consumerism

Our Secular Age edited by Collin Hansen

Our Secular Age edited by Collin Hansen

The premise of Our Secular Age doesn’t have strong curb appeal: evangelical Christians grappling with the contribution of a contemporary philosopher’s nearly 900 page tome. Despite the fact that one of my favorite authors, James KA Smith has been significantly influenced by Charles Taylor, I still have yet to pick up Taylor’s A Secular Age.

Despite the less-than-enticing premise, Our Secular Age is a book that should be broadly read by Christian leaders. Even for the reader (like myself) who has no first-hand experience with Taylor, his theses are laid out clearly and the wide-ranging impact of his thought is explored and at times critiqued.

Taylor’s central thesis is that the secular world is a world that has turned its focus on the self and lost its sense of the transcendent. Collin Hansen says that Taylor traces the beginnings of this age to Martin Luther: “Taylor faults the Protestant Reformation and modern evangelical Christianity for disenchanting the world and turning the focus on the self rather than on God through and turning the focus on the self rather than on God through shared religious rituals.”

The Villains of Christmas: the Gifts of the Magi

The Villains of Christmas: the Gifts of the Magi

The Magi are an iconic part of the Christmas story. Unbelievably, a group of philosopher-astronomers from the East (probably Persia) had knowledge that only a handful in all of Israel had: a Savior-King has been born in Bethlehem. Following the prophecies, they made their trek to Bethlehem to meet this Savior-King. When they arrived, “they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.”[ii]

And they do not come empty handed. They come bearing three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Each of these gifts has meaningful symbolism befitting the child-King. Items of great value, they proclaimed that Jesus was the King who would restore Israel.[iii]

Those gifts, according to many, were the impetus for the tradition of gift giving at Christmas time.[iv] The tradition began with humble origins and remained that way for a long time. Two popular books show just how much gift giving has changed in just this past century. If you pick up O’Henry’s The Gift of the Magi (1905) you find a husband buying his wife one present, a set of combs, and the woman buying her husband one present, a chain for his pocket watch. Or turn over to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Little House on the Prairie (1935) and you find that the kids’ haul on Christmas consisted of tin cups, peppermint candy, small cakes, and a penny.

Fast forward a hundred years to today and I chuckle to think of how my children would respond if the zenith of their Christmas presents was a shiny new cup.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations
  1. The 15th Most Influential Websites: Time honors the web's 27th birthday with this interesting list. I guarantee you haven't heard of a couple of these at least and The Drudge Report at #8 surprised me, but considering the imprint it has had on the bent of politics and today's news, I understand why.

  2. The Christianphobia of the Rich: Gene Veith reflects on the recent report that the demography of those who hold an anti-Christian bias is shifting, "Hostility against Christians among the general public has not increased over the last three decades. But who has hostility against Christians has changed. Today more anti-Christian bias is coming from the rich... Here is the profile of those who tend to be hostile to Christianity: white, male, politically progressive, irreligious, and wealthy... Do you see an exquisite irony here? “The rich” are the bête noir (the dark beast) of progressives. Add “white” and “male” and you have the ultimate villain, the cause of all our woes. It would seem that some of the biggest critics of rich white males are rich white males."

  3. Friendship is Not a Two-Way Street: Kim Barnes shares an important truth in the context of community, "When my husband was in seminary, he did a summer internship at a church in Bradenton, Florida. The young pastor and his wife were very encouraging to us and gave us some great marriage advice: “Remember that marriage is never 50/50. It’s always 90/10. Sometimes you’re the 90. Sometimes you’re the 10.” It turns out this isn’t only good marriage advice, but applies just as well to friendship."

  4. The Consumerist Church of Fitness Classes: Zan Romanoff reports on the growing trend of gyms replacing church, "Exercise classes often function just as much like a church as they do like a gym: They gather people into a community, and give them a ritual to perform... You know who will be leading the evening; you can anticipate the general contours of its energy. You know you will recognize familiar faces among the participating crowd. As more Americans have moved away from organized religion (a 2015 Pew Center study found that 23 percent of the adult population identified as “religiously unaffiliated,” up from 16 percent in 2007) they have also moved toward new forms of community building, as well as new ways to seek mental clarity and spiritual experiences. The gym is a popular avenue for this kind of searching, in part because it mimics the form of traditional religious services."

  5. The Best Science Pictures of 2017: once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse, a hitch hiking octopus, and a creature that will give you nightmares.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Please Stop Saying Christianity is a Relationship, Not a Religion: Kevin Halloran responds to the claim that Christianity is a relationship, not a religion, "Christianity isn’t a dead religion of boredom at church, life as a hypocrite, and trying to be better than everyone else. It’s having the God of the Universe who was once my enemy as my loving Heavenly Father. It’s having my sins forgiven through Christ’s blood and communion with God by His Spirit. It’s living hope for this broken world and the promise of restoration. And, oh yeah, I have an eternal inheritance that no man, demon, or trial can EVER snatch away from me. Now that is a religion and relationship worth pursuing religiously.”

2.       Why Your Child's Feelings Shouldn't Be the Final Arbiter for How You Parent: Melissa Edgington with this counter-cultural truth: "We have been taught to pay special attention to our kids’ feelings and to validate them as much as we can. I’m not saying this is a terrible practice. I mean, it’s never bad to consider someone’s feelings. But can I say with all honesty that about 85% of a kid’s feelings about things are irrelevant? Kids feel 147 different ways before lunchtime. They get upset if their graham cracker is broken. They cry like their heart is broken because a dog licked their elbow. Worse than that, they will kick and scream like you’re murdering them because you’re trying to buckle them into a carseat or keep them from grabbing a hot burner or stop them from running into the street. If we pay attention to every feeling that a kid has, we will be paralyzed and completely ineffective as parents."

3.       10 Common but Illegitimate Reasons to Get a Divorce: Tim Challies shares from Jim Newheiser's new book on marriage helpful responses to these ten common reasons given for divorce.

4.       They Shall Know Us by Our Clutter: Kristin Du Mez reports, "I recently came across the results of this anthropological study, published in 2012: Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors... the authors analyzed and cataloged the visible possessions in each and every room of the 32 households—counting, documenting, examining, and coding artifacts in situ, in their place. Devoting thousands of hours to data collection, they hoped to glean insights on the acquisition and organization of material artifacts, and on how families interacted with their possessions, and with one another. The results of the study are at once illuminating and devastating. Their most striking findings concern the sheer magnitude of our material possessions."

5.       Yosemite: Range of Light: The whole earth is full of his glory!