When I was an undergraduate at The Beach, I had a wonderful opportunity to write extensively about the discourse and rhetoric used by Y2K extremists in and around 1999. The crux of my paper was two fold, first American discourse is rooted in the apocoplypse and second consipiracy theory rhetoric surrounding the Y2K scare was no different and therefore not rooted in fact but in root metaphore. That is, the Y2K scare existed not because there was any real inherent issue, but America needed some sort of “impending doom” to focus on.
Now, I would love to take credit for this line of thinking, however, all I did was apply the published and accepted work of other (much more gifted) thinkers before me and use them as an analytical lense in which to look at the rhetoric being used by consipiracy theorists during that time.
The basic idea is three fold (via “Arguing the Apocolypse” by Dr. Stephen O’Leary):
- Most western, and certainly the majority of American discourse follows an apoctalyptic model and has been for the bulk of American history.
- Apocalyptic discouse has three forms that need to be in place: A great threat, an impending timeframe and a cataclysmic event.
- This discourse is inherently persuasive as it allows people to focus on exterior events rather than internal issues to explain their life situations.
The reason I bring this up is to focus on an article that was recently published in the Christian Science Monitor entitled, “The Coming Evangelical Collapse“. While the author of this article argues passionately about a collapse in the evangelical church – it struck me as a formulaic in its argumentative structure. That is, it is a predictable argument – not to say that it is not valid.
A few observations from my part about this. First, I am not conviced that a collapse of the evangelical institutions of Christian church in the U.S. is inherently a bad thing. Rather, I believe for those institutions that are not evangelical (such as the orthodox and the pentecost) that there is a great deal of opportunity to thrive and fill a gap.
Second, I am not conviced that this collapse will be a collapse at all, rather I see it more of a reallignment of sorts. A collapse would entail the end of evangelicism – but I feel the failings of evangelicism to engage American culture will not culminate in a collapse – rather it will force those institutions to adapt, change or do something else. I see all of that as a good thing.
The underlying assumption that is pervavise in that article is that Evangelicism is good. That is not an assumption that I am particularly okay with. But I do agree with two statements that the author makes:
- Evangelicals have identified themselves with a political causes and agendas
- Evangelicals have not passed on any sort of religious orthodoxy to the younger generation allowing their faith to be guiding by secularism and relativism (see this article for more).
The rub for me is simple – there is something authentic about genuine faith and for the first 2000 or so years of the church, orthodoxy seemed to work well (sometimes better than others). Why would we try to do anything else differently now (within certain realistic parameters – such as an open willingness to understand culture not condem it, etc.)?