I was reading an article* about Muslims in America, post-9/11, when I had a realization:  the end of Christendom is a Christian value.

In June and July, I preached a four-part sermon series on how the social/cultural environment in North American has changed and the challenges those changes pose to the church.  The first change I spoke about was the end of Christendom.

There was a time in North America when Christianity and culture were interwoven and there was a Christian-assumption in our culture.  Christians (especially mainline Protestants) enjoyed social privilege and the culture made space for the exercise of religion.  Now we live in a Post-Christendom age, an age that is markedly more secular and diverse.  In fact, here on the west coast, we are so past Christendom that being part of a church is now counter-cultural.  One of the ways our society has become more diverse is by the inclusion of Muslims in the increasingly diverse religious spectrum in America.

It was as I read these two paragraphs that I reached my conclusion:

But what has happened since 9/11 is also important.  There has not been the level of communal violence as in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in countries like India, Nigeria or even Northern Ireland.  There hasn’t been the street violence such as that between Protestants and Catholics that rocked U.S. cities in the 1850s,  There has not been anything close to the detention policies that incarcerated thousands of Japanese-Americans during World War II.  Instead, calls for tolerance, understanding and pluralism from political leaders in both parties have been common….  While immigration has been a hot political issue, there has not been a blanket crackdown on Muslims or on Middle Eastern immigrants.

Indeed, my own assessment … is that 9/11 and the backlash against Muslims that followed will be a historical bump-in-the-road toward the incorporation of Muslims – like Catholics and Jews before them – into the American religious and social mosaic.

(The article goes on to acknowledge post-9/11 government policies permitting detentions, deportations, and interrogations that have left many Muslims feeling vulnerable.)

As I read these paragraphs, I thought about the voice of mainline Protestants, especially over the past three for four generations.  Mainline Protestants have, for the most part, stood up for civil rights.  We have been much of the strength supporting ecumenical cooperation.  We have stood against anti-Semitism.  And post-9/11, mainline Protestant voices were among the first and loudest to call for tolerance, understanding, and pluralism.

In other words, we have worked hard to support the diversity that is a hallmark of the end of Christendom.

Supporting the end of Christendom has meant supporting the end of privilege and power that came with Christendom, privilege and power from which we have benefited.  But then, that’s a Christian thing to do.  After all, Jesus said, “whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave.” (Matthew 20:26-27)

I only wonder what took us so long.

* Rhys H. Williams, “Muslim in America,” The Christian Century, June 15, 2010, p. 32.

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