My friend Steve is the researcher in Post-Christian Culture for the Anglican Church. He studies the cultural dynamics of religion in the UK, and develops resources for Christians to engage an ever-developing post-Christian society.
The US is following these same momentous, changing dynamics as Europe. This is not to say that Christianity is not the largest religious influence on the religious landscape of America, but rather it is an acknowledgement that Christianity’s traditional models for morality and public thought do not carry the same influence they once did in our country. The backstory to people’s lives are not driven by the Christian story like they once were, and this Christian story may not be the primary model for framing the lives of most people any more.
Now, the above point is an issue with its own sets of arguments and counterpoints, but that is not my point here, rather I am assuming the above is somewhat obvious to many people, and I am using it as my jumping off point for a far more radical statement: We are coming close to a post-Islamic world in places where Islam is now not only monolithic, but appears to be growing rapidly.
And of course, most people are probably wondering why I am so bold to make such a crazy statement.
The post-Christian era we are living in/moving toward was birthed in a combination of events and beliefs. It was heralded by what William Cavanaugh called, The Myth of Religious Violence, which was not to say that religious violence did not or does not exist, but to say that the declaration that religion is the primary source of violence is a falsehood perpetuated by a sad and sophomoric reading of history.
This post-Christian era is also ruled by a belief (whether accurate or not, is not my point here) that Christianity is out of touch with science, philosophy, daily life, and the 21st century altogether. This too is an exaggeration, but it is not a misreading of many sub-culture fundamentalist groups who still make headlines today.
The myth of religious violence is being applied to Islam far more aggressively than it is being applied to Christianity today. People are becoming afraid of Islam all across Europe, the Americas, and Africa. A friend of mine recently returned from a missionary trip to Bangladesh. In a place not known for the Islamic violence we read about daily, he was escorted from location to location, because it is now considered dangerous for Westerners to travel unprotected. The percentage of violent Islamic Fundamentalists compared to the overall numbers of Muslims is small, but their influence is disproportionate to their size.
In great part due to this religious violence myth, but also due to the religious conservatism of countries like Saudi Arabia, where women cannot drive, or travel on their own in public without a man, there is a sense that Islam is disconnected from the reality of a 21st century world.
Christianity began its slide from the prevalent story that formed European and American life and thought with these two factors as major contributors to the story. How far from this same movement away from their faith can Islam be in its own land? Moderate and liberal Muslims are fighting to keep their faith in the face of a growing violent subculture within their own belief system. It cannot be far from the days when many will flee the faith they were raised with for something they feel models their own personally held convictions. They will run to Christianity; they will run to New Age and Pagan belief systems; and they will run to atheism as sources of consolation from this growing cognitive tension. Or, at least, this is my prediction.
My friend Shah Afshar is raising money, and beginning to film videos, which will be sent into Iran. He is a former Iranian Muslim, who is a Christian minister. I spoke with him this week, and shared this view with him. I told him that his timing could not be more perfect for his work. The number of seekers is already rising, and the discontent is growing. It has grown so dramatically, that people are fleeing for their lives. This is a small sub-story to the tragic refugee crisis.
I could be wrong, and those who predict that Islam will grow as large as Christianity by 2050 could be correct, but I think that the severity of this current crisis of violence and oppression could become a stepping stone to a growing post-Islamic world. This could become a big part of the Islamic story very soon.
To my Muslim friends: I feel for you. I can only imagine your frustration, your pain, and at times even your public embarrassment, and I do not hold you responsible for the atrocities of your so-called religious fellows. My prayers are with you.