When his country started facing difficult economic challenges, Edgar Lungu, the President of Zambia, declared a national day of prayer and fasting. In his speech, he proclaimed, “We are a nation of faith. We are a Christian nation.” The call to prayer, which included shutting down bars and sporting events, inspired the BBC to investigate the relationship between religion and politics in last week’s podcast. The main question asked within that podcast was, “Is religion in politics making a comeback?”
Upon hearing the analysis offered by the commentators, the appropriate answer seems to be that politics never quite abandoned religion. Western Europe, with its decentralizing of religious institutions in the public sphere, has proven to be the exception rather than the model for how civilizations develop.*
Caroline Wyatt points out (in that BBC podcast) that even though many Western nations may have abandoned organized religion, the majority of people do not abandon a sense of spirituality. In yesterday’s episode of The Briefing, Albert Mohler discusses this idea that spirituality is deeply ingrained within the human psyche. Generally, secularism ignores this fact, and such ignorance appears to undermine some of the essential pillars that enable a civilized society to function and flourish.
Mohler cites a Wall Street Journal opinion column that serves as a scathing critique of the secular society described by the BBC commentators. While I am not particularly qualified to opine about the state of European morality, a secular culture that ignores the importance of spirituality overlooks one of the pillars of human existence. People cannot shake this deeply felt desire to connect with some spiritual reality, which can be demonstrated by the resurgence of paganism in the extremely secular societies of Norway, Iceland, and Japan.
I would not be surprised if many of those who participated in these pagan rituals claimed, “I don’t really believe this stuff,” even as they were walking through the doors of the various temples or shrines. We ought to expect such a response given the dogmas of secularism that claim the absence of the supernatural. Yet, this sense of a supernatural reality has not be weakened, and when secularism disregards that idea, it cripples a person’s ability to discern whether or not the spiritual experiences they seek and encounter are true.
I want to emphasize the word true in that last sentence because, given the reign of relativism, few will disagree that a person’s spiritual experiences are genuine. In other words, no one doubts that these people are experiencing something. Modernity would argue the experiences to be illusory, but their persistence within modern, secular society, which should be disabused of this illusion, discredits this notion.
Secularism provides no instruction as to how to navigate these spiritual sensations. Without such instruction, people will yield to whatever experience tickles their fancy since they have no way to investigate the veracity behind the experience. Once a secular culture becomes wishy-washy in the realm of spirituality, that indecision will spill over into the social realm.
When the spiritual pillar starts to crumble, the foundations of society at large will soon follow.
*Commentary on this issue starts around 5:50 within the podcast.