Reducing Christianity to a fading smile

I direct the readership’s attention to a provocative piece at The Catholic Thing about an effective weapon perennially deployed to destroy Christianity. It is one of which the Serpent has long made use.

The Cheshire Cat

The let’s-destroy-Christianity project has been underway for more than three centuries now, but it is only in the last half-century that the anti-Christians discovered their most effective weapon.

[…]

We are living in an era when Christianity, like the Cheshire Cat, is gradually fading away in the world’s most modernized countries. The Cheshire Cat left only a smile behind. Liberal Christianity, both Protestant and Catholic, is also leaving something like a smile behind, a smile that says, “I’m a great fan of Jesus, the guy whose deathless message is summed up in the magnificent words, ‘Judge not, that you may not be judged.’”

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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8 Responses to Reducing Christianity to a fading smile

  1. Paulo says:

    “Christian Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”, as Christian Smith concluded back in 2005.

    The creed of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is as follows:

    1. A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
    2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
    3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
    4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when he is needed to resolve a problem.
    5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

    Christian Smith then concludes:

    “But we can say that we have come with some confidence to believe that a significant part of “Christianity” in the United States is actually only tenuously connected to the actual historical Christian tradition, but has rather substantially morphed into Christianity’s misbegotten step-cousin, Christian Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. This has happened in the minds and hearts of many individual believers and, it also appears, within the structures of at least some Christian organizations and institutions. The language—and therefore experience—of Trinity, holiness, sin, grace, justification, sanctification, church, Eucharist, and heaven and hell appear, among most Christian teenagers in the United States at the very least, to be being supplanted by the language of happiness, niceness, and an earned heavenly reward. It is not so much that Christianity in the United States is being secularized. Rather more subtly, either Christianity is at least degenerating into a pathetic version of itself or, more significantly, Christianity is actively being colonized and displaced by a quite different religious faith.”

    This links to a summary of the research:
    https://www.ptsem.edu/uploadedFiles/School_of_Christian_Vocation_and_Mission/Institute_for_Youth_Ministry/Princeton_Lectures/Smith-Moralistic.pdf

  2. Auggie says:

    Looking at Fr. Z as an example, all serious Christians need to be strong in the faith at a local level, and also do whatever you can to influence the culture at large. Blog, comment on blogs, write letters to editors, become editors, write songs, poems, plays, novels, films, tv shows, webcasts, leaflets… anything. Do your part to battle the poisons of the culture. Even if you are merely a drop in the bucket… be a drop of holy water.

  3. Kathleen10 says:

    Fr. Z., I think I am missing some of your text for some reason. Where you seem to have a quote, I see only […] This is a recent phenomenon. Maybe it’s me.

  4. iamlucky13 says:

    “Fr. Z., I think I am missing some of your text for some reason. Where you seem to have a quote, I see only […] This is a recent phenomenon. Maybe it’s me.”

    I see the same. I’m pretty sure he’s just using an ellipses to indicate he omitted part of the quoted text in the middle.

    The technique I’m familiar with is to use a 3-dot ellipses in-line with omissions you make shorter than a paragraph, and to use a 4-dot ellipses on it’s own line if you’re omitting a full paragraph or more.

    The bracketed ellipses is unfamiliar to me.

  5. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Rather more subtly, either Christianity is at least degenerating into a pathetic version of itself or, more significantly, Christianity is actively being colonized and displaced by a quite different religious faith.”

    This was known back in the 1970’s. In 1973, the famous psychiatrist, Dr. Karl Menninger wrote a book entitled, “Whatever Became if Sin?” In the book he writes:

    “In all of the laments and reproaches made by our seers and prophets, one misses any mention of ‘sin,’ a word which used to be a veritable watchword of prophets. It was a word once in everyone’s mind but now rarely if every heard. Does that mean that no sin is involved in all our troubles—sin with an ‘I’ in the middle? Is no one any longer guilty of anything? Guilty perhaps of a sin that could be repented of or atoned for?… Anxiety and depression we all acknowledge, and even vague guilt feelings; but has no one committed any sins? Where, indeed, did sin go? What became of it?”

    The Chicken

  6. @ Chicken,

    “Where, indeed, did sin go? What became of it?” Where indeed? Recently I was a witness to a situation where one person asked the other why they don’t do “something” that was not grave matter but still a sin. After hesitating from being put on the spot, the person answered quite simply that it was a sin. The person was laughed at and told surely they’re allowed to have a little fun and that the action might even be virtuous because it would make the person feel better. The world, the flesh and the devil all in one!
    I do not know for sure but it seems that if the world were to acknowledge sin, that it is real and they can commit sin, than they would have to acknowledge Who God Is and what they actually and thankfully owe to Him, their whole life, their existence, their “freedom”, everything.
    Nope, instead of acknowledging Who God Is, unfortunately He is mocked by people’s supposed lack of fear of doing anything wrong. By refusing to admit that they may not be as good as they thought. Where on earth do you get so much anxiety and anger which is everywhere we turn in many societies? Besides an actual medical condition where one suffers from anxieties and mental illnesses through no fault of their own, there is a lot of anxiety and anger brought about by unrepentant sin. The serious error of not acknowledging the reality of sin is present everywhere I can see. The most surprising sources I have seen and heard this fatal error is from fellow Catholics. May God have mercy on us all.

  7. Manducat in the hat says:

    My family and I journeyed last night to Houston to venerate the remains of St. Maria Goretti. Thousands of pilgrims prayed while we were there, with a steady and lively flow of pilgrims coming and going. About 70% of the pilgrims were asian or some persuasion, 28% hispanic, and only about 2% white. I was pleased to see all the people, but where are all the white Catholics? I’m not arguing either/or but both/and. Has Catholicism fallen off so terribly among whites that we’re practically nonexistent as a demographic?

    Other thoughts?

  8. Mr. Graves says:

    Manducat, check out “Coming Apart” by Charles Murray. His chapter on the decline in religiosity (across all religions and socioeconomic classes) since 1960 is fascinating. The whole book is brilliant, IMO.