The Pattern of This World : The Age of Authenticity according to Charles Taylor (Part 2)

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Authentic

Beyond his general description of the Age of Authenticity (remember, a period characterised by a social imaginary of expressive individualism and mutual display which allows us to make our chosen identity seen), Taylor also offers insights about its effects on faith and spirituality:

  1. The shining promise of the next new product, which always offers a greater satisfaction, is like a “stronger form of magic” than faith, which draws us away from traditional belief.

  2. The spiritual life I undertake must be my own personal choice.

  3. This spirituality must speak to me personally, and help me to develop according to my own understanding of meaning and purpose.

  4. Spirituality is a personal quest, something which each person must discover for themselves, without taking anything for granted.

These four elements present both challenges and opportunities to help our three types of people (and we ourselves!) to know Jesus. Each is worth a deeper examination, but here are a few quick reflections:

  1. Consumerism is a lie, but we have something that keeps its promise.

    The next gadget will never really satisfy. If only we could realise it. But it is not easy to listen to the ever-present voices of marketing. Materialism, and especially the hope of a satisfaction based on comfort and material stability, are very present in North American society and especially so in Quebec. The church is no exception. But we can learn to live a counter-cultural simplicity, and a satisfaction in need as in abundance. We can even, in love, sacrifice our abundance for each other. This is an enduring satisfaction, contrary to the offer of consumerism. We have thousands of years of examples to follow : writings and stories of people who were not influenced by our cultural blind spots. Let’s learn from the examples of our brothers and sisters who knew the joy of God without today’s material abundance.

  2. The idea of a personal choice is very much compatible with orthodox Christianity. Even without falling into decisionism, the most historical expressions of the faith encourage a personal commitment and responsibility.

  3. Similar to point 2, in a true relationship with God, He will speak to the individual. But God’s plan is only half-way aligned with this point. We need to resist the temptation to allow ourselves to define the goal of our transformation for ourselves. Unfortunately the idea that God knows better than us what we need is not easy to swallow, but like in every relationship, we should expect that God will have something to tell us. If we are willing to receive from others only what we want to hear, we will wind up lonely, just as truly in the spiritual world as in the material world.

  4. Again, the idea of an individual quest is a mixed blessing. The idea of a quest hints at difficulty – a kind of feeling that the answer simply cannot be easy to find. This is a problem in a society with a so strongly Christian history, with such easy access to churches, the Bible, and quality teaching about God.

    But are there ways we can use this idea to help people find God? I’ve noticed (and herd reflections from various other ministry workers) that a large proportion of Québécois who come to faith spend an important part of their journey outside the province. There are surely various reasons for this, such as an easier access to authentic Christian community and interactions with different ways of seeing the world. But I wonder if one of these reasons isn’t related to the idea of the quest : the Truth? It comes from elsewhere, from far away. I need to go to look for it.

    How can we work with this belief? Could a cross-cultural spiritual retreat, or some sort of reverse missions trip, help people come to know God?

Next post : The Model of This World : Bad Maps

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