In this chapter of the book, Dan and Neo resolve their dispute over how Christianity is changing. While I was reading it, I was thinking about why we Christians have so many different thoughts about such fundamental matters. It reminded me of a conversation I had with another parishioner months ago about how religion and culture shape each other. Once a religion begins in a place, its practitioners must incorporate aspects of that regional culture, in order for the religion to survive. Even though Christianity began in the Middle East, it has taken on local flavors in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, South America, North America, etc. People take parts of the religion that are most relevant to them, or that fit best into their culture, and magnify them. After hundreds of iterations of adaption, we get a global Christianity, and local Christianities, where different cultural practices and understandings have percolated through. Sometimes this looks like syncretism — and who cares if it is? Whatever framework someone needs to understand God is fine. If it works, it works.
There are lots of different ways to be Christian in the US right now. It’s tempting to take an “us versus them” stance but that’s inappropriate. I worry about schisms at least as much as I worry about fundamentalists making everyone look bad – an issue faced by any religious person. I also wonder why like-minded denominations don’t congeal into larger ones. I think the answer lies in the fact that Christianity has diversity. If we are going to keep improving ourselves and our relationship with God and each other, it is important to have differences in opinion. Obviously these discourses need to be respectful and constructive. Ultimately, I don’t think Christians would benefit from a Christianity in which everyone thought the same things, worshipped in the same manner, listened to the same people. Diversity can be uncomfortable but it is a good thing for a continually improving Church and a healthy community.