(Click here for a video of John reading this Catch.)
In a 2017 article in the New York Times Rod Dreher raises an effective argument that American Christianity is actually not true Christianity. Now this is certainly not a new idea, nor is it something we haven’t discussed quite often here at the Catch. In fact, our “Declaration of a Marketplace Christian” is in many ways an attempt to identify and correct what has gone wrong with American Christianity. Dreher holds that American Christianity is not “historical” or “biblical;” it’s spiritually thin; and it has sold its soul to politics.
In his article he mentions that Christian Smith, a sociologist at Notre Dame who has been studying the religious and spiritual lives of Millennials, has come up with a new name for American Christianity: Moralistic Therapeutic Deism or M.T.D..
“Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is a pseudoreligion” he writes, “that jettisons the doctrines of historical biblical Christianity and replaces them with feel-good, vaguely spiritual nostrums. In M.T.D., the highest goal of the religious life is being happy and feeling good about oneself. It’s the perfect religion for a self-centered, consumerist culture. But it is not Christianity.”
In his article, Dreher goes on to conclude that if Christianity is to survive, it needs to chart a new (or is it old?) course, not the one currently traveled by evangelical Christianity in America — indeed, in most churches. And since a majority of Millennials have rejected church but are still seeking spiritual answers, the scene is set for a true spiritual revolution.
This kind of stuff makes my spine tingle, because this is exactly what we are championing here at the Catch, and what we are seeking to help foster. And just like the Jesus movement of the early ‘70s, it will begin outside the existing structures of religion and the institutional church, and whether it will make its way back into that church remains to be seen, but it is not the point. The point is to follow the Spirit of God, and we believe the Spirit of God is leading us into a new frontier — a group of believers following the Christ of the gospels (what Tony Campolo calls “Red Letter Christians”) and committed to discipleship and administering Grace Turned Outward to everyone we touch. It is Christians, not trying to save western civilization, not trying to be happy and feel good about ourselves, but to follow Christ and survive as communities of believers loving one another, caring for the needy and keeping ourselves from being corrupted by the world, regardless of whether the civilization and culture around us collapses.
As James instructed us in James 1:27, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”