*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 1st of September 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

It's a mailbag week as I am learning about things like what a “slab leak” is, what PEX piping is, and why when someone re-floors your house, they shouldn’t just try and lay down new stuff on the old stuff… good times.

Brian in Oregon wrote and, unfortunately, just said Oregon- like it’s a city name. Which… wait… there is an Oregon City, Oregon. Which is redundant, but where we are placing Brian. Brian, of course, would then know of his fine city named for a state is the home of 90s one-hit wonder Meredith Brooks.

Brian asked, “seeing the church from a historical perspective, what do you see as the most pressing issue in the church today?”- This is not an uncommon question. The “you’ve seen the past, what does the future hold?” Question.

Unfortunately, I am not in the future telling business- I wish I were and that I had something like the Grays Sports Almanac from Back to the Future 2. But, I do see trends in the past and wonder how they might hold up over time and also mirror things we’ve seen before.

So- in no particular order- let me give you the pressing questions and issues I see being an issue over the past decades and perhaps into the next-

First:

Understanding culture- once we define our culture, we can ask if the church should transform it? Defeat it? Come alongside it and encourage faithful individuals inside of it? Yes- the old Niebuhr categories are helpful. But perhaps we need to get more granular. Much of this is being done via the study of demographics which I think can be fruitful. In 2011 75% of Americans identified themselves as religious (and the vast majority of these were Christian), while that number is down to 63% in a decade. This is a major shift, and depending on where you live, you might see it more or less.

I think the idea of an “American culture” can be put aside. We live in a balkanized country and world- and it's happening, in part, due to the second issue:

Understanding media: I think I could make a case that since the age of mass production and publication (over the past five centuries) how we get something can be as important as what we get (think of Marshall McLuhan's “the medium is the message”). Over 90% of people born since the late 90s report getting their news from social media.

The decline of journalism is a problem. The decline (?) of critical thinking skills is a problem. The rise of tribalism is a problem. And all of this ties the problem of understanding media to an evergreen issue in the church:

Understanding authority: that is, “who says?” And “who is in charge?” Is it a person, a group of people, a certain text, a show of hands, so-called professionals, etc.? Perhaps you wouldn’t be surprised that many of the stories and conflicts we have talked about on this show have to do with the question of authority.

And then lastly, another topic within a topic- but we need to Understand and define Christian unity. It is something that every generation has had to deal with. Who is on the team? And to answer that, we need to answer: what is Christianity? And then, based on that, how broadly can we build coalitions to foster unity?

[And yes: this is a theme that is something like my hobby horse- it’s also the subject of Jesus’ last prayer in the garden, and if we think we have good news, we should probably be doing everything we can to talk about it without causing undue division….]

So- Brian, Understanding Culture and demographics, understand media and authority, and in all of this, understand defining Christianity and Christian unity. That is my answer for now- we have one more mailbag day tomorrow before we get back to our regularly scheduled shows.

The Last Word for today comes from the lectionary for today from Psalm 139:

You have searched me, Lord,
 and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
 you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;
 you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue
 you, Lord, know it completely.

You hem me in behind and before,
 and you lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
 too lofty for me to attain.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 1st of September 2022, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.

The show is produced by a man whose favorite one-hit wonders include: Video Killed the Radio Star, Mickey, The Safety Dance, and Love Me Do- He is Christoper Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man with favorite one-hit wonders are the Oneders, followed by Captain Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters. I’m Dan van Voorhis

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.