Editor’s note: Dr. Anne Bradley was recently featured in an interview with Praxis Circle. Below are a few highlights of that conversation centered around the topic of post-Christian culture and postmodernism. You can watch the interview in full here.
Are we living in a post-Christian world today?
I’m not sure what we mean when we say a “post-Christian world.” Do we mean a Christian culture, which I think is what a lot of people are dealing with. I mean, we’re certainly not talking about a theocracy, formally! But you can see when people start to have that debate, you have to ask the question, “What does it mean to have a Christian world if we’re in a post-Christian world?”
I would go back to Novak here and say that we’re not advocating for a theocracy. What we are advocating for is for this culture of Christian principles to be free to bloom. You know, Christianity fundamentally is not about coercion, so that’s not what we’re advocating.
But I think to answer this question you have to say, “Well, for the people who are worried about being a post-Christian world, what are we losing? What did we have before that we are losing?” And I think some of the answer to that is an increasingly secularized culture where Christianity is under attack.
I think there’s some of that because the world is always going to attack Christianity. The question is, are the commanding heights doing it? Is the State doing it? Is it hard for Christians to live out their faith in ways they want to? I think that’s where there is some cause for concern.
At IFWE, we’re starting to really think about dedicating some research to this idea of religious freedom, and what does that mean to have religious freedom. Can you take your ideas into the workplace? For example, let’s just use an easy example, Chick-fil-A is closed on Sunday. That’s a religious belief that is being brought right into a business practice. They’re saying, “We want to go to church, we want to observe the Sabbath.” They should—in my opinion as a Christian, and as an economist by the way—they should be free to make that choice.
But it is possible to imagine a world where the State says, “Well, that’s living out your Christianity and oppressing people because you’re not giving them the option for a chicken sandwich on Sunday afternoon.”
So that’s where I think some of this conversation has very real concerns that we need to take into consideration. What limits can the State put on so-called businesses to live out their faith? I think when you look at it deeply, we’re always living out our faith, right? So I worry a little bit about this.
(Watch this part of the interview here.)
How did postmodernism gain so much social influence?
I don’t know how we got here. I think the problem with this “everybody has a truth” business is that now you can’t say something is incorrect. Let’s just take something benign—which I don’t actually think is benign at all—property rights.
Most people who live in a country like the United States agree that property rights are really sacred and important. But then when you start to push on the edges of that, it’s not so clear that people think that. Do I have a right to tell you—let’s just think of something silly—do I have a right to tell you that you can’t put a swing set up in your backyard? Or that you should or should not have a fence? Or that you can or cannot have a pool? Or what you can do on your property? These are questions of property rights!
I’m not sure when we shifted to “everybody gets to tell you that.” Because that seems to be the culture we’re in now, which means my neighbors can tell me what to do with my property and then we can have injunctions through HOA boards and that percolates all the way up to the top.
I’m not sure what the culture shift is that got us there. Maybe one aspect of it is that we live in a digital age that’s very transparent so it’s easy for me to see what other people are doing. Fifty years ago, maybe that was kind of more difficult for me to know everything about the corporations I deal with and the neighbors I deal with.
(Watch this part of the interview here.)