The Future of Western Culture

Welcome back.

This Wednesday will bring two events of note. First, the NBC miliatry/action series called E RING is airing an episode written by a friend of mine. The title for this episode is “Breath of Allah”. I’ll be watching. Join me.

Speaking of Allah …and the future of western culture, check out this piece in opinionjournal.com called It’s the Demography, Stupid . Worth a read for those of you out there who share my interest in Islam and the future of western culture. Along with this article, if this topic interests you and you’re new to this blog, check out my previous posts on Eurabia , Global Demographics Part 1 and Global Demographics Part 2.

In keeping with the theme of the future of western culture, check out the article out of “usatoday.com” called Is God dead in Europe? Again, if you’re new, you may want to read along with this second article my post from Nov. 9th called Three in Four Americans Believe in Paranormal.

What do you think? Is it proper to conclude that in very broad strokes Western Culture is –oh, how shall we say it? — better, superior, improved over many other cultures and worth saving? Or is an Islamic future for Europe just as good/bad?

The second event of note for this Wednesday is that those of you who signed up to beta test our new blogging community, voxtropolis, will receive an invite to enter they beta environment. The “city of voices” thanks you for your help.

into the mystic…

Alex McManus

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13 thoughts on “The Future of Western Culture

  1. I think it would be arrogant to say that Western culture is inherently “better” than other cultures. That being said, I think in a lot of ways, Western culture has been more influenced by a Judeo Christian morality than other cultures, and therefore, is better is some ways, but not all. I think there are some Christian values in many, if not all cultures. For example, the respect for authority in Asian traditions is in my opinion, a Biblical value that has been lost in much of Western culture.

    However, when I see the violence and the failure of democracy in the Middle East, I can’t help but think that it is because of a lack of Christian values in that culture. Why should the losing party submit to the authority of the winning party in a society that doesn’t have a moral system that teaches that authority should be respected even if it is in opposition? I think Christian morality is an important part of having a sustainable long term democratic society.

    I think an Islamic Europe would be bad for the greater society, but it may result in revival of the Christian church because it would not be seen as the predominant religion anymore. Hopefully it’ll result in people seeing Christ for who He is instead of some symbol of state authority.

  2. I’m excited about Voxtropolis. I’ve been waiting for it. As far as western culture as a superior culture; I think that it is easy to see how Western culture can corrupt even the best of intentions as we watch capitalism overrun many faith communities. I was reading an article just yesterday that espoused American Christianity = capitalism. I know that for me, as I think of Western Culture, I think of two things: Christianity and Capitalism. Maybe some of you could help me expand my view of Western Culture and from there compare/contrast the finer points with Islaam. Just thinking outloud…

  3. Thanks for sharing the articles…they make for very interesing reading. I think there is a definite need for those of us in the west to move from a position of arrogance to humility as humility is going to be essential in negotiating the times ahead. I can definitely see areas in Western culture which I would see as inherantly good and yet if we try and beat the rest of the world up with an arrogant attitude of ‘wer’re better than you’ we’re just going to keep shooting ourselves in the foot. And I do think that we need to be willing to learn from other cultures and embrace what is true and good wherever we see it. Western Culture does not = good and everything else = bad. We need to be humble enough to recognise the bad in our own culture whilst embracing the good in others.

    As to the developments happening in Europe with the growing Islamic influence, I am actually quietly confident. I have felt for a number of years now that God is allowing the church to become a remnant (certainly in regard to England) who will rise up as mighty warriors to further God’s kingdom. It seems like God is doing a lot of refining, moulding, pruning of His church and the statistics only tell half of this story. There is so much more happening than people just leaving churches; there is a real sense that God is birthing something extraordinary. And there is also a growing feeling that what is emerging is going to be hugely significant for the rest of Europe.

  4. Bishop, I just need to clarify your use of the term capitalism. Capitalism does not “overrun” and corrupt faith communities. Greed and materialism can corrupt faith communities, but capitalism does not equate to greed and materialism. Here is a fair definition of capitalism:

    “In such a system, individuals and firms have the right to own and use wealth to earn income and to sell and purchase labor for wages with little or no government control. The function of regulating the economy is then achieved mainly through the operation of market forces where prices and profit dictate where and how resources are used and allocated.”

  5. I think Mark Steyn makes many good observations. I prefer to stay out of the “Western Culture is Gonna Die to Islam” debate, much because I do NOT consider myself a competent authority on the matter.

    He does make an observation that is essential for Christ-followers. “…the big globalization success story is the way the Saudis have taken what was 80 years ago a severe but obscure and unimportant strain of Islam practiced by Bedouins of no fixed abode and successfully exported it to the heart of Copenhagen, Rotterdam, Manchester, Buffalo . . .”

    The spread of extremism hasn’t been instituted by a specific government or necessarily political faction. No government organization decided to raise the banner of jihad and take the world by storm. No, the movement has been subversive, covert, behind the scenes, gaining momentum from the fringe of soceities. But wait, isn’t that the same what Christ and his followers did things?

    Rather than look for governmental fixes to deep issues, those who follow Christ must engage in communities that see themselves and their mission as subversive, passionate, a part of an underground movement or rebellion, ultimately necessary. With weapons of faith, love, and hope, we must continue seep into the cracks of culture around the world and spread the aroma of Christ. Now, more than ever, the world needs the lovingly dangerous message of the Master.

