First, what is Post-Christianity?
Great question, and I will admit at the outset that this term is a 'meta'-term, difficult to understand, and carries with it many connotations. Many folks use this term somewhat flippantly to describe situations and contexts that seem undefinable. I want to argue (and this is merely my perspective), that this has become a catch-all term. If your kids are blowing up and going crazy, then it is because they are post-Christian. If your kids pick their nose, then it is because they are Post-Christian.
According to scholars and pastors serving in the field (churches, seminaries, Christian colleges and schools), however, this descriptor refers to a context (culture, geographic location, society, etc.) that embodies principles and values that either counter or disregard the core principles and values of the Christian narrative.
Now, let me acknowledge: this definition of the term, Post-Christian, feels like the entire world, right? At the beginning of 1 Peter, Paul addresses the followers of Jesus as exiles scattered amongst the 4 winds — across the world. Every Christian will read this and think: sometimes, I don't fit in. Even if you live in the Bible belt of the United States, you may feel at times like an exile in your land. You may endure ridicule. At some point, you may need to take a stand for your faith against the grudge of others. And lest we forget that our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world experience persecution on a level that no American can fathom. Is this the meaning of Post-Christian?
Not exactly. The term Post-Christian denotes the cultural implications of Christianity, not the implications of faith on culture. There is a subtle difference. But the ramifications of this difference is HUGE! See the following examples of Christian culture in a community: a stadium wide prayer before a football game; the youth pastor welcomed and allowed on campus of a high school; the pastor is a well-respected leader in a community; stores are closed on a Sunday-morning; Sunday mornings remain available for the community to attend church; and, so forth. The thread uniting each of these statements is a fundamental respect and acceptance of Christianity within a community, even on the part of those who do not believe or attend a church. In a community like Marin where I serve as a Pastor to Students and Families, the aforementioned statements could not be more opposite.
So, why does the MTV show, "Buckwild," matter at all in this conversation? If you have never heard of this show, then watch a clip.
Because "Buckwild" takes place in the most rural places of West Virginia! This may seem like a moot point, but many scholars and pastors who write about Post-Christianity have argued that the location of Post-Christian contexts exist primarily in the coastal cities and major urban centers.
"Buckwild" is in the thick of the Appalachian Bible belt. In fact, the setting of this show takes place about 45 minutes south of where I grew up in Parkersburg, WV. Crazy! This is the kind of community that embodies all of the cultural Christian values that I mentioned earlier in this post! And yet, MTV - a television programmer that creates popular culture, often pitting its values and principles against anything that resembles Christianity - filmed an entire 13 episode series in the midst of this kind of seemingly Christian culture.
I watched every single episode of this series. I recommend it for the understanding more fully the reasoning of this post. Plus, it is so bizarre that it's actually entertaining. It is an insightful, cultural archaeological dig into the how American popular culture thinks about Christianity and the (remnants of the) Bible belt. But with every passing episode, I continued asking myself, what would compel MTV to make a series in West Virginia? And then it dawned on me, the perspective of West Virginia youth — albeit rural and a little backward minded — embrace and fully buy into he ideals of Post-Christianity: consumerism; self-indulgence; a rejection of an 'Other' kind of being; desire-based morality; instant gratification; and, so forth. Furthermore, the show sheds light on the full rejection of their faith heritage for the full embrace of living "Young, Wild, and Free."
It occurred to me right then that this phenomenon is not geographically confined, nor is it confined by socio-economic barriers. It is everywhere. Post-Christianity is in Marin County, California, and it is in Sissonville, West Virginia.
Therefore, all of this beckons the question:
QUESTION: How does the Church respond to Post-Christianity in youth culture and Post-Christianity across the generations? What will happen if the Church doesn't respond?