Disclaimer: This article is going to sound cynical. It might even sound anti-Christian. Please stick with it. There is a point. I am sarcastic and sometimes offensive. Again, there is an overall point.
This New Evangelization thing in the Church is pretty cool, you gotta admit. I mean, JPII said it’s time for the Church to re-evangelize itself, and for crying out loud, we can all sit there and nod our heads. There are so many of those Catholics out there: the liberals, the ultra-traditionalists, the nuns with no habits and bad haircuts, all of those people who just don’t get it. To help with this New Evangelization, there have been plenty of folks hopping on the bandwagon with a VERY important message. Some are good, some are just professional Catholics trying to make a buck, and some are trying to push changes in the ideological battles in the Church such as abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage, yadda yadda yadda. All of a sudden, EVERYONE has something to say to THOSE people in the pews that so desperately need our wise evangelization.
Some people in Catholic media drive me nuts. They talk about all sorts of great things that are all theologically correct and great for those folks who are definitely in tune with the Church, but don’t do much to reach out to those who are not already in the choir being preached at. Hosts in both radio and TV take on that voice, you know the one, when they raise the pitch of their voice and speak in quasi-hushed tones in order to sound holy or something. If you paid some random gang members enough money to actually listen to a bit of it, most would probably run for the hills. What I’m trying to say is that a lot of Catholic media is great and has some awesome content, but it doesn’t reach into the paradigm of those who are either completely outside of natural law and those who are “but-Catholics.” A but-Catholic is someone who says something like, “I’m Catholic, but I just disagree with the Church’s teachings on female ordination, abortion, sexuality, the Eucharist, etc.”
How can we reach the drug dealers in the inner cities, the hardened stripper who dances because she needs the money and has become calloused and hates men? You can tell these people that Jesus loves them all you want, but in the end, why should they care? Does seeing that nice little John 3:16 bumper sticker make a difference worth a hill of beans? The secular paradigm is so far removed from any religious thought or truth that the mere mention of Jesus or the Gospel is enough to generate a certain hostility or mere dismissal. In other words, Jesus has become a cliche. What has Jesus done lately for the single mom who was walked out on by her live-in boyfriend and the father of one of her three kids and is struggling to make ends meet or who is just gaming the system to get as many benefits as possible? Why should the Wall Street hedge fund manager who is making six figures care about the Good News of the Gospel when he has all that the secular world can give him?
Christopher West has a great quote in his book “At the Heart of the Gospel: Reclaiming the Body for the New Evangelization.” Ready? Even if you have issues with Christopher West, just suspend disbelief for a moment and contemplate this.
“If Christ is to become present within the secular world’s understanding, that will mean walking a fine line, a place of tension, between the sacred and the secular. That will mean, in some instances, using a language with which a more pious and refined audience might take issue so that a much less pious and refined audience might be reached. As Pope Benedict put it, ‘one has to meet one’s listeners halfway, one has to speak to them in terms of their own horizon.’ We do this not to ‘stay’ there, but to ‘open the horizon, to broaden it, and turn our gaze toward the ultimate.’ Finding that language is a duty of charity. Finding that language is also a process of trial and error. So let us try, and when we err, let us correct those errors and try again. That’s how we grow. There’s no ‘one right way’ to proclaim the ‘great mystery’ to the modern world, but this much is certain; out of love for others, we must stretch ourselves; we must break out of our comfort zones; we must be courageous, bold and daring. We must strive to be all thing to all men, so that some might be saved.” (1 Cor 9:22)
I don’t know about you, but that’s some powerful stuff. He is calling us to meet people where they are, in whatever their life circumstances and present the Gospel to them in a way that they can actually relate to and understand. Sometimes we might have to put it a little callously or with some colorful language. It means we will have to leave our nice little Catholic bubble and go where we are not comfortable.
It’s a messed up world out there. People are struggling with addictions, terrible sins, broken families and broken lives. When Jesus was on earth He sought those people out. He associated Himself with the dregs of society. He didn’t seek out the rich, the famous, and the most holy. He went into the homes of those who were hated and despised. Who would He visit in today’s day and age? Drug addicts? Child molesters? Prostitutes? He visited with the worst kinds of people offering forgiveness, and ACCOUNTABILITY. Jesus never forgave someone and failed to tell them to sin no more.
Where does that leave us? It’s natural to want to avoid certain situations where we may be in danger, both physically and spiritually, but who do we help when we stay in our nice little Catholic bubble? It’s nice to read articles on how to more deeply pray the Rosary, and we sure can’t do much without Mama Mary’s intercession. But how do we bridge the gap between the sacred and the secular?
Jesus called us to be in the world and not of it, but that still means that we are IN the world. We are here. We are the Church Militant, fighting for God’s Truth. All of God’s Commandments are reflected in the the natural way of things, and when we break His laws, there are physical and emotional consequences. When presenting God’s Truth, we can present it without even mentioning God to the secular world, and instead focus on Natural Law.
It may look like an uphill battle, but we know Who wins in the end. Christ called us to make disciples of all nations and we are far from that. You may have heard another pseudo-cliche bantered about: “Preach the Gospel every day. If necessary, use words.” When speaking to the secular realm, I’d offer a twist: Preach the Gospel every day. Try not to mention God, Jesus, the Church, or any of Her teachings. Love always.