I run into it all the time. People dismissing the Christian faith as having nothing to say in the contemporary setting. Young people, especially, react viscerally to even the suggestion that the Christian faith may offer something beneficial to their view of any number of life issues.
The Christian tradition has been thinking about life and death, in all their permutations, for two thousand years. Some of the greatest minds in history put their considerable efforts to work in thinking through matters ranging from sexuality to culture to the relation between reason and faith, to point out just a few. The shallow dismissal of this tradition says far more about the vacuousness of the post-modern mind than it does about the Christian faith.
One would think that young people would tire of stumbling around in the post-modern, digitized wasteland of nihilism and relativism, even as they are simultaneously told how awful the civilization they enjoy actually is. And in fact, many are beginning to wake up. The Canadian academic, Jordan Peterson, for example, has struck a nerve with millions of young men…and women…who are finding in his message a workable platform on which to build a meaningful life rooted in personal responsibility. And figuring centrally in Peterson’s analysis is an unashamed summons to rehabilitate the canon of western civilization. This no accident.
The very assumptions upon which our civilization is based are rooted in the philosophical and theological traditions of Greece, Rome, Christianity and the Enlightenment. And central to these is the idea that the sovereign individual, and a politics that preserves that sovereignty, is the highest achievement of our civilization. And this rare, historical accomplishment is the direct result of the influence of the Christian faith over long centuries as it influenced society away from barbarism and tribalism.
The currently fashionable collectivism being pushed by the academy would supplant the value of the individual and return us all to a world of tribal conflict where you are defined not by your individual dignity but by your tribal allegiance. The dismissal of the western canon in the universities is a deliberate move in this effort. For it is designed to set the western tradition at an impassible distance from its intended inheritors. The effectiveness of this program has resulted in an ignorance among young people regarding the very nature of their civilization. In the place of an appreciation for the inheritance they might have received, they are nurtured into a culture of resentment which chooses to see the very worst aspects of our history while dismissing the rest. To the degree that this is a deliberate move, it is unforgivable.
The Christian tradition has a stake in helping to preserve the inherited traditions of the west because those traditions advance the dignity, freedom and opportunity of the individual more effectively than any other in history. These are profoundly fragile accomplishments not to be taken for granted. In fact, they are worth fighting for.