What would Niebuhr do today? Now more than 65 years ago, H. Richard Niebuhr famously suggested five different ways for Christianity to relate to culture:
- Christ above culture
But what happens when the culture has disintegrated into at best a pop culture and at worst nothing recognizable as culture? Then how does one related to culture? To be sure we still have our cultural artifacts -- our buildings and institutions and political structures -- but when these no longer have much impact upon us or power to shape us, with what are we left?
For those who would protest against this, what ties do we have with our past? We have a legacy of Christian faith and life but this is now being reduced to merely a right to private worship and the very dogmas of this Christian past are being rejected wholesale by the powerful among us (media, politics, and law). We have no fabric of shared values to bind us together; we cannot agree on what life is or when it begins or ends or it possesses some sacred character that must be defended. We equate the battle for which restroom someone chooses to use with the great battles for civil rights as if they were morally equivalent. We have halls of learning in which opposition to the politically correct views and speech of the day are considered more than offensive but abusive. We have an anti-culture but we do not have a recognizable culture to engage. We have pop culture which is constantly and rapidly evolving and is no more enduring than pop stars and pop songs. But we do not have a culture to transform.
Even Luther would wrestle with the prospect of how to relate to a kingdom of the left which has almost ceased to be a kingdom at all. Anarchy is not only the absence of boundaries and law; it is also the existence of so many competing boundaries and laws that none can speak to or for all people. When the culture no longer is a culture but merely the individual and his or her freedoms, preferences, and choices, how does the Church related to the State?