Peace, Secularism, and the Failure of Christianity
I have no evidence for what follows; this is a work in progress and is one observation with which many complementary observations can certainly coexist.
Three generalizations: (1) despite the dire optics, the world is statistically less violent today than ever before (cf. Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined and these charts), (2) it is widely acknowledged that Judeo-Christian values have heavily influenced the Western world, but (3) the emphasis on human rights, social justice, and peacekeeping (even if an underwhelming caricature of peacemaking and nonviolence) that has made our world more liveable for more people has coincided with the increasing secularization of the Western world, often through altruistic government policies and legislation, greater international cooperation, and more sophisticated technology.
Could it be that the inability of flawed humans to follow Jesus’ nonviolence, limitless forgiveness, and radical humility created the conditions for inevitable failure, and that the secular Western world has seized on this failure—much like Gandhi who famously observed, “Your Christians are so unlike your Christ”—as a way to correct Christians? In this way, the conspicuousness of the failure of Christians from the perspective of outsiders who influence society has created the impetus to correct them and build a more peaceful world as a result. The conspicuousness of the failure of Christians to live up to the standards of Jesus’ nonviolence has become more conspicuous than the teachings and example of Jesus’ nonviolence themselves. This conspicuousness has shed a brighter light on what Christians are not doing well, thus begging for a corrective from the secular world because the corrective is already visible—i.e., Jesus’ teachings as residue from the aforementioned Judeo-Christian values. This corrective is therefore nearly inevitable.
Yet could this even have been part of God’s design, especially given his awareness of humanity’s weakness and fickleness and therefore his followers’ inevitable failure (even of his own disciples in his own day) in subsequent centuries? Could he have known that we would fail and known that there would be a corrective due to the conspicuousness of this failure? Has the secular world therein become Christianity’s Good Samaritan?