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Friday, 2 January 2015

On The Secularisation Of Religion.

I watched an episode of QI recently where one of the guests said that (he was speaking particularly in regards to America, but I think it can be applied to other places too) there had been a secularisation of religion - it focussed more on this life than the next, and it had become more of a self-help program than anything else. Just wanted to reflect a bit on that statement, and flesh it out a bit.

In Christianity, I'd say there are two major processes that happen. Salvation, and transformation.
Salvation is where you are saved from your sins. It's something that has already happened, because of Jesus' death on the cross; but individuals need to accept it as true in their life, and give their lives to God for them to be saved. At this point - you're going to heaven, and there really isn't anything that's going to change that. God's pretty awesome like that :) But Jesus also calls us to follow him - that's what giving your life to God is part of. And that's where the second one comes in.
Transformation is about your life becoming all that God meant it to be. Because this life is still important! It might be short, but it still matters, and you can still do great things with it. And God wants that for your life - and so you start on the process of transformation. And this is something that goes on throughout your life.

Now, Christians can have some different attitudes towards these two ideas. Some focus so much on the first that the second gets neglected; others focus so much on the second that the first gets neglected. But both are important, and both need to be present.

This 'secularisation of religion' that I mentioned before seems to me to be like an over-emphasis on the latter. It's a bit like - you're saved! Yay! Okay, now let's make your life awesome, and not worry about that being saved stuff any more, because it's all good now.
The problem is, of course, that's there are still lots of other people out there who aren't. And so it very much becomes more like a club pandering to its members, rather than inviting in new people.

I get the thought, though - it's very much a reaction to the Bible-bashers and turn-and-burn preachers a while back (though they're still around here and there), that focus so much on salvation, and barely touched on transformation. They were out there trying to convert people by the masses, sometimes scaring people into salvation, and then just leaving them there, because they were saved now, so it's all good.

Neither approach works. The former will leave everyone on the outside not wanting to come in, because they've been excluded; the latter will have everyone on the outside wanting to leave, because there's nothing to keep them there.

There needs to be a balance. And, by nature, people will probably be better at one or the other of these. I'm more on the transformation side of things, and I know people on both sides. But I think we need to do more work on figuring out how these two can work together and feed into each other, rather than being two separate processes happening in different places. Because I don't think that's healthy.

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