Friday, June 26, 2015

Lessons for Living in a Hostile Culture?

In response to James V. Schall, S.J.'s 


…we see that “evangelization” today has become politically almost impossible. The great project envisioned by the Christian mission from the beginning cannot be pursued today. This is especially true in China, India, the Islamic countries, and increasingly in the secularized and ideological West where Christians are either excluded or forced to accept positions antithetical to the faith. These groupings contain three quarters of the world population.

Cannot?  CANNOT?  But it must be pursued; it is a command; it is the Great Commission.  And “with God all things are possible.”  ALL things.

...we have two sorts of groupings left. The first are those who choose to accommodate themselves to modernity and its tenets on the grounds that [living in a] culture means to do what the culture does; only by so capitulating can we continue to exist. The other alternative is to become a small Church of relatively isolated groupings...

Why must we be “relatively isolated?”  While on the whole, I believe that the internet is definitely a vast and merry playground for the Devil, it does at least afford opportunities for communication that, thoughtfully and carefully employed, can allow people to communicate; through impoverished means, certainly, but better—or at least far more quickly—than a letter sent by donkey or ship during the previous dark ages.

Either way, we need admonishing. We do seem to have “exceptional enemies”. In fact they do admonish us about the way we live. If this principle be true, it probably would not matter if we had friends. We would not listen to them.

Despite the apparent cynicism, I must sadly agree here.  It would have been better had we listened to our friends, but now we will hear our enemies’ admonishments, whether we will or no.

It has been the assumption of Christians that faith depends on no philosophy as such; it could be at home in any culture. Its purpose was only to deepen it, or open it to transcendence, but leave the rest alone after itself putting on the external garb of the culture. If I read him correctly, it is Billings’s view that this approach is much less obvious than Ricci and his followers once thought.

This is a message that all non-Christians really need to hear:  becoming Christian doesn’t turn you into some kind of conformist, mass-produced robot; it is what frees you to be TRULY YOURSELF.  This is yet another thing I so love about the Catholic church (as opposed to all the Protestant churches I have attended); looking around in mass, you see (well, I see here, anyway) so many, so different, kinds of people; united in faith in Christ but distinctly and uniquely and beautifully individual.   

“You are the salt of the earth,” our Lord says.  I once heard a message on this (I don’t think it was a Catholic homily, but a Christian radio sermon) that said, if an alien showed up and was interested in cooking, and you let him taste salt (which has such a strong and distinctive taste), and then told him how you put it in everything you cook—vegetables, meats, casseroles, cakes, cookies, pies, everything!—the alien would assume in dismay that everything we eat must taste the same:  like salt.  Bleh!  But the truth is, of course, precisely the opposite—when you add salt to something, it brings out the distinctive flavor of whatever is in that something, and without the salt, it’s terribly bland--NOT FULLY AND RICHLY ITSELF.  I personally had this amply demonstrated when I baked a pumpkin pie absolutely chock full of spices--I like it really spicy!—but forgot the salt.  Despite the very large amount of spices I put in, it tasted something akin to a mud pie.  “What on earth--?”  I thought, and then realized just what I had done.  The next time, with the same amount of spices and the proper amount of salt, it was delicious.  People need to know that the gospel is an invitation to the tastiest feast in the universe, and that all cuisines are included in that feast, in their individual and unique, perfected glory.
Landscape rendered in salt and spices  :)

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