December 12, 2019

Richard Beck on Disenchantment and Death

Imagination. Photo by Thomas Hawk at Flickr. Creative Commons License

We haven’t quite been able to keep up with each of Richard Beck’s posts in his series on being a “post-progressive,” but today I’d like to make just a few more comments about some of what he says. I know a number of you have been reading Beck regularly and pondering his critique of his progressive Christian friends. I think it’s important stuff, not least because it reminds me that life moves on.

The evangelical Christianity of the mid-20th century morphed into evangelicalism, which produced a flow of people moving into post-evangelicalism, some of whom embraced “emergent” Christianity and more “progressive” forms of faith. In recent years progressive voices have come to the fore primarily because of the increasingly partisan political divides in the U.S.  As evangelicalism became more thoroughly connected to the religious and political right, so progressives reacted against that and became more vocal, supporting ideas and positions identified with the religious and political left.

But now some people, specifically Richard Beck (a self-identified “progressive” Christian), have begun to question the direction this movement is taking and to suggest that it might be time for a “post-progressive” perspective, offering course corrections and, indeed, some fundamental reworking of so-called progressive Christianity.

Here are the links to Richard Beck’s recent posts on this subject:

Part 1: Moving On
Part 2: Reconstruction
Part 3: Church
Part 4: Bible
Part 5: Enchantment
Part 6: Love
Part 7: Salvation
Part 8: Science
Part 9: Sexuality
Part 10: Class
Part 11: Hope

I would like to conclude my reflections on Beck’s critiques by considering what he says about “enchantment” and “hope.” As one who works as a hospice chaplain, these two areas were of great interest to me because they speak to the heart of what I encounter every day.

The Need for Re-Enchantment

By and large, progressive Christianity is characterized by disenchantment, a skeptical stance toward robustly metaphysical and supernatural expressions, experiences, events, and beliefs within Christianity.

I’ve described already how many progressive Christians struggle with doubts concerning the existence of God. But it’s not just God, it’s a whole suite of supernatural beliefs: the activity of the Holy Spirit, miracles, the power of prayer, angels, demons, the Devil, and the existence of an afterlife.

And when progressive Christians do use supernatural language, it’s generally given a disenchanted meaning. For example, prayer is largely understood with progressive Christianity as being a therapeutic exercise. We don’t expect miracles from prayer, but prayer, as a form of meditation, can be an effective coping strategy in facing life stressors. In a similar way, visions of evil are also disenchanted. Evil isn’t caused by supernatural agents like the Devil, evil is caused by systemic forces of oppression. Similarly, heaven isn’t an otherworldly destination or reward, heaven is a political vision, the kingdom of God manifested in a just and peaceful world. And a final example. The death of Jesus on the cross didn’t fix any metaphysical problem regarding our sin and God’s righteousness. The death of Jesus is primarily a moral demonstration we follow and emulate, an example of what love looks like. Jesus only saves us through moral persuasion and emulation.

In short, progressive Christianity tends to unpack faith in disenchanted ways, either therapeutically, morally or politically. No reference to metaphysical or supernatural realities is required.

H. Richard Niebuhr once critiqued “modernist” Christianity by saying, “A God without wrath brought human beings without sin into a kingdom without judgment through ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” In other words, he thought they had removed the very aspects of the faith that made it the faith. In the midst of the great fundamentalist and modernist schisms among Presbyterians in the early 20th century, J. Gresham Machen wrote Christianity and Liberalism, in which he argued that “liberal” Christianity was not just incorrect at the margins but so devoid of the actual teachings and traditions of the church and the Bible that it amounted to a different religion.

Richard Beck is more generous to progressive Christianity than that, however, he sees in the movement many of the same problems. For Beck, disenchantment is a step on the way — a necessary step for many — but not a place to call home. It’s part of the “deconstruction” process we talked about in an earlier post (see also HERE). As Beck warns, “…the general trajectory here is toward a loss of faith or a faith that is functionally agnostic or atheistic. I also think that it’s impossible to be a Christian without some metaphysical and supernatural beliefs and commitments.”

For some of us who chose a different post-evangelical path, namely a more “ancient-future” one, I can testify that re-enchantment has come about primarily through embracing a sacramental view of life and by celebrating that with the actual practices of sacramental faith in a historic and liturgical faith community.

If one can simply come to the Table and find that Christ is made known to us in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:31), if one can dip a hand into the basin and know that this water is for us “the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,” (Titus 3:5), if one can learn to follow the liturgical year and walk with Jesus through the Story of salvation year after year after year, then one’s spirit may become re-enchanted with the fact that, as Fr. Stephen Freeman says, “We live in the altar.” The sacraments don’t make things into what they are not, they reveal them for what they truly are.

Progressive Christianity, Richard Beck complains, has essentially bought into the Enlightenment worldview that virtually eliminates imagination in favor of empiricism. But “Christ plays in ten thousand places” (Hopkins), and for all our social justice work and political action, the world will be none the better if we do not join him in his play.

The Need for Hope in the Face of Death

In Richard Beck’s final post on the post-progressive perspective, he writes:

In countless talks with progressive Christians who have lost their faith, or who are on the edge of losing their faith, I’ve observed that death is increasingly triggering massive faith crises. Especially the death of children, teenagers, young adults, and even those in middle age. When death comes to anyone who has not lived into old age trust and faith in God is increasingly shaken.

Something about our relationship to death has changed, and this seems to be a modern phenomenon. To be sure, death has always been a challenge to faith. But for most of Christian history, the faithful have turned toward God and the hope of the resurrection for solace in the face of grief. Today, many progressive Christians don’t turn toward God for comfort, we turn away from God with angry accusations.

In fact, the reigning pastoral advice among progressive Christians is to avoid all mention of heaven in comforting the bereaved. To mention heaven to the grieving is increasingly taboo, and often described as hurtful and harmful. To be clear, I’ve seen the consolations of heaven deployed clumsily, too hastily, and too tritely, in ways that, yes, have been hurtful and harmful. Still, among progressive Christians it’s getting to the point where any mention of heaven is considered problematic and unhelpful. Again, in the face of death it seems progressive Christians are increasingly grieving as if they had no hope.

