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.)
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.
“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.