I thought Ross Douthat’s New York Times column this weekend, “Ideas from a Manger,” perfectly captured how the traditional Christmas story reflects three divergent views in our world today. Douthat writes that while the narrative continues to be a “depiction of how human beings relate to the universe and to one another. It’s about the vertical link between God and man — the angels, the star, the creator stooping to enter his creation. But it’s also about the horizontal relationships of society, because it locates transcendence in the ordinary, the commonplace, the low.”
But therein lies the issue for our “modern” world. Douthat explores three divergent worldviews of the story of the birth of Christ: the biblical (traditional verbatim reading of the Scriptures); the spiritual (take what you want and leave the rest; syncretistic) and the secular (popular among the intelligentsia and eliminating the vertical entirely).
The latter two are dominant today, he suggests, with the spiritual passing for truth for most people. But the secular is coming on strong. But he wonders if “the intelligentsia’s fusion of scientific materialism and liberal egalitarianism — the crèche without the star, the shepherds’ importance without the angels’ blessing — will eventually crack up and give way to something new.”
And what might this be? Douthat suggests … “a deist revival or a pantheist turn, a new respect for biblical religion, a rebirth of the 20th century’s utopianism and will-to-power cruelty.
“But for now, though a few intellectuals scan the heavens, they have yet to find their star.”