Books and Culture has an interesting review of Carl Raschke’s GloboChrist, the latest installment in Baker Academic’s “The Church and Postmodern Culture” series. We just read the first book in the series — Smith’s Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? — in my Historical Theology class.
Despite the cheesy sounding title, there seem to be some worthwhile insights here about the future of Christianity (broadly defined). We have broached, on this blog, some of the grimmer realities of the 21st century: quickly advancing secularization in this country and in Europe (not to mention secularist and modernizing tendencies in the Church) and the New Atheism to name two. Raschke sees more challenges ahead. From Christopher Benson’s review:
After the Cold War, Raschke reminds us, futurists envisioned a “new neoliberal millennium” where peace, free markets, and technological progress would occasion worldwide democracy and prosperity. Unexamined ethnocentrism resulted in the prediction that Westernization would entail secularization. Today Francis Fukuyama and Thomas Friedman are eating humble pie. The world is not flat, but it is becoming anti-Western and post-secular. Raschke commends the dissenting foresight of French philosopher Jacques Derrida, who spoke about a “return of religion,” and American political scientist Samuel Huntington, who posited the famous thesis about “the clash of civilizations.” They helped reveal the “fraudulent utopianism” in the West.
Struggle—Raschke disconcertingly insists—will mark the future, not solidarity. Ethnic separatism, mass migration, feminism, gay liberation, economic oligarchy, Islamofascism, and genocide chasten our unbridled confidence, so much so that a recovering utopian like Richard Rorty confessed “it seems absurdly improbable that we shall ever have a global liberal utopia.”
It has indeed become easier to see the fraudulent claims that human governments in the West have made. To the degree that Christians have placed their trust in them, they will be forced to reconsider that trust in coming years.
But Raschke does have some good news for those of us who seek to do God’s work through the Church rather than through human institutions:
Obeying the Great Commission in the global cosmopolis does not involve a mission trip to “lost peoples at the margins of civilization”; the margins have become mainstream, while the mainstream has become marginalized. Nor does it involve sophisticated marketing campaigns. We make disciples of all nations as the pre-Constantinian church did in the face of “daunting and promiscuous pluralism”: through incarnational ministry, being “little Christs” to the neighbor; through contextualization of the message, speaking the idiom of the neighbor; and through relevance, hearing the needs of the neighbor. Raschke adds that relevance should not be confused with the prosperity gospel, “seeker-sensitive” ministry, the “hipper than thou” emergent church movement, the social gospel redux, or “bobo” (bohemian bourgeois) culture. Relevance is radical relationality.
I hope you’ll pardon all of the theological buzzwords in that last quote. Put a bit more simply, it would seem that the Gospel is spread not through promotional schemes and gimmicks, or even through “relevance,” but through forming lasting relationships with people (of all kinds) who need Jesus.