“Above All Earthly Pow’rs” by David Wells – A Review by John Beeson (Part 3)
Multiethnicity and the Easternization of Christianity
In this chapter, Wells discusses the unique American history of ethnic mixing. If you have any interest in US history this chapter is a must read. With a deft hand, Wells engagingly tracks the history of US immigration. To sum it up very (too) briefly: the 19th C was the century of European immigration. Because of this, America through the 1950s could basically be understood in tri-partite terms: Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish. In the 1960s this began to change. Asian and Latin American immigration shot through the roof in the coming decades and in doing so shifted the religious landscape in the US.
Wells says that the influx of these religious groups provided a haven for Westerners who were already preoccupied with self. Such a therapeutic worldview tends to be open to Eastern worldviews. On the other hand, “Western moral disorder makes Islam look like a haven of moral sanity.” Eastern ideas, in particular, have had much success in the church, where a growing number of people believe in reincarnation, read horoscopes, and engage in channeling. Eastern ideas have become imported into Christianity through the guise of “spirituality.” This spirituality has led to the increasing individualization of Christianity in the West.
In one of his most insightful moments of the entire book, Wells asserts that all of this has led us to a place where psychology has assumed the role religion once occupied. Psychology provides human diagnosis and human meaning in such unquestioned ways that religion once did. Christianity has run after this, trying to chase psychology down, instead of fleeing from this trend. And because of this Christianity has lost its distinctiveness and its power. Through its own capitulation, Christianity has become yet another spiritual experience, another path, instead of the way to truth, the journey toward the destination. Amen Mr. Wells, Amen.