More and more I am coming to agree with the idea that we are not living a secular culture in which the majority of people are without belief or faith. Rather I am increasingly using the term Post- Coventantal to describe our culture. I believe our culture is not turning its back on religion or spiritual beliefs, rather it favours a contractual approach to life, in which the individuals rights are paramount in contrast to a covenantal framework in which community and commitment are valued over the individuals rights. In the Trouble With Paris I write,
“The cell phone contract worldview tells us, “Don’t get stuck in a relationship. Even though the person you are with is attractive, someone better could be just around the corner. Somewhere there are better friends, better sex, a better experience, and a better product, so don’t get tied down. Relationships and commitment limit your options.” As sociologist Zygmunt Bauman shows us, our hyperconsumer culture constantly tells us, “Don’t let yourself be caught. Avoid embraces that are too tight. Remember, the deeper and denser your attachments, commitments, engagements, the greater your risk.”
We run from those promises and covenants that humans have made to each other for thousands of years because they frighten us to death. Many today fear such commitment-based social institutions because self now takes precedence over commitment. As the worldview of hyperconsumerism has taken hold of our imaginations, everything has become shopping. We must not become entangled in commitments, because they could limit our options on finding something better.”
The Post-Contractual age is not just a challenge for the Church, just ask any marketer trying to sell health insurance, anyone trying to run a volunteer organisation, or anyone working in any field in which people are asked to show commitment and loyalty. Interestingly if you think about it, most of the current controversies about sexuality in the Church are more about the shift from a covenantal framework to a contractual one.
Thus it is not that we as the church face a crisis of belief, rather the church faces a crisis of commitment. This raises many questions about how we do mission but also perhaps more importantly how we do discipleship. Personally I believe that as our culture shifts more and more towards a contractual framework, the more that the covenantal soaked reality of biblical faith will be a key in the Church’s future mission in the first world.