Inescapability of Religion In Driving Culture


“The culture of a people [is] an incarnation of its religion,” and “no culture has appeared or developed — except together with a religion. . . .”  
T. S. Eliot
Notes towards the Definition of Culture, pp. 32, 13

Of course, the drum that Eliot is beating here is a drum that is often beat  on Iron Ink. Religion is the animating spirit of culture and culture is the visible expression of religion. It is proper to make a distinction between them but they cannot be isolated from one another. Culture is the body of which religion is the animating soul. When I look at a culture I am seeing its religion. When I examine a people’s religion, their culture makes sense.

As an extension of this the form of civil Government of a people, being a part of their culture, is also a manifestation of their religion. All States are organized religiously. There is no such thing as a state that has separated itself from the religion of its church. Now, it may take some doing to locate what is serving as the Church to the State (Temple, Shrine, Government Schools, Mosque, etc.) but the idea of separation of Church and State is at best an illusion and always a surd.

Now, many of been my conversation partners who have denounced this idea. They have contended that it is past obvious that the Church is in decline, and if they are talking about organized Christianity or organized religion in general, they might be right. Recently, in the publishing world, it has been open season on organized religion and religious observances. It is understandable that people might observe that we are living in increasingly profane times.

Not so.

The total amount of faith of a people  (or a person) never dissipates though it may change the object of its affection that it sets itself upon. The faith tank remains full. Only the service of the god the faith fuel is being burned for changes.

To locate the new religion in service of the new god one has to identify the new sacred center of a social order. This is done by identifying a people group’s borders of what is tolerated and what is not tolerated. What kind of speech is blasphemous? Who defines unacceptable behavior and what must be done to remove the guilt of said behavior?

This means that there are no “ages of irreligion,” or “ages of skepticism.” Organized religions may recede but they recede in favor unorganized or embryonic religions. Curiously, it is the “so called” skeptics who write the books denouncing religion who are most obviously full of the inescapable religious impulse. Their objection is not religion as it is other people’s religion that they don’t approve of — a disapproval only arrived at as informed by whatever religion they harbor.

An interesting phenomenon when organized Christianity goes into decline is the rising of the Shaman. The Shaman is thought of being a person uniquely in touch with the spirit-world. Indeed, he is often the bridge between the unknown and the known. He often is the incarnation himself of the god’s will or even of the god.

Contemporary Shamans in our enlightenment culture are most often found in the field of Psychiatry. The Psychologist-Psychiatrist knows what the laymen  cannot know about himself and the laymen visits the Shrink-Shaman in order to be cured of what ails him. The Psychiatrist Witch Doctor identifies the sin, and for a price provides an incremental cure for the sin.

Contemporary Shamans in more animistic cultures will typically direct their customers to a potion or spell or a ghost dance or a spirit-animal to provide relief. But whether in antiseptic materialistic enlightenment cultures or in animistic spiritist cultures the Shaman always rises when objective Christianity goes into abeyance. In our religio-culture in the West, one can find both expressions. Whether it is some form of psychoanalysis for urban professionals or whether it is astrology or necromancy for those in the santeria cult in New Orleans or New York city the Shaman arises when organized Christianity recedes.

Note, though that religion never disappears. Never.  Man as Homo Adorans is a hopelessly religious being and all cultures are merely religion poured over ethnicity.

Oh … and as an addendum, this is why R2K is a lousy theology. There is no common square that is not an expression of some religion. R2K would have us believe that culture is religion free, operating instead on the basis of some potentially common Natural laws. Don’t you believe it! All law is religious law and the minute one surrenders Christianity as the cult behind the culture some other religion and god will own the culture.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

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