Mark Hackard’s latest piece references the “post-Christian West.” This term pops up frequently, and in my view, is probably too optimistic.
Having lived in London and spent considerable time with well-traveled, broadly knowledgeable Europeans, I was struck by how many were conversant in virtually everything…except Christianity. Time and again, this was the one topic where their eyes went glassy.
This became especially evident when Daisy Crockett Palin’s religious views came under fire. Each time I was asked for my take, I found that the inquirer normally had little familiarity with core terms like fundamentalism, End Times, Revelations (never mind Papacy or Reformation), etc. They knew they were supposed to feel threatened by Alaska Annie’s beliefs, but that was where their understanding usually stopped.
This is why I label spots like the U.K. pre-Christian rather than post-Christian. In my mind, a post-Christian society would still be streaked with some residue of what came before. For instance, we live in a post-Constitution U.S., but most Americans still retain some memory of the Bill of Rights, or at least of the First, Second, and Fifth Amendments. Not so in the U.K., where for many, including (especially?) those who flaunt their lust for imbibing culture, Christian churches are for marrying and dying (if that). Any connection to other ceremonies they might host, how these edifices got there, or the beliefs that inspired them, is utterly absent. They don’t discuss Christianity like forgotten high school trig. They discuss it like a kindergartner would discuss high school trig.
I am speaking anecdotally of course, and painting in extremely broad strokes. It should also be said that many of these people weren’t necessarily sneering at Christianity. It was simply alien to them; a concept that until recently had been of great importance to their nation and was now as foreign as an Olmec antiquity.
I went to London believing in the notion of a post-Christian West. I came back a pre-Christian convert.
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