Nick Spencer reflects on what is (isn’t) likely to happen as Western culture drifts away from Christianity.
There is some sense that this Christian understanding of human dignity – inviolable human dignity – and what it means might be being lost.
There are two really important caveats here. The first is that it’s very easy to get apocalyptic about this: “oh, my goodness me, unless we all turn back to the church next week we’re going to hell in a hand cart”. That is not what I am saying. The second point is that I’m talking about, if you like, deep sea intellectual currents. These things change over centuries, not decades – let alone years or so. So if we see any change in Western culture because of a drifting away from Christianity, it won’t be within my lifetime. And I’m still kind of young and vigorous (I like to think, anyway).
So they are very important caveats. But in things such as … and you tend to see it around the beginning and end of life debates – and I don’t particularly want to gravitate to those, but that’s kind of where you see them. In the idea that the human life can be determined by the value that the human puts on that life – or in the case of the very young and the unborn, that somebody else puts on that life – you are moving away from the idea that that life is valuable irrespective of what you think about it.
Now I don’t see that leading towards a gas chamber – that is emphatically not what I’m saying here. But it’s always worth attending to the way in which we engage with those who are at the periphery or perhaps the weakest points of our society, those who are not able to defend themselves, or articulate their own worth. And that, I think, probably in the longer term is my greatest concern about drifting away from this Christian conception of the human.