I’m paging through the most recent First Things (March 2010), which is the 20th anniversary issue of the publication devoted to “religion in the public square.” And yes, this does make me feel old, thank you for asking. In any case, the first part of the magazine includes brief quotes from essays written in the magazine over the years. I thought this one, from the August/September 1990 essay “Worldly Wisdom, Christian Foolishness,” by Peter L. Berger, was interesting:
In a recent conversation, a sociologist in Spain who has studied the great changes that have occurred int he Roman Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council said something that struck me as very insightful. Christians who consider themselves “progressives,” he said, always tell us to “read the signs of the times”; has it never occurred to these people, he asked, that they might write some of these signs? At least in recent years, the stance of Christians (and by no means only Roman Catholics) in the face of the “wisdom” of the modern world has been largely passive, even supine–a “reading” rather than “writing” attitude.
The Gospel was subjected to the judgment of this or that worldly standard; rarely did the reverse occur.
There’s never been a time when the church didn’t have to engage the culture, obviously, but why is it that some people think the church should be following the culture and not leading it? You see the pressure to follow in many different ways. I couldn’t help but think of the above snippet when I read this recommendation that churches sort of follow demographic trends against childbearing — instead of leading the culture into a love of family, life, children, etc.