This is a subject that goes far beyond the bounds of critiquing progressive Christianity. But it is related to the disenchantment discussed above. The ultimate test of whether we have a “disenchanted” or an “enchanted” faith comes when we face death. Death presents us with the ultimate unknown and the ultimate unseen, impossible to measure empirically. It brings us face to face with the most fundamental and most “enchanted” of Christian teachings — that Jesus rose from the dead, giving us the hope of life in the age to come.

Beck summarizes well how our view of death has been altered dramatically by our isolation from it in the modern world. Our very unfamiliarity with death tends to cause us a greater angst when it invades our lives. We are more fragile and it causes us to question God in ways heretofore less common.

But it’s the lack of a genuine eschatological perspective that gives progressive Christians, in particular, trouble. Expressing doubts about the unknown and the unseen, as well as the traditional Christian teachings about such matters, is almost a badge of honor among progressives. It is the very definition of who they are. As a result, as Beck says, “In the disenchanted, progressive Christian experience the only comfort we are allowed to offer each other is therapeutic. We can listen to each other. Sit in silence with each other. Carry each other. Be there for each other. But we cannot offer hope.” As you know, listening, sitting in silence, and supporting others is at the heart of what I do and encourage others to do, but Beck is right. There is more. There is Christ. There is resurrection. There is hope. No matter how poorly it has been presented by Christians, the hope of the gospel remains.

Now I happen to think that the teaching of Christian eschatology has gone off the tracks in a thousand different ways, and that we must present a far better vision of the Christian hope than we have been given. In particular, dispensational and other popular versions of the future hope have promoted cartoonish visions of escapism that are now — rightly — scorned as silly and unhelpful. That many of these have been co-opted for political purposes is a shameful and, frankly, embarrassing legacy of American evangelicalism. And I can testify firsthand to the ground level misuse of trite religious clichés to batter the grieving into submission.

Progressives have a right to react to all of this. Deconstruction of “Christian hope” as it has been promulgated is inevitable in such a wasteland. But once again, this is a stop along the way, not the destination. As people like N.T. Wright are doing for us in recent years, we must work hard at rebuilding a robust sense of what Christian hope means and imagining that hope in more fruitful ways.

And, as always, learning to love those who are struggling with all of this.

Comments

  1. anonymous says

    Question:

    ‘enchantment’ describes a force which inspires in Catholic and Orthodox believers a morally conscientious outreach towards works of social justice;

    and yet this same force called ‘enchantment’ works a different way on fundamentalist-evangelicals inspiring them towards an exclusive protectionist isolationism that seems to be driven by fearfulness and a desperate need for self-preservation

    How is it possible that this same force called ‘enchantment’ works so differently on the ancient faith communities as opposed to a certain sub-group of the children of the Reformation?
    What are the dynamics involved?

    • I only have a moment to respond, and would love to hear others, especially from Catholic and Orthodox traditions, respond. My initial reaction is the difference between a truly sacramental perspective on life and an essentially Enlightenment perspective that still holds on to miracles and the supernatural in some fashion.

      Fundamentally, I don’t think evangelicals and fundamentalists in general are “enchanted” any more than the “secular” world they criticize.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        “””Fundamentally, I don’t think evangelicals and fundamentalists in general are “enchanted” any more than the “secular” world they criticize.”””

        +1,000

      • Burro (Mule) says

        I really don’t want to wade into politics today, especially the business about “refugees”. People can have differing opinions about unrestricted immigration regardless of what brand of Christianity they follow, and not all of it is driven by ‘fearfulness’ and ‘a desperate need for self-preservation’. You guys can r-e-e-e-a-l-l-y be uncharitable at times.

        As for ‘enchantment’ and ‘disenchantment’ the best place to start would be with F Stephen’s blog entries on The One-Storey Universe.. there was also an intriguing series by another Orthodox historian Fr. John Strickland, who traced the current imbroglio in the West (‘Nature’ vs ‘Super-Nature’) on the rise of an anthropological pessimism in Latin Christianity which was restrained and tempered while the West was still part of the undivided Church, but which ballooned out of proportion when they went their own way.

        To be fair, he also discussed ways in which the East suffered by the withdrawal of the West.

    • Robert F says

      Your question takes for granted some broad generalizations that are not necessarily accurate. For instance, according to a recent Pew research poll, 50% of Catholics believe that the U.S. has no responsibility to accept refugees. Now, that’s a significant degree better than the 75% of White evangelicals who believe no such responsibility exists, but it is also not nearly as good as the 65% of religiously unaffiliated and 63% of Black Protestants who believe such a responsibility does exist. Apparently, the enchantment at work in Catholicism has no better a record of avoiding “an exclusive protectionist isolationism that seems to be driven by fearfulness and a desperate need for self-preservation” than does certain forms of Protestantism (Black Protestantism) or secularism. Keep in mind that the sociological data on this is way too uncertain and tentative do draw airtight conclusions of cause-and-effect, and most of the inferences we do draw are based on correlations that are only a little less tentative and uncertain. A lot has to do with politics as it relates to social location rather than religion.

    • Robert F says

      Also, as a former Catholic who grew up in a Catholic family, received instruction in and was confirmed as a young person in the Catholic faith, I can tell you that Catholicism as an identity has a strong cultural/ethnic component that it is easy for Protestants and secular people to underestimate. A person may be a very infrequent attender of or participant in the Catholic liturgy for most or all of their adult life, may not be very religious at all, and yet readily identify as Catholic in answer to the question of what religion they belong to (and they would identify themselves as Catholic, rather than generic Christian). My parents were just such people, rarely having anything to do with the Church but for the significant life and ritual events, baptism, confirmation, weddings, funerals, Christmas and Easter now and then; yet they never hesitated to identify themselves as Catholic (especially when Jehovah’s Witnesses showed up a the front door). With such people, it would be incorrect to say that their social and political views, or their worldviews, have been formed religiously by habitual attendance at sacramental worship, since they are not habitual attendees at worship. Other factors than religion have formed their views, and this is easy to miss if you are eliciting sociological data about their view in a poll or survey. So it would be inaccurate to conclude that their lack of “exclusive protectionist isolationism that seems to be driven by fearfulness and a desperate need for self-preservation” is necessarily linked to their religion.

