What happens to ethnic distinctions in an age of global capitalism and bureaucracy, and of electronic and physical means of communication that destroy distance? What happens to Christianity under such circumstances?
Christianity has always been cosmopolitan in some ways. Saint Thomas ended up in Kerala and Prester John was Central Asian or Ethiopian. But Christianity isn’t Islam, which merges humanity into a single nation under a single law. The nations remain separate, and that’s legitimate and good. Popes as recent as Saint John Paul II have emphasized the value of distinct ethnicities.
For a way of life that’s definite enough to be functional you need devotion to an explicit ideal held in common, like Christianity. But ideal commitments aren’t enough for most people, who need common culture and ancestral heritage for a complete functional way of life.
But locality and ancestral heritage can’t help much in the Internet age. If all specific traditions disintegrate, because they’re all equally present on YouTube and Zoom so everyone can mix and match ad hoc and ad libitum, it seems that what Christians have left to live by is pure personal commitment to pure high theology.
Can that really work? Guardini’s End of the Modern World deals with what happens when Christianity no longer has any support in culture or tradition, and notes how unbelievably demanding it becomes. How much of it will then remain? Is it right for Christians to support the tendencies that give rise to such a situation?