February 12 2016

by Alexei Laushkin

Alexander Schmemann has an excellent essay on the nature of secularism titled “Worship in a Secular Age” (click here to read). Well worth the read, when a lot of Christianity can seem overly politiczed especially as we go deeper into 2016 it’s worth asking what is the substance of Christian faith and why is it different than the good life that many of us desire.

In the essay Schmemann posits that secularism is a denial of man’s very nature, his createdness as a being made in the likeness of the Holy Trinity. It’s a negation of our sense of time and place and a particular failure of Christianity to create meaning and contours for daily existence.

Secularism has many features similar to Christianity, especially in its ability to give coherence to daily life, but tells you of its self importance in numbers, health, wealth and strength. I am doing well because I am healthy, have stability, and my family is doing well. I may not be happy, but those things are what success looks like so I am doing well. In essence secularism deprives life of its essence and deeper significance.

Put it another way secularism is about living life according to financial standards and status standards and individualistic standards and saying those are what define life and give it meaning. A secularized Christianity is one that simply seeks to bless the every day meaning that too many of us give to what is important in life and why, instead of faith that seeks to give meaning and richness and fullness, its faith that simply is oddly fitted in to what is otherwise a satisfying life. Under its spell life becomes safe, but never profound and never particularly beautiful.

This week marks the start of Lent. Here are the words of invitation from the Book of Common Prayer:

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer. Amen. 

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