  6. There is no doubt that Europe is now a post-Christian society. The missionary writer, Lesslie Newbiggin, after working for much of his life in India and then returning to the UK concluded that post-Christian Europe was the most challenging mission field facing the church anywhere in the world because it was the only mission field which came from a society that had in its own mind rejected Christianity. (I would contend it rejected a Christendom expression of Christianity, not Christ following) What we are doing in Europe at the moment is simply not working because all the main churches are still organised and minister on the understanding that they are an important institution in a “Christian” society. What we need are new missional expressions of the church in the UK. Like Sam I am fairly optomistic on that front. I am hearing about new experiments in mission and church from all over the UK. There seems to be a new generation of young church leaders who are turning their back on the institutions or being allowed slack by them to do new things in new ways.
    In terms of Islam in Europe, again I am fairly optomistic. I suspect the numbers of non-muslims being converted, apart from through marriage, is very small. Islam’s influence is largely through its Asian population who have come to the UK. The recent bombing were a wake up call for the idea of multiculturalism that assumed that the government should never interfere with any religous group. I haven’t found any openess among the general population to Islam, in fact quite the opposite. I know much of the publicity has been about the young muslims who get reconnected to radical Islam and end up as terrorists. At least as many, probably more, get involved in drink and secular lifestyles and become little more than ethnic muslims. So I think their demographic growth won’t give them such a great advantage as the numbers identifying with Islam will becline as we go into second and third generation born in the UK. This is why Muslims are desperate to get the UK gov to pay for Islamic schools, they realise that our schools with its basically modernistic agenda is undermining the faith of their children. The biggest cultural mistake the British government could make would be to give in and fund these Islamic schools.

  7. Hey alex! Are there going to be students prices for ORIGINS this year again! We loved coming last year and would love to come again! Erwin told me to wrtie you here, because this is where you are most frequently! God Bless bro, and hope all is very well with you! Cant wait to see you in LA in March!

    Advancing the Invisible,
    Kurt Duggleby

  8. Alex-

    Thanks for the post. I hope that the decline of the institutional church in Europe opens the door for us to get back to “prime,” minus the historical and cultural baggage of Christendom.

  9. Peter,
    you make my point: “In such a system, individuals and firms have the right to own and use wealth to earn income and to sell and purchase labor for wages with little or no government control. The function of regulating the economy is then achieved mainly through the operation of market forces where prices and profit dictate where and how resources are used and allocated.” The only rights of a believer are to sacrifice for the glory of God and the cause of Christ. Anytime we begin to see ourselves as having the “right to” anything, we begin the slippery slope that is fueled by greed and materialism, but began as capitalism.

  10. Excellent conversation guys. I’m going to post more on this today.

    Peter, I agree that within many circles it will seem arrogant to compare cultures and find one superior to the other. However, while it may be politically correct today to think it “arrogant” to claim one culture superior to another, isn’t this an attempt –not on your part but of the “politically correct” ethos –to silence truthfulness and open conversation as well as a failure of courage to evaluate rightly and honestly? The larger question here is can one culture, in fact, be superior to another. I think yes. What say you to the larger question?

    Bishop, Is the pinnacle from which man, fueled by greed and materialism, slides down the “slippery slope” necessarily capitalism? I think we plummet into the pit because of our self-centeredness and not because of an economic system.

    James, love Newbigin. I wonder, though, if he rightly accessed the missional challenges in the world. The European who rejects God has –in general — rejected a God we kind of know while at the same time embracing much of the ideas of reality, life and values of the biblical story. Perhaps believers and post believers in the west have more in common than someone with a culturally christian world view and someone with a hinduistic worldview in India. I think the cultural context gives us at least as much in common with the post-christian westerner than with the prechristian or hindu if not much more. I’ve never been to India but I’ve been to Thailand. My sense is that Europe is a less challenging mission field, but an extraordinarily strategic one. Hence my involvement in the mission to reclaim the west. Our task is to exploit the common understanding of things in the west and launch the cause of Christ from there.

    Excellent contributions all. And yes, Kurt. There will be student prices for Origins.

  11. Alex, my experience earlier in my ministry I think was like Newbiggin’s. I often found Hindu/Muslim people open to talking about faith, spirituality etc but my experience was that “British” people just wrote off Christianity as “boring” They believed they knew what Christianity had to offer and didn’t want it. Raising even the subject of Jesus was a conversation killer.
    I sense that this might be changing and that the younger generation might be more open to the Christian message than their parents. As I said above I think the current Islamic terrorist situation might work to our advantage on this. People are questioning the politically correct, all religions are equally valid viewpoint that is getting shoved down their throats and I think they are interested in the differences between Christianity and Islam. The position in the rest of Europe is more serious for in countries like France and Denmark there is virtually no wide spread authentic Christian alternative to Islam. I believe post-modernism is going to have a big influence in France and undermine their cherished secular values and I pray that the church is ready to present them with an alternative because Islam is certainly more vibrant there.
    Looking forward to chatting to you about this in person soon

  12. Hmm.. I guess maybe I should ask you to clarify how to define “culture”. When I say I think it’s arrogant to say one culture is better than another, I mean something along the lines of “Can someone really say that eating with a fork and spoon is objectively *better* than eating with chopsticks or eating with your hands?” I hope most of you would agree that trying to prove something like that would be ridiculous. I believe every culture on earth, in some way, reflects the image of God.

    Let’s take Arab culture as an example. Unforunately, most Arabic cultures have been heavily influenced by Islam. But I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Arabic culture is absolutely and completely without any Christ-like elements. There are many Arab Christians out there and being culturally Arab does not hinder their practice of the Christian faith much more or less than Western culture does for Americans.

    I think it’s dangerous to try to summarize something so complex into a single statement like “One culture is better than another.” In some ways, I would agree but there are some heavy qualifying statements that would go along with that. I’d like for you to flesh out what you mean when you say that you think one culture can be better than another. Thanks.

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