Among the Post-Protestants: Part 3, Better Christians

There was a passage in Joseph Bottum's book The Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America where a lightbulb went off for me. In describing the moral atmosphere of the modern age, Bottum asks,

[How did] a large class of American Protestants [climb] up into post-Protestantism. What are the means by which they decided to proclaim themselves "spiritual but not religious"? ... And how, exactly, did they form what must be seen as the defining proposition of the post-Protestant age: the great unspoken and probably unspeakable thought that it is somehow more Christian not be be a professing Christian?

That last question clicked for me. Many assume, looking at the demographic decline of Christian churches, that our age is turning its back on Christianity, rejecting or replacing the Christian worldview. But that's not what is happening at all. Again, think about the prominence of social justice in our world, its cultural influence upon corporations, journalism, media, politics, and the arts. What is happening is that our age sees itself as bringing the moral vision of Christianity to what is deemed its proper conclusion and fulfillment. Progressives, liberals, and secular humanists see themselves as better Christians than Christians themselves. More loving. More compassionate. More concerned about justice. Shoot, many atheists see themselves as better Christians than Christians. And that's so diagnostic. It's not simply that atheists reject Christian metaphysical claims, it's that atheism perceives itself as a moral improvement upon Christianity. Atheists are better Christians.

And it's that sentiment--how post-Christians aren't non-Christian but better Christians--that marks us as post-Protestant. 

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