      • Robert F says

        In summary, based on the aforementioned, it is not possible to know if there is a significant causal link between the “enchantment” of Catholic sacramental religion, and a view of the world that is not “exclusive protectionist isolationism that seems to be driven by fearfulness and a desperate need for self-preservation” among those who identify as Catholic, because we don’t know if religious observation has played significantly into their views, or significantly formed their opinions. If they are in fact highly secularized Catholics, and not very religiously observant, it may be that political and other social influences have far more to do with their more generous views

        • Christiane says

          Being Catholic myself, I find that there is more sense of ‘who we are’ as a group in the acknowledgement of ‘what we believe’ about the core teachings of the Church than evangelicals who seem to be more ‘fluid’ in their thinking as they take their wisdom from the sacred Scriptures filtered through the interpretations of many different sources, and that’s okay with me, as long as people share with one another what it is that is meaningful to them, we all learn when we try to understand one another as ‘Christian’ people, sure.

          But in the Catholic world, you grow up and ‘serve’ . . . . part of your high school prep is volunteering in different venues: hospitals, care homes, schools as tutors, etc. . . . . we come to know our place in the community as a whole is also a part of our faith: love for no other reason than for the good of ‘the other’.

          I do know of evangelical people who give much to our community and share many of the same hopes for being of service to those who need help and need Christ’s kindness. One example is Wade Burleson in Enid OK, who works with prisoners and his ministry has born fruit. There is no doubt that this is a valid Christian work of mercy as is honored in the Matthean Gospel.

          But in my own experience and education, I see social justice involvement as a PART of Catholic faith, not just something that is done on the side.

          I see the Lutheran example of the same kind of ethic in the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran Christian martyr, who mourned ‘torheit’, ‘a kind of mental denseness about evil’ in his own day.
          And today’s Methodists are all about social justice, my goodness! Front line people! They are out there with the nuns protesting frequently!
          So service to ‘the cause’ is not limited to outside of the children of the Reformation, no. Just a particular sub-group with a strong strident political identity these days who do seem to suffer these days from ‘torheit’, keeping silence, looking ‘away’ from the plight of the border refugee babies sitting in their feces without hope of baths or clean clothing or diapers. . . . . a ‘moral denseness about evil’ has afflicted this group as Trump is elevated by them as ‘annointed’ by God, and he is seen as somehow helping their ’cause’ through political power. We all see it in them. Trump has taken advantage of this and this group in my own mind is very vulnerable to being led by him and by those ‘celebrity’ ‘christians’ who support him for the sake of a dominionist agenda.

          Since the days I was told that volunteering was a necessary requirement in order to graduate Catholic prep school, I have known that Catholics, as a group, do share an integrated ‘social justice’ ethic that is backed up by Scripture and by the traditions of the Church to be sent out, to give of self, to serve where needed.

          Today this ‘ethic’ IS clearly expressed WITH references, here:

          http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/justpeace/documents/rc_pc_justpeace_doc_20060526_compendio-dott-soc_en.html

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        “”” rarely having anything to do with the Church but for the significant life and ritual events…””””

        There is ample evidence that Evangelicals over-report their own religious involvement.

        A complicating factor is that many will self-identify as [generic no-modifier] “Christian”. To the point that [generic no-modifier] “Christian” does not mean much of anything; it certainly does not imply any ‘orthodox’ beliefs.

        “””A lot has to do with politics as it relates to social location rather than religion.”””

        Geographic location is too reliable a correlation to be overlooked.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          In my area, [generic no-modifer] Christian means “Calvary Chapel with the labels painted over”.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      “””and yet this same force called ‘enchantment’ works a different way “””

      One can be enchanted by many things. Those things can include Grievance and Privilege.

    • Dana Ames says

      anon,

      I think the worship and teaching of “classic Christianity” (unified Christianity up until about 800 AD) provides the ground – enchanted ground, if you will – from which a person can manifest self-giving love toward others. In olden times, this was called “charity”, from the Latin for “love” – so, concrete expressions of love. In the Catholic stream, this is called “corporal (bodily) works of mercy.”

      I don’t think it’s “enchantment” that is behind some Christians’ fears, but rather disenchantment. A Christian with an “enchanted” outlook would see him/herself, as Dallas Willard wrote, as always safe within God’s universe.

      Chaplain Mike is spot on with his remarks about the modernist Enlightenment view. Even if Christians claim belief in a supernatural aspect of their faith (which is already a dualistic view – see Fr Stephen’s posts mentioned by Mule), the post-Enlightenment context in which all of us live provides no basis for that faith aspect. It is now disenchantment that is the given, due to the rejection of the Sacramental reality of life. This whole discussion is a byproduct of the shallowness of ecclesiology among Evangelicals, and really, most Protestants.

      I think Anglicans retain more of the sacramental than other Protestants, but much of the time that is in outward form only; i.e. some Anglican churches retain a patron saint’s name, but the 39 Articles denies that praying to such a saint has any kind of effect. Most Protestants would affirm that Baptism and the Eucharist are important, but very few would even entertain the idea that Baptism actually changes something ***within a person***. Even fewer would say they believed that the Eucharist is truly Christ’s body and blood; not being such, taking it into one’s body would not have any kind of actual effect on anything other than the digestive tract. In the disenchanted, non-Sacramental view, the “place” where those “ordinances” – not Sacraments – actually happen within a person is in the mind/emotions. Fr Stephen has written on this, too.

      Of course, God is generous and meets people where they are, and with the devotion to Christ that they have as they make a conscious effort to live in a Holy Spirit-conscious way (however they understand that).

      Dana

  2. “By and large, progressive Christianity is characterized by disenchantment, a skeptical stance toward robustly metaphysical and supernatural expressions, experiences, events, and beliefs within Christianity.”

    A couple of points here. First, this is hardly just a “post-progressive” phenomenon – you’ll find a strong anti-supernatural bent in a lot of Reformed circles as well. Second, both manifestations of that bias can to some degree be chalked up to reactions against the sentimental unthinking hyper-supernaturalism of a lot of evangelicalism, particularly the Pentecostal and televangelist wings. Third – and let’s be brutally honest here – how much actusl unequivocal supernatural experience do ANY of us have? Sunday School makes it seem like miracles are a dime a dozen, but apart from specific junctures in biblical history, the vast majority of believers throughout time probably saw no great miracles. Yet those are what we fixate on.

    And let’s be brutally honest some more – death IS a tragedy worth raging and weeping over, whether the dead one is 1 or 100. I’m not into meek acceptance of death – and neither, I suspect, is Jesus.

