One of the keys to understanding social change is to keep your finger on the pulse of culture. In my book, Makers of Fire (November 2014), I call this the fuel of the triangle of combustion. Let’s put this in the form of a question:
Where are the trigger points that are shaping the narratives of faith and culture?
Over the next year, I want to focus on several cultural issues that are shaping the narrative of both faith and culture. Here are three of these issues.
THE FUTURE OF MARRIAGE, CHILDREN, AND SEX
There are more singles today than ever. Divorce rates are high. (So high, for example, in Montreal that, in anticipation of a likely divorce, newly married couples must pay an additional administrative fee to legally change the bride’s name to her new married name). The acceptance of Gay marriage is changing the meaning and usage of the word marriage.
Young urban affluents write about the negative economic impact of having children. Others express concern over how bearing children taxes the environment. Still others write about killing their children to reduce their carbon footprint. Recently one young lady even filmed her abortion to show that it was no big deal.
In the future children may be incubated within artificial wombs, raised by nanny-bots, and live out their lives in a world of fewer children.
Tech magazines write about porn as if it were a normal and acceptable aspect of society. The rise of sensitive robots points to a potential future of unprecedented human-machine relationships. We will see a rise in the legal commercial sex industry around the globe.
Needless to say, mindsets are changing.
We often acknowledge how things are changing, but do we stop to consider how we are changing.. and being changed?
What is the future of marriage? What is the future of sex? What is the future of the family? What is the future of children?
How might followers of Christ understand the changes that are underway in light of their story? To draw upon biblical imagery, where is the spirit hovering upon the face of the deep, upon the chaos of our present moment?
THE FUTURE OF THE BIBLE
For millions of years before the rise of humans, living things experienced suffering, pain, and death. Multiple species of humans walked on Earth before the emergence of modern humans. New knowledge of this kind shakes the underpinnings of many who read the Bible as a chronological history.
The rise of Islam brings to the forefront billions of people who believe that God wrote a book. And millions of Christians feel the same way about the Bible that Muslims feel about the Qu’ran.
At the same time, are we hearing rumblings that some western Christ followers will want to distance themselves from both fundamentalist Muslims and Christians? Meanwhile, a conservative and fundamentalist Christianity rises in the developing world and promises to be the global religion of the future.
What might be the future relationship of the Christ following faith to its scripture? Is the Bible a divine book? Or is this bibliolatry? Is the Bible only human literature? Or is this blasphemy?
THE FUTURE OF NORTH AMERICA
In his book, The Post-American World, Fareed Zakariah argued that The United States is no longer the epicenter of global culture. Where might global culture be going? In another book, The Next One Hundred Years, George Friedman argues that the United States will remain the center of the world for the next 100 years.
Where might current trends of immigration, an aging population, and military prowess be leading us? What might North America look like towards the end of the 21st century and how might that impact what we do today?
These are three critical issues (among many) which will require answers from us in the very near future. They represent some of the trigger points that are shaping our cultural narrative. Where do the cultural narratives and faith narratives merge and where do they diverge? How can followers of Christ, regardless of geography, frame a Christ following mission for the next century and beyond? What does 21st century discipleship look like in light of massive cultural changes? As cultures change and paradigms shift, where is our own story taking us? How can we respond to the competing narratives around us and tell the story of Christ (and where faith is taking the world) in a compelling way?
I hope these questions primed the pump of your imagination. They have mine.
Join Alex McManus, author of Makers of Fire, for IMN 2015 in Orlando, Fl on Feb 2-6. He will discuss, during the Master Class Certificate sessions, the skills necessary to understand and navigate these kinds of rapid cultural changes through the analogy of Making Fire.
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