Sunday, August 3, 2008

Going to Church

I am reading The Cube and the Cathedral by George Weigel. This is a look at the differences in worldview between America and much of Europe. Last evening, I read this passage:

Whatever you can say about the United States, it is most certainly not a Christaphobic or post-Christian society. European high culture is largely Christaphobic and Europeans themselves describe their culture and societies as post-Christian. It would be too simple to say that the reason Americans and Europeans see the world so differently is that the former go to church on Sundays and the latter don't. But it would also be a grave mistake to think that the dramatic differences in religious belief and practice in the United States and Europe don't have something to do with those different perceptions of the world - and the different policies to which those perceptions generally lead.

We might argue Weigel's assessment that America is not Christaphobic or post-Christian, but I was impressed by his assessment of the way religious belief influences worldview. Now, this is not news to most of us, but it bears examination.

Perhaps it is too simplistic to find too much significance in the rate of church attendance between Europe and the United States, but there does seem to be validity to this idea. It has long been observed that much of Europe has abandoned religious service. Cathedrals in France are not much more than tourist attractions. Church buildings in Great Britain have been converted to car washes and convenience stores. And, it is also true that church attendance is not what it used to be in America. In this country, fewer and fewer people attend church - even those who profess to be evangelical Christians.

But, the fact that, more or less, Americans do go to church on Sunday reflects upon their basic outlook. Regardless whether the church one attends is considered liberal of fundamentalist, or all shades in between, people who attend church state by their attendance that there is a God to whom they are in some way accountable. An elementary awareness of the existence of God informs one's worldview.
America is fast becoming a secular society. Much of European culture is markedly secular. It is significant that one of the candidates for president of the United States looks to Europe as a model. However, insofar as we are a church going nation, our culture has reaped the benefits.
For the Christian, the task has not changed. The Great Commission transcends cultures, politics, and nations. In America, we are still free to proclaim the gospel. We should not take for granted this liberty.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

Yes, times are sure changing. So far Finland is still very traditional. Finns want to belong to the church (evangelic Lutheran), baptise their children and confirm them. We get married in church and bury our relatives beside the church. Many Finns also pray, on their own. But going to church we just do on Christmas... not every Sunday. Accept for us few fanatics then :o)