Friday, July 18, 2008
Blogging Bibby - Introduction
As a favour to my buddy John who is raising funds to join us in reaching a great Canadian city with a great Gospel of a great Christ, I've been reading Reginald Bibby's Restless Gods: The Renaissance of Religion in Canada.
For my American readers, and some of my Canadian ones, I need to introduce Bibby. He is a professor of Sociology at the University of Lethbridge (the first major Canadian city north of the Montana/Alberta border). He serves Canada and her churches in much the same way that George Barna does for the U.S. He is a Baptist believer who is a practitioner and student of Christian faith and practice.
Here's an important passage from his Introduction:
What a difference 40 years makes. Back in the early 1960s, experts who were trying to make sense of religious developments told us that religion in the Western world was in decline, an inevitable result of societies becoming more highly industrialized. The rest of the world would, with increasing industrial development, suffer a similar fate. Science made it difficult for people to think in supernatural terms, while institutional specialization left religion with a limited role to play. Religious organizations themselves were not only saying less and less to society, they were also becoming more and more like society. The overall result was that religion was declining in significance.
Such observations were part of what is known as the theory of secularization. Today the theory has been largely abandoned - - well in advance, incidentally, of the events of September 11, 2001, which poignantly underlined the ongoing presence and importance of religion worldwide. Among those who deserted the secularization ship were people who had helped to popularize the thesis.
I am glad I'm reading Bibby for the main reason that I can speak factually about the actual religious habits of my neighbours. One of the struggles of ministry and living in Canada is that relationships grow slowly like almost everything in this cold climate. Ducking into our garages in 20 below doesn't really help you get to know the stories, much less the beliefs and griefs and hopes of our neighbours. Slapping backs and hoisting brews over the BBQ every year for the 3 short months of summer means that over 5 years you've built 15 months of bridges. Since Bibby has talked to literally thousands of my new compatriots I am all ears and hopeful that I can engage my neighbours more knowledgeably and compassionately.