    • And let me add one more bit. Death DEMANDS a supernatural faith. Social justice, heck yes; renunciation of power and hatred, yes; but Death awaits us all. Unless the promises of Resurrection are true and real, even the best life is lived in vain. “And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.”

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      “””First, this is hardly just a “post-progressive” phenomenon ….. Third – and let’s be brutally honest here”””

      I had the same immediate reaction, but I feel the last 2-3 paragraphs of the article address it fairly.

      “””Sunday School makes it seem like miracles are a dime a dozen, … the vast majority of believers throughout time probably saw no great miracles. Yet those are what we fixate on. “”””

      In fairness, it is hard to fixate on silence. How many history books are written about the years of Wold War II vs. the 1970s? Fairly, I cannot think of any group that doesn’t fall into this trap, although some are certainly more self-aware than others.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      Upon a second reading the only thing that really pokes me is: “””and for all our social justice work and political action, the world will be none the better if we do not join him in his play.””” As this statement is simply, demonstrably, false.

      The world IS BETTER do the work of the ‘godless’ and unenchanted. I could introduce someone to them. To keep to the simple meaning of this assertion would require some rhetorical song-and-dance. Families having housing, people being warm in the winter, etc… one would have to make that into “not better than the alternative” somehow [at which point, IRL, I’d probably want to stop being friends].

      • Robert F says

        Yes.

      • ATW, I don’t mean to deny your point. You’re right. What I mean to say is that without an enchanted contribution, Christians will not be able to contribute the one distinctive thing that they can offer in making the world better.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          Thanks, that is helpful.

          It is a good post.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          …without an enchanted contribution, Christians will not be able to contribute the one distinctive thing that they can offer in making the world better.

          At which point, all they can do is point to what someone else is doing and go “ME TOO!”

  3. Progressive Christianity: I have, as an outside observer, been trying to figure out what this is. So far as I can tell, and I am serious here, it is white Evangelicals who vote for Democrats. Whether this excludes them from the category of “Evangelical” depends on who you ask. The discussion at hand is about how this plays out.

    Beck describes “liberal theology.” This is the theology of John Shelby Spong and the Jesus Seminar, removing the supernatural from religion and leaving Jesus as a moral teacher. It is what Evangelicals imagine of the mainlines. The thing is, it really isn’t, at least not in general. I have been attending mainline, mostly Lutheran, and not a few Episcopalian, churches my entire life. I have never once heard liberal theology, either from the pulpit or in private conversation. Liberal theology, inasmuch as it ever was a thing, was a mid-20th century thing. I’m not sure how prevalent it was even then.

    Beck describes Progressive Christians going down this road. Perhaps it is: a phase that some go through on their journey. I doubt that the journey will end there. It doesn’t give much reason to get up early on Sunday morning. The journey may end up outside the church entirely, or some other church place. This, I suppose, is what Beck means by Post-Progressive.

    Then there is the “ancient-future” that Chaplain Mike describes. This seems simply to be traditional Christianity, as most non-Evangelicals (especially those less influenced by Reformed theology) have practiced all along. I can’t dispute this as a good place to end up, but it seems odd to coin a special term for it. I wonder if this isn’t a strategy to ease the transition for people ready to leave Evangelicalism, but who have internalized Evangelicalism’s slanders against other traditions. I have more than once read sad tales of woe of attempts to find a church that meet one’s needs, without giving even passing consideration to a mainline church. This is simply off the radar. So maybe assigning them a fancy moniker will help.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      “””Progressive Christianity . . . it is white Evangelicals who vote for Democrats. Whether this excludes them from the category of “Evangelical” “””

      That’s probably not far off.

      It is also, straight-up, less obsessed with Purity. That is a potent distinctive.

      “””Beck describes “liberal theology.”””

      I suspect that “Progressive” Christians are no more Theologically unified than “Evangelical” Christians [and there is ample data that “Evangelical” Christians have no Theological unity].

      “””Liberal Theology . . . It is what Evangelicals imagine of the mainlines. … I have never once heard liberal theology,”””

      This. I heard far more about Liberal Theology when I was in Evangelical circles [as a pervasive and insidious thing] than I have ever heard from my most Progressive friends. That is something I can’t get over; how much of a Trope “Liberal Theology” is. Sure, there are some overpaid professors somewhere churning out LT texts, yet on the street I don’t see anyone buying in. The myth of LT is a problem of Theological types [ideologues by nature] wanting to find an Opposite, where none is to be found.

      Or maybe somewhere LT is big; just not where we are.

      It is difficult for me, and this is possibly bias, to not see an Anti-Progressive hang-over from post-Evangelicals when they wake up in the morning and realize they are ‘one of us”, and are compelled to negotiate their way out of that [because we are gross].

      “””“ancient-future” that Chaplain Mike describes. … but it seems odd to coin a special term for it”””

      When “Christian” has been so effectively co-opted by Evangelicalism it is a rhetorically necessary construct.

      “””sad tales of woe of attempts to find a church that meet one’s needs, without giving even passing consideration to a mainline church. This is simply off the radar”””

      The Myth of LT makes “mainline” an object of disgust. Why not make it easier?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        It is also, straight-up, less obsessed with Purity. That is a potent distinctive.

        “Evil seems to be the side most obsessed with Purity.”
        — an IMonk commenter some time ago

  4. “Progressive Christianity, Richard Beck complains, has essentially bought into the Enlightenment worldview that virtually eliminates imagination in favor of empiricism.”

    On the contrary I would say that the “Enlightenment” provided us with imagination.as a distinctive category of thought. Before that people largely lived in their imaginations and confused it with empiricism. This is where fundamentalism is today.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      “Progressive Christianity, Richard Beck complains, has essentially bought into the Enlightenment worldview that virtually eliminates imagination in favor of empiricism.”

      i.e. “Just like bean-counting Materialism, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”?

      On the contrary I would say that the “Enlightenment” provided us with imagination.as a distinctive category of thought. Before that people largely lived in their imaginations and confused it with empiricism. This is where fundamentalism is today.

      Progressives go full-honk in one direction, so Fundies have to go full-honk in the other direction.

      Like Communism and Objectivism —
      Total opposites of identical extremism, at each others’ throats forever.

