(GC) Tim Keller on the Disappearing Umbrella over Devout Christians

What does this mean for conservative Christians? Keller uses the analogy of an umbrella:

So what’s happening is the roof has come off for the devout. The devout had a kind of a shelter, an umbrella. You couldn’t be all that caustic toward traditional classic Christian teaching and truth. I spoke on Friday morning to the American Bible Society’s board. American Bible Society does a lot of polling about the Bible. The use of the Bible, reading the Bible, attitudes toward the Bible. They said that actually the number of people who are devout Bible readers is not changing that much.

What is changing is for the first time in history a growing group of people who think the Bible is bad, it’s dangerous, it’s regressive, it’s a bad cultural force, that was just never there. It was very tiny. And that’s because the middle ground has shifted, so it is more identified with the more secular, the less religious, and it’s less identified now with the more devout.

Later, he explains what the loss of this umbrella means for the devout:

The roof came off. That is, you had the devout, you had the secular, and you had that middle ground that made it hard to speak disrespectfully of traditional values. That middle ground now has not so much gone secular, but they more identified with this side. They are identified with expressive individualism, and so they don’t want to tell anybody how to live their lives.

And so what that means now of course is that the devout suddenly realize that they are out there, that the umbrella is gone, and they are taking a lot of flak for their views, just public flak.

Read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

One comment on “(GC) Tim Keller on the Disappearing Umbrella over Devout Christians

  1. New Reformation Advocate says:

    As always, Tim Keller is worth taking seriously. He is a very astute observer, and I basically agree with him. Only my own take on our cultural situation is significantly more pessimistic. I’m inclined to think that things are apt to get worse, much worse, before they get better.

    I think that orthodox American Christians are likely to suffer the same sort of difficult challenges that orthodox Christians face in highly de-Christianized Europe. As usual, just look at Canada, which tends to be a bit ahead of the US in terms of many social trends (e.g., it approved same sex marriage nationwide almost about a decade before it happened here this summer).

    For example, I would say that Tim Keller’s language is actually outdated when he continues to use the term “mainline” for the historic major established Protestant denominations. I say that the term is just obsolete. The PCUSA and TEC are in serious danger of imploding very soon. The national mean age in both groups is over 60, so it won’t be long before their numbers just plummet.

    The disappearance of the cultural umbrella is a mild way of putting it. We aren’t just more exposed now to the weather, a sort of new vulnerability to threats from nature. No, it’s more ominous than that. The middle is increasingly turning against us, as Keller notes but doesn’t seem to find as troubling as I do.

    Personally, I tend to think that outright persecution is much closer than we imagine. I tend to agree with the gloomy assessment of the late, great Francis Cardinal George of Chicago. He died of cancer back in April, but not before making this startling prediction.
    “I expect to die in bed. My successor will die in prison. His successor will die a martyr in the public square. And his successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society, and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the Church has done so many times before.”

    I’m not so sure about the fast timeline, but that’s the ominous trajectory that this culture is on. We are now recalling various events from WWI that took place a century ago. Well, I have the same depressing feeling that so many people had 100 years ago, as European civilization self-destructed: “The lights are going out across Europe.” But something far worse than WWI may be in its early stages. We are facing the grim possibility that western culture is so sick and degenerate that we may be about to plunge into a new Dark Age. And “the Benedict Option” may start looking like the only way that a ruined society will be eventually rebuilt.

    We’ll see. The middle will be driven by the mass media and the entertainment industry, and both the media and the entertainment industry have become increasingly hostile to orthodox Christianity, perceiving classical, historic Christianity as the biggest obstacle to the advance of social “progress” toward a more just and enlightened society. When “tolerance” becomes the highest of values, and “bigory” and “prejudice” are deemed the worst of vices, then we Christians are in deep, deep trouble, because we are increasingly (and wrongly) perceived as the worst bastion of “prejudice” left.

    I think things are about to get ugly, very, very ugly. But at the very least, Keller is absolutely right that what we are witnessing in our day is not so much the secularization of the whole society as the sharp polarization of America. I can only see that polarization as getting worse in the days and years to come. But the Light (i.e., Christ and Christians as the Light of the world) will shine brighter and brighter as our culture becomes darker and darker. We do now live in a “wicked and perverse generation” (ala Phil. 2:14, etc.).

    “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.” And there is a Wicked Witch out to get us.

    David Handy+