Saturday, February 13, 2010

Faith and Globalization

Miroslav Volf is the Henry B. Wright Professor of Systematic Theology and Director for the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. In this video he introduces his students at Yale University to a course on Faith and Globalization. The topic is one that has interested me since I first read an article in the February 2002 issue of The Atlantic, entitled "Oh Gods." In that same year, Philip Jenkins' book, The Next Christendom, came out, which brought to our attention the great shifts in the "center of gravity" of Christianity that took place right around the time of the new millennium.

While Christianity continues to grow, at least in the "majority world," it is true that the potential for global conflict caused by religious forces continues to alarm many socio-political observers. As my colleague, Dr. Adam Francisco points out, it is one of the prime motivations for the militancy of the neo-atheists, who, unlike the old atheists who where content to sit back and chuckle at religious fools, have become much more "evangelistic" in promoting their message--that we could have a much greater chance for world peace if we could do away with religious beliefs.

In this video, Dr. Volf makes an interesting assertion, that our contemporary western culture is more about "a managed pursuit of pleasure, than a sustained endeavor to lead the good life." It would seem, that there is a conflict between the globalizing and secularizing influences of western culture, and the pursuit of a good life, "as defined by foundational symbols and convictions." At the same time, it is true that cultures and societies and nations and powers come and go, yet "faith" or "faiths" remain, he asserts.

He also points out how we must understand "faith," not as merely an idea or a belief that someone might hold to be true as an opinion, but for which there is no way of knowing whether the beliefs are really true; rather, when we speak about faith or faiths, they must be seen as a total way of seeing and understanding the world. Faith is foundational, or, as I would say, it is a worldview that governs all aspects of life and action.

It should be no surprise, then, that religion and globalization processes clash. And yet, Volf maintains, faith and globalization do not have to be seen as if they were in an adversarial relationship, and faith will continue as the motivating factor towards the idea of the good life, although he recognizes that sometimes those visions of good life, from one religious system to another, are in conflict.

I, for one, look forward to having the time to view most of these lectures as a way to gain a deeper appreciation for the interrelationship between the growing nature of Christianity worldwide and globalization processes. I realize I've gotten a little off track from the original intent or outline of the blog, but bear with me--I'll try to tie it all together.

Watch it on Academic Earth

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