    • Yes, Stephen. Good observation. I don’t think we’re that far apart though. For in dividing imagination from empiricism, the Enlightenment tended to move toward making one “true “ knowledge and the other mere superstition. Fr. Stephen and others would argue that moving from a “one story” universe to a divided one involved great loss as well as gains. It is a difficult task for any of us moderns — evangelical or not — to cultivate a true sense of enchantment, when everything in our world screams that the unseen realities we perceive cannot possibly be “real.”

      • I wonder if Fr Stephen can now sympathize with the pagans of the 4th century who had the same complaint against the Christians. Christians saw the divine as “high and lifted up” where before there was a god in every glade, in every tree and stream. Did the Christians rob the world of wonder?

        • Burro (Mule) says

          Actually, the saints took the place of the pagan deities in assuming the patronage of place and activity. This impresses me as being quite important, and not as example of the trope “Constantine brought elements of paganism into the primitive Baptist/Pentecostal/Presbyterian Church”

          • Adam Tauno Williams says

            Agree

            The fervent anti-saintism of much of Protestantism is widely missing the point.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            My idea on the “Cult of Saints” is that Saints were officially-recognized Heroes of the Church, examples to look up to and follow.

            “Why should the Pagans get all the Heroes?”
            — A.D. (the miniseries)

            • Robert F says

              If only they hadn’t canonized some that never actually existed, like St. George and St. Catherine of Alexandria.

              • Headless Unicorn Guy says

                I chalk those up to the power of Legend. When the church was an underground outlaw religion, it was impossible to vet a lot of the stories of saints that were going around.

                Brunvand DIDN’T invent Urban Legends in 1981, you know.

          • Good point Mule. I think this may also be related (or manifested) in the evangelical disdain for worship that involves the senses (other than hearing [music], which drives emotionalism). It always bothered me that evangelicals (when I was one) saw only symbolism in the ‘ordinances’, where I think the point is that they are physical experiences that connect us with the spiritual, and God intended it to be exactly that way. The Old Testament worship is full of ‘physicality’ – the smell of the offerings being burned, the taste of the meat in the fellowship offerings, etc. The year+ we spent as Anglicans made me appreciate this even more.

            • Robert F says

              How can you have a physical experience that connects you with the spiritual by way of a Saint that never actually existed, and thus had no physicality or spirituality of their own, such as St. George?

  5. senecagriggs says

    Somebody said, rightly I think, a lot of people identify as Catholic who rarely participate in the historic church rituals.

    A large majority of people in the U.S. would self identify as Christians even though they almost never attend church.

    NOBODY identifies as Evangelical if they are not an active participant in Bible centered church activities.
    Being an Evangelical is the anti-thesis of political correctness. We’re about as popular as an Ebola outbreak.

    • Richard Hershberger says

      “NOBODY identifies as Evangelical if they are not an active participant in Bible centered church activities.”

      Yet I have heard many times over the past few years that all those Evangelicalis who voted for Trump don’t actually go to church.

      “Being an Evangelical is the anti-thesis of political correctness. We’re about as popular as an Ebola outbreak.”

      Really? So even in Oklahoma City, say, identifying as Evangelical is a bold counter-cultural move?

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        “””Yet I have heard many times over the past few years that all those Evangelicalis who voted for Trump don’t actually go to church.”””

        Which is a falsehood.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      “””NOBODY identifies as Evangelical if they are not an active participant in Bible centered church activities.”””

      Huh?

      This is, at best, a no-true-scotsman fallacy.

    • Rick Ro. says

      –> “Being an Evangelical is the anti-thesis of political correctness. We’re about as popular as an Ebola outbreak.”

      And this is when you should ask yourself, “Why?” And then, “When did this happen?” And then, “How am I projecting this?” And I’m serious here. You truly should ask yourself why you’re viewed as an Ebola outbreak. If the Good News of the Gospel and of Jesus’ saving grace is truly Good News the world needs to hear, when did the deliverers of the Good News become as popular as an Ebola outbreak?

      Just read the Gospel accounts, for heaven’s sake. People were FLOCKING to him to hear his Good News message. The only people who treated him like he had Ebola were his own fellow religious tribesmen, the irony being that THEY were the ones who’d turned the Almighty Father into an Ebola outbreak.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        “Jesus didn’t die so you could be an A-hole…”
        — some song I can’t find on YouTube

        And I’m serious here. You truly should ask yourself why you’re viewed as an Ebola outbreak.

        Much easier to just play the “PERSECUTION!!!!!!” Card as Proof of your own Righteousness.

        • Yep. There was a group (or two) in Jesus’ day who did exactly that, and proclaimed loudly that they were standing for the Lord! Jesus seemed to disagree with them.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            I call it “The Corruption of Righteousness” and it doesn’t have to be linked to a religion or spiritual belief per se. Any Cosmic-level Righteous Cause will do (and some not-so-Cosmic-level); in my state, we’ve got a LOT of thoroughly-secular “Corrupted by Righteousness” in positions of power.

    • Iain Lovejoy says

      “A large majority of people in the U.S. would self identify as Christians even though they almost never attend church.”
      72% of Americans attend church at least a few times a year, only 30% seldom or never do.
      22% of Americans identify as “Nones”.
      “NOBODY identifies as Evangelical if they are not an active participant in Bible centered church activities”
      Try 42% attending church less than once per week, 12% seldom or never, (and that’s what they admit to).
      “Somebody said, rightly I think, a lot of people identify as Catholic who rarely participate in the historic church rituals”
      The equivalent Catholic figures for those not regularly attending church are 61% and 20%, which are worse than evangelicals but better than mainline Protestant (67%/22%)
      https://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/attendance-at-religious-services/
      “Being an Evangelical is the anti-thesis of political correctness. We’re about as popular as an Ebola outbreak.”
      Nope. Apart from atheists, most other groups in the US have a net positive attitude to evangelical Christians. It’s Christians, in particular Evangelicals, who have a negative view of everyone else.
      https://www.pewforum.org/2017/02/15/americans-express-increasingly-warm-feelings-toward-religious-groups/
      This is kind of surprising to me, given how a lot of evangelicals seem to share your perverse pride in being an a-hole to other people, but there we are. You are just going to have to try harder to alienate people.

      • Rick Ro. says

        –> “This is kind of surprising to me, given how a lot of evangelicals seem to share your perverse pride in being an a-hole to other people…”

        Not to get too political, but President Trump’s a-hole-ness has enabled widespread a-hole-ness. Sadly, it’s not only his own fan-boys now that are doing it, but he’s enabled his opponents into that same a-hole-ness.

