As you can tell if you read this often, I like to interact with Charles Colson. Even though we sometimes disagree, we also seem to have much in common. Today I want to interact with Colson’s “Liminal Christians: Christianity without the Church?”
Colson’s thesis, drawing from several interesting sources, is that a loss in Americans of a desire to associate with others is a key to understanding the kind of stand-offish attitude toward the church which is becoming more common. The idea is that, back in the 1980s people wanted to invent their own, personalized set of beliefs. Churches, as “organized religion” came with pre-packaged sets of beliefs. This was supposedly the barrier that kept some people out of churches back then.
Now, according to Colson, it is no longer the problem of the 80s; rather, it is the reluctance people have to entering into any kind of “community.” As Colson says, drawing from one of his sources, more people want to go bowling, but fewer wish to join bowling leagues. They simply want to “bowl alone.”
My conjecture is that these two are not all that different. (I’m not sure what Colson would say about this, but he seems to present these as different and distinct.) The same kind of mindset that will only accept a “personalized, designer religion” will probably not want to enter into associations. This is because an association for any purpose will require some kind of rules – written or not – to make the association work.
I think we all need to be individual, critical thinkers. I don’t just accept something simply because someone tells me to do so, nor do I think anyone else should. But good critical thinking informs us that truth cannot be of our own invention. Critical thinking also helps us realize that religious views are not exempt from the measurements of truth. (There is much more that could be said about those ideas. I leave that unexplored for now.)
I contend that most of the problems we encounter in our society - religious, social, and governmental – are in the end traceable to our very stubborn societal resistance to the idea of truth. There are realities in all these areas, and it is possible to know these realities, at least to some extent, and thus arrive at truth. These realities and the truth about these realities dictate how we should proceed.
Those who deny all this butt their heads against the brick walls of reality. It is painful. It is frustrating. It destroys even the possibility of a good life. This syndrome has come up in recent, and remote, history in various ways. It was manifest one way in the 1980s, and another in the early 21st century.
But it is, in the final analysis, the same problem – the problem of truth.