Hearing from the Other Side



Last Sunday morning Phil Zuckerman was our guest at Borderlands.  He is not an Anabaptist, was not reared in an Amish or Mennonite home.  He is unlike us, yet in other ways like us.  I believe he is worthy of our attention

He introduced himself as a Jew who was reared in a secular family. That is, his grandparents and parents formed his values without the aid of religion, without God and without the Torroh as revelation.   He was taught to devote himself to the here and now, not the eternal.

(In this post I attempt to explain Zuckerman and secularism.  If you click here you should go to a video of a LA Times interview in which he explains himself and his understandings.  It is almost like talking to him in person.  If you click here you will go to  a New York Times review of his most recent book:  Living the Secular Life.)

LivingAs a youth, Zuckerman was curious about people who were religious and began to examine their beliefs and ways.  In the process he became aware of three “Bs”:  belief, behavior, and belonging.

If I understand him, Zuckerman does not think that religion and a belief system are required for a full life, or for shalom in a society.  However, he conceded that personal religious beliefs may be sources of beauty and comfort.  Some individuals who profess not to believe the dogma of the church, still attend College Mennonite or some other church.  I understand that.  I think I attend music events at Sauder Hall for much of the same feelings.

The second B is behavior.  Rites and ceremonies are associated with most religions.  Zuckerman admires Quakers who shun ceremony. In my way of thinking, behavior trumps belief.  Christians too often dim the light of Jesus by what they do. Ask Zuckerman how secularists give good morals to their children and he will say that they tend to shape their children by the golden rule which he claims to be older than any religion.

The third B is belonging.  According to Zuckerman belonging to group is a human need that religions excel in providing. A secularist who leaves the church will likely miss a sense of belonging. So some secularists are developing Church-like groups that have activities for families to belong to.

challenges-ahead-900-x-500-900x407“The Rise of Secularism in the US: Possible Causes, Effects, and Implications” was the title of Zuckerman’s lecture to New Perspectives on Faith.  He began by reciting data that gave statistical evidence of an unprecedented rise in the number secularists. People are leaving religions in spectacular numbers. This is a challenge to the those of us who care about churches and society.

About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
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2 Responses to Hearing from the Other Side

  1. Raymond Martin says:

    I like much of what Zuckerman says in the video. I do not believe secularism has no moral base. Sadly, he has a reason to feel some Christians believe that.
    I think we need to offer him a new impression of our relationship to God. I admit, I grew-up with that “eye in the sky idea.” It seems to me he needs to see that many Christians are living beyond the morality religion we grew-up with. I would like for him to know that our God suffers with us when we make unwholesome decisions. In your discussion with him, did this come into the discussion. Tell us more about your time with him.

  2. Harold Bauman says:

    Zucherman touted the Scandinavian countries as stable cultures, in development since the early 70s. In Hebrew history during the reigns of David and Solomon,Hebrew religion declined and peace and calm prevailed, but ended when other countries got involved. Zucherman said he was making no predictions on how long the Scandinavian countries would continue secular. I’d like to be around another generation or two to see what develops.

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