Depeche Mode (1989)
I saw a write up for a new book recently. It was one of the many books about Christianity that seem to flood out of the keyboards of young and exuberant authors. They all seem to have so much passion and self-described success.
What struck me about this book was that the authors (two brothers) were promoting a version of Christianity that they describe as “firsthand”. I didn’t read the book. I was struck by the premise and didn’t move past it. They seem to be trying to sell readers on the idea that to possess “authentic” Christian faith it must be of your own making. Anything else was “secondhand” and therefore not worth having. Remember that in this new world of ours, “everything is made to be broken” – nothing lasts and surely isn’t worth passing down…
Of course if you take a moment, turn away from your ever present technology and think, you’ll remember that Christianity IS second, third, fourth-hand. It has been passed down since the resurrection. It has withstood every sort of challenge. It has fought with itself, it has grieved, loved, healed and transformed civilizations. Christianity remains a social experience. We’re going to get into terrible trouble if we reduce Christianity to a personal hobby.
So often in our American freedom of religion culture we end up sounding like we’re trying to sell a used car rather than a new birth. Our pitches and claims quickly become trite and stale. We’ve gotten lost in our methods and fumbled the message.
“The key characteristic of all pluralistic situations, whatever the details of their historical background, is that the religious ex-monopolies can no longer take for granted the allegiance of their client populations. Allegiance is voluntary and thus, by definition, less than certain. As a result, the religious tradition, which previously could be authoritatively imposed, now has to be marketed. It must be “sold” to a clientele that is no longer constrained to “buy”. The pluralistic situation is, above all, a market situation. In it, the religious institutions become marketing agencies and the religious traditions become consumer commodities. And at any rate a good deal of religious activity in this situation comes to be dominated by the logic of market economics.” (Peter Berger, 1967)