Crises are politically useful gimmicks. Whether it is economic meltdowns, asylum seekers, cabinet reshuffles, sex scandals or wars, political entrepreneurs will often either make use of them or create them to try and force a surrender by the general populace of their right to communal discussion, reflection and critique.
What can be concerning is the degree to which many Christians seem willing to play along with the games of the political classes. Whatever the event, many Christians would treat such crises as unusual times in which deeper civilisational questions, and the seemingly otherwordly and academic discourses of theology and philosophy which provide the vocabulary to address such questions, must be set aside in order to “deal with more urgent [read practical] issues”. The argument continues that once the crisis is over and stability restored, then these foundational questions can be asked and answered.
The presumption that underpins such arguments, and one that is often aceded to by Christians, is that theology and philosophy are nothing more than irrelevent and unnecessary civilisational frills that do not really deal with the things of this world. This is strange for the Christian because, to expand on a comment made by Derrida and Vattimo at the beginning of their Religion, the commitment that there are fundamentally no real theological and philosophical underpinnings to the way the world works is itself a theological and philosophical underpinning to the way the world works.
Writing in the Second World War, C.S. Lewis wrote a passage that just as easily responds to any contemporary Christian audience in crisis-mode, such as a Christian audience in the era of the War on Terror, where the prevailing discourse may sound something like “since we are waging a war on Terror, we must forget about Jesus’ impractical command to ‘love one another as I have loved you’ and worry about it when the war is over”. The War, Lewis wrote in response:
…creates absolutely no new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun. We are mistaken when we compare war with ‘normal life’. Life has never been normal.
In other words, discipleship is not something that Christians do only when things are calm. In times of crisis, when the pressures are applied on Christians to put on the armour of civic nationhood instead of Christ (Rom 13:14), discipleship becomes all the more urgently needed.