Ross Douthat’s latest op-ed in the New York Times begins by addressing the strange role of Christmas in America and ends by offering up two books considering the broader topic of the relationship between Christianity and culture: Robert Putnam and David Campbell’s American Grace and James Davison Hunter’s To Change the World (which I’ll be reviewing soon on Christ and Pop Culture). Douthat notes that
both books come around to a similar argument: this month’s ubiquitous carols and crèches notwithstanding, believing Christians are no longer what they once were — an overwhelming majority in a self-consciously Christian nation. The question is whether they can become a creative and attractive minority in a different sort of culture, where they’re competing not only with rival faiths but with a host of pseudo-Christian spiritualities, and where the idea of a single religious truth seems increasingly passé.
Or to put it another way, Christians need to find a way to thrive in a society that looks less and less like any sort of Christendom — and more and more like the diverse and complicated Roman Empire where their religion had its beginning, 2,000 years ago this week.