I’ve had a really interesting mix of circumstances over the last week, which have really led me to think about the way Christianity interacts with the pluralism of this Post-Christian world. First, I met with a group of close friends over lunch to discuss faith, politics, and life in general. The three of us are very similar in many ways. We laugh at the same ridiculous jokes. We are all smart and well read. We all believe in living life with a strict sense of morality. However, we come from a diverse theological spectrum. One of us is a devout Catholic, one a Protestant pastor (me), and one an agnostic in a “crisis of faith” (his words).
The interesting thing is that we can sit and deeply debate very difficult issues of faith, theology, and human existence. We discussed and debated for nearly 3 hours. It was so refreshing to me to talk deeply about these issues without someone feeling threatened that others not agreeing would somehow cause him injury.
As I was meeting with my friends, my wife called to inform me that our friend from Taiwan had committed his life to Jesus. Peichi led an English class at church in the spring for university foreign exchange students. This program was largely based on building relationships between these students and American families within our church. We never gave a “come to Jesus” message. We never even led a Bible study, just food and conversation. But several students have become Christians lately, quite a few consider our church their home (even though they don’t understand even half of the sermon), and we baptized one this Sunday.
Peichi and I have also started to really get to know some of our neighbors. One family that we have become friends with in particular is our downstairs neighbors from Iran. We each go to the other’s apartments, and we celebrate important events together. They are of the Bahai faith, and that is a very important part of their lives. They are not only some of the nicest people we know, but both my wife and I consider them to be dear friends.
In each of these situations lately, I have interacted in situations where I wasn’t reaching down to save the heathen masses. People didn’t approach me initially for answers to their deep and burning questions. In fact, the very situations required that I faced these people as equals, and tried to be Christ-like and loving in a natural way.
I think that the future of a post-Christian America is going to force God’s people to stop assuming that those outside of the Church are merely ignorant and groping for hope. Being a Christian necessitates believing that we are in possession of the Truth. Religious pluralism and syncretism aren’t luxuries that we have. But at the same time, we need not be afraid or ignorant that there are other systems and faiths who honestly believe that they are in possession of the same Truth we are. Christian ghettos and Christian arrogance will do nothing in this post-modern climate. We cannot put our heads in the sand of Christian culture. Nor can we wait for the lost masses to come banging on our door. Neither strategy will show the world a Church that has anything to add to this dialogue. -Ryan