one may hold as a social value has occurred; people are consistently filed into what group, and what community they belong to: what their political belief actually is or whatever social value they actually hold has become a secondary concern. I believe that this is the something that went wrong!
Beyond the wars, the economic hardships, the pandemic, or any other prevailing issue that the world faces - people are more concerned about what someone thinks about the issue. What advances the discontent, and the polarisation, is that your view is placed within an orthodoxy or heterodoxy based on an ontological hierarchy you have no power over. As a Christian, I believe only God has the power over which community I belong to. My identity is first found in Christ.
At the time of the renaissance, and during the enlightenment, as epistemology (that is the theory of knowledge) moved to the front of culture, religion retreated into tradition and moralism. When I look at secular culture now, I see a reversal to that: moralism is rife and often used as a cudgel against anyone with a dissenting opinion. There is nothing more dangerous than someone who thinks differently from you; this is the idea that seems to be continually stoked and sadly the polarisation continues.
But do we differ so greatly in our opinions? The message of the bible is about creation and community; these are two of the most pressing cultural issue that divide us today. What do we do with this creation, and with these people? God's answer was simple: restore the creation and gather the people together. How would that be done?
That is what scripture told us, not everyone listened.
How sad that history repeats itself.