Bellah on Taylor and Authentic Christianity in a Secular Age
from Mirror of Justice by Russell Powell
The newest issue of Commonweal, in addition to our own Mark Sargent's insightful review of The Trillion Dollar Meltdown (which takes on even greater relevance given the most recent bank and insurance failures), contains a provocative article by Robert Bellah in which he engages key ideas from Charles Taylor's A Secular Age. Instead of emphasizing the historical fact of secularism, he focuses on Taylor's vision of authentic religion that engages those formed in a culture of secularism. According to Taylor, this authenticity is found in communion rooted in love.
At the heart of orthodox Christianity, seen in terms of communion, is the coming of God through Christ into a personal relation with disciples, and beyond them others, eventually ramifying through the church to humanity as a whole. God establishes the new relation with us by loving us, in a way we cannot unaided love one another. [We love because he first loved us, 1 John 4:19.] The lifeblood of this new relation is agape [the biblical Greek word for love], which can’t ever be understood simply in terms of a set of rules, but rather as the extension of a certain kind of relation, spreading outward in a network. The church is in this sense a quintessentially network society, even though of an utterly unparalleled kind, in that the relations are not mediated by any historical forms of relatedness: kinship, fealty to a chief, or whatever. It transcends all these, but [is rather] a network of ever different relations of agape.