        I can’t wait until he’s out of office. But… how can I vote for the a-holes who are going to run against him?

        And yes, I am disenchanted and disillusioned…LOL.

        Please, Lord… send us someone who isn’t an a-hole!

        • Rick Ro. says

          –> “Please, Lord… send us someone who isn’t an a-hole!”

          A prayer spoken undoubtedly by many an Israelite through the times of Kings (and rarely fulfilled), and a prayer spoken by the people of every nation on earth at one time or another.

          The more things change, the more they stay the same. A-holes in power… nothing new, eh?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          –> “This is kind of surprising to me, given how a lot of evangelicals seem to share your perverse pride in being an a-hole to other people…”

          Not to get too political, but President Trump’s a-hole-ness has enabled widespread a-hole-ness.

          Actually, it can go both ways in a Chicken-or-Egg situation.

          Put the two together, and you get Eagle’s working hypothesis as to why so many Evangelicals became the most Fanatical of Trump Fanatics. (Like Taking the Mark in bad Christian Apocalyptic.) He hits the behavioral metrics the Evangelical Circus culture has come to associate with God’s Anointing, only more so.

          They are used to (or conditioned to by EC culture) seeing such a-hole-ness as Righteous and Godly, and when Trump acts like an ever bigger a-hole, well, he must be More Anointed.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        “””“NOBODY identifies as Evangelical if they are not an active participant in Bible centered church activities”
        Try 42% attending church less than once per week, 12% seldom or never, (and that’s what they admit to).”””

        And given the broadly recognized Halo Effect of surveys, these numbers are probably ‘optimistic’.

        If the number of people claiming to attend church attended church American churches would have a transportation crisis on their hands.

  6. Rick Ro. says

    Some of the criticism of this post seem to be upon wording and semantics again. To me, I love what’s said here. My own spin…

    –> “As one who works as a hospice chaplain, these two areas were of great interest to me because they speak to the heart of what I encounter every day. The Need for Re-Enchantment”

    Okay, let’s ignore the depth of that word for a moment, or the possibility that it talks about something that might or might not be sacrilegious or New Age-ish. If you look at its opposite–DISenchantment–this is something that seems to be widespread right now, not just in the US but EVERYWHERE. The world seems to be filled with disenchanted people these days, people worn out by hard living and crappy governments and heavy-handed authority. I mean, why do we have a immigration crisis if not for disenchanted people around the globe hoping to find some “re-enchantment” here in America?

    This is where I think I agree with Beck’s take: “In short, progressive Christianity tends to unpack faith in disenchanted ways, either therapeutically, morally or politically. No reference to metaphysical or supernatural realities is required.” To me, progressive Christianity has the right motive–helping people find hope and justice–but it becomes all about the WORK aspect of either finding the fix or providing the fix. That’s clearly a recipe for disenchantment, either due to expectations not being met (for the one looking for the fix) or burn-out (for the one trying to provide the fix). Then the blame game comes into play, too, where everyone begins pointing fingers at everyone else because either they are part of the problem or not doing their share.

    As he says, “‘Christ plays in ten thousand places’ (Hopkins), and for all our social justice work and political action, the world will be none the better if we do not join him in his play.

    –> “The Need for Hope in the Face of Death. Today, many progressive Christians don’t turn toward God for comfort, we turn away from God with angry accusations.”

    When you become a works-based (my term for “progressive”) Christian, this is only natural. “I did all the right things–and yet God STILL allowed this to happen!?!” is a work-based “God owes me” mindset and one that’s primed for disenchantment. (I’ve even seen FAITH turn into disenchantment, too. “If I believe in His promises hard enough, He will respond to my prayers,” is another mindset ripe for disenchantment (certainly more of an Evangelical mindset than “progressive,” though). So “progressive” Christianity doesn’t hold a monopoly on disenchantment.)

    –> “As people like N.T. Wright are doing for us in recent years, we must work hard at rebuilding a robust sense of what Christian hope means and imagining that hope in more fruitful ways.”

    Yes. But… but… there are those three ugly words again, “…must work hard…” Working hard is never the answer. We will always fail and then become disenchanted. Rather, we must pray that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit enable the change, using us as they can. I want to be a part of that, but “working hard” is a recipe for disenchantment and disillusion. They are words the Progressive Christian lives by, and then crashes and burns from.

    • Rick Ro. says

      –> “They are words the Progressive Christian lives by, and then crashes and burns from.”

      I should have added that this is why I like Beck’s term “Post-Progressive Christian.” To me, it’s a Christian who realizes (or has learned through experience) that a works-based faith is doomed to fail and that it will (or has resulted in) disenchantment and disillusionment.

      • You make some good points Rick, but you are using “disenchantment” differently than we are using it today. It speaks not of disillusionment but rather the removal of “enchantment” or “magic” or an unseen spiritual reality beyond the material world from our modern secularized worldview.

        • Rick Ro. says

          Yeah, I recognized I was taking a different spin on things, thus my opening caveat about wording and semantics. But I do believe that’s what separates the “work-based” aka Progressive Christian from the faith-based “Post-Progressive” Christian. I think the post-progressive has come to realize that, despite our great motives, work-based Christianity is doomed because it lacks the magic of faith, or that a focus on “doing” leaves out the work of the Spirit.

          This was why I raised the idea of the Holy Spirit element in my comment to Christiane. Maybe the “magic” of Post-Progression is stepping away from the disenchantment (lack of the Spirit’s involvement) and back toward re-enchantment (re-recognizing the Holy Spirit’s involvement).

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          It speaks not of disillusionment but rather the removal of “enchantment” or “magic” or an unseen spiritual reality beyond the material world from our modern secularized worldview.

          Which can act to remove God (and what is associated with God) so far from our reality that God may as well not exist. (I think that’s what you’re covering in Tuesday’s posting.)

  7. Christiane says

    “The ultimate test of whether we have a “disenchanted” or an “enchanted” faith comes when we face death. Death presents us with the ultimate unknown and the ultimate unseen, impossible to measure empirically. It brings us face to face with the most fundamental and most “enchanted” of Christian teachings — that Jesus rose from the dead, giving us the hope of life in the age to come.”

    It was THIS revelation ‘that Jesus rose from the dead’ that initially drew thousands to the young Church . . . the hope that they would see their dead loved ones again through the Risen Savior.

