Tomorrow's gods and Extinction Rebellion

The phrase “extinction rebellion” caught my attention in this BBC article about religions and their (according to the article) demises or transformations.

At first I leaped to a wrong association for the words … thinking them to be a nicely applicable reference to fringe movements (life flat-earth) that refuse to go away, and in fact may thrive on (and perhaps only because of) their very fringe nature. I was quickly reminded as I read on that actually the phrase is applied to the climate change movement that seeks to corral us all into more environmentally-caring lifestyles.

Even so, there could be interesting discussion to be had in both of those directions.

Coming back to the central thesis of the linked article, though; it seems to suffer from the same long-standing prejudice that nothing significant about any religions could possibly be long-enduring (except [possibly] our propensity to seek religion), and that religious evolution and transformation must surely be signs of inauthenticity and probable demise. But the author does at least acknowledge an apparent spiritual / social thirst we all have that seeks community and that drives many to seek it, even if they are taking pains to turn away from any religious trappings deemed too old or traditional.

I was reminded of the Rubin Report interview of a priest and Jewish Rabbi where the phrase “cut-flower” ethics first came to my attention. People can have fun with secular churches or spaghetti monster communities and such, but how much life-transformation, and beyond that: generational transformation will such a thing cultivate. In short … how “sticky” will it be to borrow the phrase from the article that rightly asks these questions. And perhaps it will help our culture get off its “one completely right - everything else completely wrong” incoherence that still plagues so many otherwise-intelligent nones today?

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That’s a good point, and something I also wonder about with the “rise of the nones.” It sounds like mainline denominations are losing members faster than more conservative evangelicals, and I’ve heard that attributed to the difference between “low-demand” and “high-demand” churches – the idea that the fewer demands a church/group places on its members, the more likely they’ll be to leave. Perhaps that’s why current movements and politics can become almost a religion in themselves, even among those who aren’t already “nones,” because they have demands that are current and feel more tangible. “High demand” reminds me of this quote from the article:

The pseudo-religious social order might work well when times are good. But when the social contract becomes stressed – through identity politics, culture wars or economic instability – Wood suggests the consequence is what we see today: the rise of authoritarians in country after country. He cites research showing that people ignore authoritarian pitches until they sense a deterioration of social norms.

“This is the human animal looking around and saying we don’t agree how we should behave,” Wood says. “And we need authority to tell us.”

I guess in that sense we all have a religion of some kind, even if we don’t call it that.


An interesting observation from the article that is cogent to discussions at this site:

Speaking as one who has an ax to grind, I’m nonetheless torn about that observation.

On the one (and sweeter) hand, the church ought to bemoan its apparent loss of ground as a cultural intellectual force. Many of us stand in the gap on that (especially at this site) trying to call evangelicals back from their self-imposed intellectual perdition.

On the other hand, there is yet the prophetic challenge of old that questions whether the church was ever called to be that in the first place - to operate from a cultural place of power and domination. When domineering institutional strength is the main perceived feature of an ostensibly “Christ-following” movement, one can fairly ask where we went off the rails (and this has been rightly asked ever since Constantine). No, unlike some past posters, I’m not going “all gnostic” here and suggesting that some lost Greek wisdom and neglected patriarchs are the panacea for all religious ills. What I am putting forward is the conjecture that the church has much in the way of deep self-reflection to continue … even all the way to repentance. That doesn’t typically mean jettisoning everything, but re-discovering those valuable kernels that are always there but too often un-watered and dormant, and allowing the Spirit to blow the chaff away.

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Is it possible to have influence without power? Or can the two be separated somewhat? I too think it’s unfortunate that the church has less influence than before, but even more unfortunate that we seem to have turned to power (political power, even – not to get too political) as a substitute. Perhaps it’s possible to regain enough integrity to hold influence once again without having to rule over others to get it.

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That nectar (power) is just too sweet, I think. I don’t think anybody (whether in the name of religion or anything else) can ever safely seek it out, much less wield it. I certainly covet power for myself and in my own ways and circles. That’s personal, I know; and we’re talking more institutional here. But the Anabaptist in me finds it easy to be suspicious of and challenge any collection of power (at least in word - and especially if it’s somebody else’s - not my own). I may be in one of my Anabaptist moods here, can you tell?

It doesn’t help that the early part of my Christmas break finds me here in the throes of a couple more George MacDonald novels. And while he could hardly be accused of being an Anabaptist, I’m always a bit touchy while being subjected to the glaring lights of his perceptiveness.


When it comes to intellectual endeavours you can can lead from the front instead of using power or dominance. Our academic institutions aren’t perfect, but there is still some sense of meritocracy attached to them.

However, I do get what you are saying. It’s an interesting confluence of pride, mystery, vanity, faith, knowledge, and humbleness. A rich man can’t take his riches into heaven, nor can he take his degrees and CV. And yet, there is a rich history of theological scholarship in the big three Abrahamic traditions, so one could argue that God does want you to use that squishy organ between your ears. :wink:


That’s a good answer, I think. Just as many of us here would be quick to point to a big contrast between trying to make legislative end-runs around science, [e.g. imposing certain dogmas into education (that would be the top-down exercise of power)]. While the alternative is to come up with an even better theory (or improve current ones) to better explain that data at hand (which you have called using the squishy stuff between our ears). It should be a no-brainer [pardon the very wrong expression there!] for the Christian that the latter is certainly the way to go!

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More related to the actual notion of “extinction rebellion”, it recently crossed my mind to wonder if those who actively cultivate or promote fringe thought are doing so as a distraction (whether unconsciously or deliberate) from more pressing climate change concerns. I.e. If they are fomenting some “counter-rebellion” that wishes to derail any successful climate change initiatives, perhaps they are thinking that any distraction from it is a good thing. If I’m suddenly engaged with my neighbor over something so trivial as the shape of the earth, (something which has no practical bearing on who I vote for or the creation care practices I should be attending to), then that is less time I’m devoting to promotion of good and effective creation care efforts. I may think to myself …“If this person dabbles in questions such as these, then surely they are a climate-denyer as well - and I am obliged to only reach the latter problem by first tackling what seems to be the deeper former one.”

But they will probably not be accepting any science on either matter. It seems obvious now that science isn’t the way that everybody is reached.

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Ill have to disagree on the science one. Since its renaissance science its the way the everybody its reached.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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