It seems to me that in the West today we are witnessing an attempt to “dechristianize” our society—to identify and destroy the influence of Christianity wherever it exists. The goal, of course, is to create a society that is post-Jesus and, therefore, post-Christian. Christian sexual morals are now said to be bigotry, Christian understandings of marriage and family are now said to be oppressive, Christian notions of justice are now said to be discriminatory. On and on it goes and over time this seek-and-destroy mission is transforming society around us.
But there is a strange irony to all of this—an irony few people are willing to understand or acknowledge: the very tools people use to criticize Christianity are tools they owe to Christianity. The values they hold and the goals they wish to see realized are values and goals that would not exist without the influence and dominance of the Christian faith. People long for equality, compassion, freedom, and progress, ignorantly supposing that these can only exist apart from societies that have been formed around Christian values. The reality, though, is that they only long for these values because they have been so long immersed in a Christianized society.
This is the subject of Glen Scrivener’s fascinating new book The Air We Breathe: How We All Came to Believe in Freedom, Kindness, Progress, and Equality. “Here’s the contention of this book,” he says. “If you’re a Westerner—whether you’ve stepped foot inside a church or not, whether you’ve clapped eyes on a Bible or not, whether you consider yourself an atheist, pagan or Jedi Knight—you are a goldfish, and Christianity is the water in which you swim.” What he wishes to do is to help his readers awaken to this reality, to help them see that we all “depend on values and goals—and ways of thinking about values and goals—that have been deeply and distinctively shaped by the Jesus-revolution (otherwise known as ‘Christianity’). These values are now so all-pervasive that we consider them to be universal, obvious and natural: the air we breathe.”
The Air We Breathe is one of the most interesting books I’ve read this year and one I appreciated from beginning to end. I hope many people will buy it, read it, and allow it to give them a deeper appreciation for Christianity’s influence on our society. Better yet, I hope it will give them a deeper interest and deeper confidence in the Christ of Christianity.