    Without the ‘enchantment’ of this hope, would the early Church have even got off the ground? 🙂
    Then there was all that ‘peace that was beyond understanding’ . . . . . enchantment? or grace? or just a merciful Presence in the midst of grief? But it was there in the beginning. For many, it still is there. Sacred? you bet

    • Rick Ro. says

      If the stone isn’t rolled away and the tomb isn’t empty, there wouldn’t be any victory over death or true salvation. Jesus would just be a man, an idea. Oh, and also… the Holy Spirit wouldn’t have been enabled.

      In fact, maybe “enchantment” has more to do with the Holy Spirit than anything else…?

      • Christiane says

        I think this too: ” maybe “enchantment” has more to do with the Holy Spirit than anything else”

        Catholics look to that ‘enchantment’ at the moment of their deaths. Take a look at this portrayal of the importance of the Holy Spirit in mortal crises:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZND53eM-Ks

        • Rick Ro. says

          Oh, yes. That scene is absolutely gripping, especially knowing what had just preceded it. The overall movie was so-so, but I liked it.

          There’s a scene similar to that in Saving Private Ryan, with a priests/chaplain on the beach giving last rites. I’m sure many other movies, too.

  8. senecagriggs says

    How many people do any of you commenters, [ male and female ] know who self describe as an Evangelical?

    Do you know any? I can’t think of anybody on this website that would be a self described Evangelical other than me. There are some conservative Christi

    The fact that an Evangelical [ on this “Christian” website] is described as an “A-hole” supports my very thesis; being a self described Evangelical is the antithesis of being politically correct.

    If you’re a self described Evangelical you will be attacked on generic religious websites. They will call you an “A-hole.”

    _______

    BTW, surely no commenter would suggest Trump is an Evangelical.

    • I do – probably hundreds. Having spent over 30 years in Baptist churches (25 in SBC churches), another 5 years in other evangelical churches, as well as having graduated from an evangelical seminary I know lots of evangelicals. For all that time ALL of our social contacts were evangelicals (can’t get your hands dirty with those pagans) and many still are. And almost every one of them I have contact with (directly or via social media) think Donald Trump is the messiah (God’s anointed leader for our nation) and believe any criticism of him is a satanic attack.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > How many people do any of you commenters, [ male and female ] know who self describe as an Evangelical?

      I live in western Michigan. Many, if not most, of the people I interact with on a daily basis would self-describe as such.

      > BTW, surely no commenter would suggest Trump is an Evangelical.

      There you go playing moving-the-goal-posts again.

      You said “self-identify as”; and Trump most certainly does.

    • Robert F says

      I work with many self-described evangelicals, and have regular discussions with a coworker who is Pentecostal but would also call himself evangelical.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        If both Pentecostals and Donald Trump call themselves evangelicals, the word can mean anything.

        Like “Smurf” or “Marclar”.

    • I also know hundreds of Evangelicals – albeit British ones, as well as Americans, the vast majority of whom are lovely lovely people. I am no longer an Evangelical (like others here), but for theological reasons, not because of the people.

      ‘Evangelicalism’ has a bunch of issues that I find tough, but to say that it is ‘politically correct’ to dislike it seems disingenuous – most of the things I don’t like are reasonable, not some weird out-there modern values. Sometimes I think the accusation ‘politically correct’ is just a way of not having to be a decent person, wanting actually to be deliberately bigoted in some way.

    • Rick Ro. says

      –> “How many people do any of you commenters, [ male and female ] know who self describe as an Evangelical?”

      I go to a Nazarene church. I’m surrounded by Evangelicals. Some have shed much of the Evangelical stink.

      –> “If you’re a self described Evangelical you will be attacked on generic religious websites. They will call you an “A-hole.”

      This the most ridiculous statement I’ve ever seen you make, and that’s tough chore.

      I’ve been an Evangelical Christian most of my walk. I have yet to have a non-Christian consider me an A-hole. In fact, when I became a Christian and told my non-Christian friends that I was “born again,” several of them told me later, “We thought you would become a Jesus jerk and we’d hate being around you, but amazingly we still like having you as a friend.” Two of those friends have since become Christians, too.

      In fact, if you read the gospel accounts, just about the only people I can think of who Jesus might’ve ever used the term “a-hole” with would be the smug, self-righteous Pharisees. So if fellow Christians are calling you out, maybe you should examine your heart and your representation of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

    • Even here in DC, “evangelical” is the default identity most non-mainline non-Catholics label themselves as. Even many who attend mainline churches will describe themselves as “evangelical”.

      You need to get out more.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        We’re approaching Latin American Spanish, where “Evangelico” means “NOT Catholic”.

    • “The fact that an Evangelical [ on this “Christian” website] is described as an “A-hole” supports my very thesis”

      If your goal is to pat yourself on the back for “standing for truth”, fine. But remember that the NT says it’s just as possible to be persecuted for being an @$$hole as it is to be persecuted for Christ.

      My dad had a saying – “If one person calls you a horse’s @$$, ignore them. If two people call you a horse’s @$$, take a good hard look in the mirror. If three people call you a horse’s @$$, get yourself fitted for a saddle.”

      • Robert F says

        Unless, of course, the three calling you that are part of a room full of horses’ @$$ss. Such rooms do exist, lots of them online. I’m not saying that’s so in this case, I don’t believe that, but these kinds of rooms are not unknown.

        • anonymous says

          everyone knows that there are more horses’ @$$ss out there than there are horses . . . .

          it’s just that there are so many of them that it may be time to stop calling them H.A.’s out of respect for the horses. There must be a more appropriate term that nails them but doesn’t dishonor horses. 🙂

  9. Richard Hershberger says

    “Do you know any?”

    Yes. Thank you for asking.

    “The fact that an Evangelical [ on this “Christian” website] is described as an “A-hole” supports my very thesis; being a self described Evangelical is the antithesis of being politically correct.”

    I know many self-identified Evangelicals of whom it would never occur to me to so describe. Quite the contrary, they often are genuinely loving, caring people. Not all, of course, but that is the way of the world.

