I don't exactly recall how I came across this book, but I picked it up because I thought the subtitle was really fascinating: How 1776 Created the Post-Christian West. I've been reflecting on culture lately and I thought this would be a read worth engaging with.
I found Remaking the World to be an interesting blend of cultural analysis, history, and (lightly) Christian response to all of it. Wilson opens by arguing that western culture has become WEIRDER: (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic, Ex-Christian, Romantic), and that the foundations of WEIRDER culture were laid in the late 18th century. Astonishingly, many of the representative events of that shift happened in one year: 1776. Most of the rest of the book then highlights key events in each of the WEIRDER sectors and unpacks them.
As an American, I found myself suspicious of how US-centric the book may be. 1776 is a year we look at as important! And indeed many of the events from US history that happened in 1776 were explored, but I was really pleased to see there was at least as much discussion of events throughout Europe than there was in the US. Through the bulk of the book, Wilson unpacks the events that have made western culture WEIRDER by threading through explorers, inventors, politicians, philosophers, historical events, and more and gives a snapshot of a culture in flux in 1776, and how the threads in process then have continued through to this day. I found it interesting and thought provoking!
The last section of the book is Wilson's response to our current WEIRDER culture. Honestly, I found this part a little weak compared with the rest of the book. His response was largely tantamount to an argument that all of this makes the Christian message even more central; and that grace is the answer WEIRDER culture is looking for. In a sense I agree (grace is critical and is the answer), but I thought there was a bridge he didn't cross there: how can we speak into that culture effectively? Many believers are finding it harder and harder to connect the message of grace meaningfully with the current culture, and I'm not sure I got any sense as to how to do that more effectively. I would have liked a helpful framing thought or two, but that's about all I felt was missing from this interesting book.