“I want you to invest your lives not in keeping the old ship afloat but in designing and building and sailing a new ship for new adventures in a new time in history, as intrepid followers of Jesus Christ.”
In the modern times, Christianity was ubiquitous here, with varying levels of devotion. Now, it’s no longer the default. Most of us and our peers were not growing up in a broth of Christian culture. In the medieval period, the immutability of God was sacred and therefore change was not just scary but profane, too. Platonic models of the universe showed everything as finite, with concentric spheres of creation in order of perfection. Earth was the least holy at the center. Medievals also considered the best parts of human history – the Classical period, the Garden of Eden, Jesus’s time of Earth – to be behind them.
Now at the close of the modern era, we think of previous generations as ignorant, backward. This is, of course, silly because every human ever was and is a product of their surroundings. An ancient Roman could not be criticized for thinking that an internal flame incinerated food and made his body warm when that was the best understanding he had access to. My mom has a degree in microbiology from 35 years ago and she hasn’t heard some of the things that sophomores in my major are expected to know – lots of the tools we use today hadn’t been invented yet.
Change is constant; most adults have already grasped that idea. Right now we might be at a time of exceptionally fast change. If that’s true, we’re at the beginning of the shift. We’re recognizing the constricting ways of the old paradigm in an effort to have a better idea of what we want for the next one. But it means being critical of the ways we and our parents grew up thinking, which feels terrible. Keeping the old ship afloat is a lot more comforting. One of the scary things about being at the beginning of the shift is not knowing what’s coming next. It’s hard to adapt our Church and our minds to the next era when we don’t know what to adapt them to.
If we want to keep our Christianity it is going to have to change, but we will change with it. The secular parts of our lives are already moving very quickly toward the next model. Personally I really doubt Christianity will go away entirely but we will have to put in the hard work to build it strong and make it ready for the way our grandchildren see the world. God is still here, Church or no Church. But the Church will need to be flexible and sturdy to accommodate new hurts and needs and aspirations that we cannot imagine right now, because God knows what is coming better than any of us.