In the 1990s, I taught history and theology at an evangelical college, a place where the students were serious young Christians. One day, lecturing on the medieval church and the Crusades, I explained how in 1095 Pope Urban II launched a holy war against Muslims. Most of the students took notes. One young woman, looking very worried by the idea of Christians starting a war, shot up her hand. "Professor," she began, clearly wanting to blame Roman Catholics for the affair, "what did the Protestants say about this?"
"Well," I answered slowly, "there were no Protestants in 1095." I did not have the heart to tell her that Protestantism would not exist until more than four hundred years later.
Puzzled, she blurted out, "But where were they?"At the present juncture of history, Western Christianity is suffering from a bad case of spiritual amnesia. Even those who claim to be devout or conservative often know little about the history of their faith traditions. ...
Thus we inhabit a post-traditional world - a world of broken memory - in which some tell history badly, others do not know it at all, and still others use history to manipulate people to their own ends.
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Among the many reasons why the Church is in decline, one may well be because we suffer from amnesia. We don't remember who we are, even though we run through the anamnesis (remembrance) of the liturgy every Sunday. And in many Episcopal Churches, we think we graduated from Christian education once we got confirmed, or we now rely on the latest publications by pop-scholars to hit the shelves of Barnes & Nobles. So it's not surprising that when it comes to the basics of the Christian faith (as opposed to one's personal opinions about all matters religious or "spiritual"), too many of us are failing Christianity, and thus ill-equipped to offer reasons for the hope within us.