Karl Vaters on 7 Contradictory Cultural Trends, and 7 Ways Christians Can Respond With Integrity

Image: Paweł Czerwiński | Unsplash

The world is changing. Fast.

Unlike many of my contemporaries, I see a lot of good changes along with the bad ones, but no matter how you see it, change is hard.

And the extreme amount of change we’re experiencing now is overwhelming.

It’s especially challenging when so many of the changes seem to be contradictory.

Here are 7 contradictory trends that I’m seeing:

1. We’re becoming more aggressive and more sensitive

It doesn’t matter what side of the theological or political or theological aisle you sit on, people throw insults more quickly than they used to.

Those who see things in another way aren’t just different, or even wrong. Increasingly, they’re being called idiots, snowflakes, bigots, heretics and worse.

Yet it seems like the people most likely to insult others are the first to be offended by even the smallest expressions of opposition to what they believe.

2. We’re becoming more moralistic and less moral

It’s been interesting to see the kickback in Hollywood against the infamous “casting couch” in the last couple of years. With the #MeToo movement, the entertainment industry seems to finally be acknowledging that using power to demand sex from prospective actors is, at best, a betrayal of trust and, in some cases, illegal and prosecutable.

It’s about time.

So why, instead of embracing Hollywood’s newfound sense of morality, are folks in the heartland cynical of this new trend? Because it’s happening on parallel track with a coarsening of the culture from the same people who are wringing their hands about bad behavior.

Plus, it’s being done with 100 percent outrage and zero grace.

We’re not becoming more moral, just more moralistic.

3. We’re becoming more individualistic and more communal

Community organizations are in a signficant decline, including mainstays like kid’s sports leagues and church membership. But at the same time, there’s evidence that committed Christian faith is on the rise. Including among Milennials.

Meanwhile, many of these new individualists are starting to form new affinity groups. Young singles and families are heading back to the downtown areas where they can walk, talk and get to know people. And they want to join with others over common social causes.

People still feel drawn to connect with each other, but they want to do it in a way that celebrates their individualism.

4. We’re becoming more spiritual and more atheistic

The two fastest-rising religious groups in our culture are those claiming no religionand those claiming to be spiritual, but not religious.

We’re becoming a culture of the nominally atheistic and the generically spiritual. Sometimes the same person claims to be both.

This spiritual vacuum may actually be at the heart of the other contradictions. After all, if we can’t make up our minds about the ultimate questions of life, reality and eternity, how can we find a place to stand anywhere else?

5. We’re breaking from tradition and embracing heritage

New generations aren’t working, parenting, worshiping or shopping the way their parents or grandparents did.

But that doesn’t mean they want to disconnect from their roots. People are more interested than ever in exploring their ethnic heritage through tools like 23 and Me and Ancestry.com. Vinyl records, classic toys and vintage clothes are all making a comeback.

New generations want to build on the past, but don’t want to be tied down to it.

6. We’re becoming more digital and more analog

You know that group of kids that seems to be tied umbilically to their phones? They probably also spend a lot of downtime painting clay pots, making scrapbooks, or repurposing old furniture.

And they love the personal attention they get when they walk into the most tech-savvy places of all – the Apple store.

7. We’re becoming more empowered and more fatalistic

One of the underpinnings of populist hashtag movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp and even #MAGA is the recognition that every person has agency. We’re our own people, and we deserve to make decisions for ourselves, whether the prevailing powers like it or not.

At the same time, conspiracy theorists are coming out of the woodwork to tell us that the entire game is fixed by invisible powers beyond our control.

We have autonomy and we’re all puppets to unseen powers? No wonder we’re more confused than ever.

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Source: Christianity Today