Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christian (and Muslim) Fundamentalism As Really Forms of Secularism

Women's Prayer Room in Jerusalem
In today's nytimes books there is a review of Olivier Roy's forthcoming (Dec. 8) Holy Ignorance: When Religion and Culture Part Ways.  

The reviewer is Alan Wolfe. Here are some highlights, which make me want to read it.
  • "Those defending Christmas who are not being true to their traditions and teachings. There are no Christmas dinners in the Bible, which is why America’s Puritans, strict adherents of what that venerated text offers, never sat down by the raging fire awaiting St. Nick; indeed, they briefly banned Christmas in Massachusetts. Yule as we celebrate it today owes more to Charles Dickens than to Thomas Aquinas. Our major solstice holiday is what Roy calls a “cultural construct” rather than a sectarian ceremony, which explains why Muslims buy halal turkeys and Jews transformed Hanukkah into a gift-giving occasion. Mistakenly believing that Christmas is sacred, those who defend it find themselves propping up the profane. The Christ they want in Christmas is a product not of Nazareth but of Madison Avenue." The battle every "Christmas" is not best seen as a battle against increasing cultural secularization, but an outcome of it.
  • Here's Roy's thesis, which is so very intriguing, plausible, and paridigm-shifting: Fundamentalism is not a reaction against the increasing secularization of society, but a product of it. "Fundamentalism is not about restoring a more authentic and deeply spiritual religious experience. It is instead a manifestation of holy ignorance." Roy uses this term to "characterize the worldview of those who, having lost both their theology and their roots, subscribe to ideas as incoherent as they are ultimately futile. The most important thing to know about those urging the restoration of a lost religious authenticity is that they are sustained by the very forces they denounce."
  • Roy agrees with Weber, Durkheim, and Marx that religion will decline as modernity advances. But again, note why Roy thinks this way. It will decline because it becomes yet another manifestation of secular culture. "It cedes so much to the secular world that it can no longer offer a transcendental alternative to it."
Any Jesus-follower interested in the decline of "Christianity" in Western culture should pay attention to Roy. What gets called "Christianity" in America is simply the secular world dressed up in religious clothing.

And, any who deconvert from such "Christianity" have not left the real thing since they never belonged to it in the first place.