  10. Robert F says

    I’m not sure I understand why people here are saying that the modern world is disenchanted. I find all kinds of weird and wild metaphysical beliefs among people around me, though much of it is not strictly connected, or connected at all, to institutional religion. The vast majority of people I’ve touched on this subject with believe in the magical and mysterious dimension of reality, though for many or most of them their beliefs don’t have a Christian pattern or shape. Belief in life after death, some form of karma or something like it, angels, reincarnation, ghosts, etc., are entirely unremarkable among the people I know. I know a person at work who otherwise identifies as agnostic, claims to have no imagination for anything supernatural or mystical, not even interested in watching movies that deal with those subjects because they have no grip on her imagination, but believes in the actual existence of mermaids.

    • Here is Beck’s summary of what he sees. He leans heavily on the analysis of Charles Taylor and his book, The Secular Age.

      In his book The Secular Age Charles Taylor talks about how, over the last 500 years, the world has become disenchanted. Five hundred years ago the world was enchanted, full of supernatural forces, witchcraft, and ghosts. A world full of thin places, where the border between this world and the Other world was porous and leaky. People then could become demon possessed or afflicted by magic. The night was full of occult menace. Black cats were bad luck.

      Things are much different today. We live in the aftermath of the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason. We are moderns. Science and technology now rule. With electric lighting the night has been banished. Our cities never sleep. So there’s no room for monsters. Medicine and psychiatry have pushed witchcraft and demon possession offstage. Worrying about black cats is superstitious and irrational. Ghost stories are just that. Stories. Fictional tales to scare the kids around the campfire.

      That said, in a more recent post, he raises the question that disenchantment may be something of a myth — http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2017/11/the-myth-of-disenchantment.html — and points people to Jason Ananda Josephson-Storm’s book, The Myth of Disenchantment: Magic, Modernity, and the Birth of the Human Sciences.

      • Robert F says

        Enchantment and superstition do not cover exactly the same ground, though they may overlap. The quote from Beck seems more focused on the way previous ages were superstitious rather than enchanted. I think these two terms need to be differentiated. Does anybody really want to return to a more superstitious mentality? I for one don’t.

        • Rick Ro. says

          –> “Does anybody really want to return to a more superstitious mentality? I for one don’t.”

          Neither do I, but that doesn’t stop me from turning my Seahawk cap around when they need some special mojo in order to pull victory out of defeat. 😉

        • The point is broader than that, Robert. The point is that the seen world and the unseen world were both understood as real. People obviously understood the unseen world in various ways, many of them superstitious, some idolatrous, and others according to the faith. But there was less division in people’s minds between what Fr. Freeman calls the “first storey” of daily life, and the “second storey” of spiritual matters.

          • I have come to experience “re-enchantment,” as I said in the post, “through embracing a sacramental view of life and by celebrating that with the actual practices of sacramental faith in a historic and liturgical faith community.”

            The Bible has also become a “re-enchanted” book for me by, for example, my acceptance of “myth” as a legitimate way for communicating “truth,” a way that encourages me to use my imagination as well as my mind when reading and interpreting the Bible.

            Furthermore, in my work I often speak of the change in my perspective when I came to understand that I as a minister do not “bring God” to people in whose lives God is “absent.” Rather, the God who fills all things has been working in their lives long before I arrived, and my task is to try and recognize what God might be doing and cooperate with that for their benefit.

            “The communion of saints” has become a reality for me, as I embrace that there are not 2 churches, one here and one separated from us in glory somewhere “looking down on us” from far away. Rather, “heaven” is more like another dimension that is present with us at all times, and the “great cloud of witnesses” is right here with us, interested in what is happening in our lives and able to intercede on our behalf.

            One of most personal ways I’ve experienced “enchantment” is by recognizing the experience C.S. Lewis testifies to when he writes of “Joy.” In his autobiography he described three relatively trivial experiences in which he felt a sudden, piercing pang of longing — a bittersweet ache and yearning for something far-off, other-worldly, and unnamed.

            • For most of my adult life, I participated in just such a liturgical faith community, spending a couple decades of frequent Holy Communion as an Episcopalian in churches and monasteries that had a high regard for the sacraments (our Catholic and Orthodox friends might not think it high, but my experience was that sincere Episcopalians both clerical and lay considered it serious business), but I’m afraid the enchantment failed to work on me. For many years I yearned for it to take hold of me, and I undertook practices that I thought would welcome it into my life, but, alas, it never came. I’ve learned to settle for a more quotidian spirituality that expects nothing but modest returns for my investment in mainline Protestantism.

              • One’s experience mileage will always vary. However, I appeal to Mother Teresa, who testified that she failed to feel the presence of God year after year, yet she continued to bring God’s love to the least of these, believing that Christ was with them and in them.

                • Robert F says

                  The resolution of Mother Teresa returns the issue to a matter of perseverance in personal faith, and makes choosing to believe, in her case “believing that Christ was with them and in them”, determinative of the viability of one’s faith. I don’t see how this differs from the classic Protestant or evangelical resolution of the issue.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says

              I have come to experience “re-enchantment,” as I said in the post, “through embracing a sacramental view of life and by celebrating that with the actual practices of sacramental faith in a historic and liturgical faith community.”

              Whose corollary is that the lack of “enchantment” (CM definition) in non-liturgical Christianity has left Evangelicals adrift in a world of only Matter in Motion.

              I think the original IMonk had a long-ago posting about “MAO Inhibitors” — what happens when your church culture removes Mystery, Awe, and Otherness from the equation. CM, you might want to search for that one for an “IMonk Classic” posting.

              • Headless Unicorn Guy says

                P.S. Make that adrift and grasping for any sort of spiritual-sounding straw (or fad) that comes by.

          • The seen world and the unseen world were both understood as real, but some of what was imagined in the unseen world, then and now, was and is in fact not real. There is no contiguity between those unreal things and authentic enchantment; they had and have to be dispelled for the background of enchantment to be free of the falsity and fear that attaches to superstition in the foreground. Without the division in people’s minds that Fr. Freeman is talking about there is no way to strain out pernicious superstitions, which are lies, from the background of enchantment they stand against.

            • I would agree with that, Robert. And there is no “going back” before the Enlightenment, nor would I want to. But I agree with Fr. Freeman, who says there must be, somehow, a reintegration of reality at some level in our thinking, speaking, and living, or else God will forever be consigned to a place outside the “real world.”

        • Norma Cenva says

          I concur Robert.
          And on disenchantment here in our gated first world Elysium?
          I would ask Dr. Beck if he’s ever seen a smart-phone zombie crossing a busy thoroughfare.