So after a busy week and a car buying distraction I thought I’d get back to looking in more depth at the claims Dan Kimball made in They Like Jesus but not the Church and whether they apply in the UK in the same way. Follow the links to catch up and read parts 1, 2, 3 & 4.
The issue with this chapter is clear – it’s not that the ‘church claims all other religions are wrong’ that is the issue (although many churches here in the UK wouldn’t say that) but that it does so arrogantly. Interestingly the opening conversation that Dan references is with an Irishman.
Dan is right in saying that emerging generations have a pluralistic acceptance of all faiths. They’ve not really thought in-depth about it (generally speaking). They see religion as a cause of conflict so therefore if ‘we could all just see them as equal there wouldn’t be a problem’, and they have a post-modern understanding of truth as relative, ‘if it works for you buddy then that’s great’.
Dan then suggests that America needs to see itself as ‘a post-Christian culture’ (p.168) which is something that has been accepted in the UK for a generation. Here’s a thought that has just occurred to me – in the US for many years the majority of immigrants also shared the same religious belief as the majority of Americans, so Afro-Americans and Hispanics if they had a faith would have the Christian faith. Here in the UK our immigrants largely would not share our faith and would instead be Jews, Hindu’s, Muslims and Sikhs. Perhaps that has also contributed to our greater sense of being a post-Christian culture.
A second significant difference is that in the UK we teach Religious Education in all schools and so even in church run schools there is education about other faiths. Ok so not all kids pay attention and RE where it is badly taught is often a despised subject but I found when I was teaching that kids were interested and so there is a general vague understanding of other faiths and a greater understanding amongst some Christians.
So I think there are greater differences than similarities on this chapter, I think we’re more open to learning about other faiths, and start from a different place. The unique claims of Christianity remain challenging and sometimes confrontational to a pluralistic mindset but I’m not sure we’re seen as arrogant as our brothers Stateside. What do you think?