What a stupid question, said a friend. But really, I said, is Christianity really that relevant and central in people’s life? The roots of Christianity are in the Gospel. Over the centuries people may have constructed a culture of Christianity. Is that culture bearing witness to the Gospel underneath? Yes, culture and religion stick together. This is why, since Pope Paul VI the emphasis on “inculturation” has been written often in encyclicals.
Jesus commanded the Church to go on mission and proclaim the Good News. The Church was not commanded to self-glorify. Vatican II theology has insisted on the Kingdom as wider than the Church even if the Church is “sacrament” and “seed” of the Kingdom. The central focus however is on the Gospel. If we gravitate around the Gospel we step out of “religion”. Christ came and preached the Kingdom. He questioned the practices of alienating people. He did not support that alienation.
If we are to talk of “religion”, is it a religion that alienates? Is it a religion that is source of conflicts, arrogance, power and loss of dignity? Christianity is a “religion of the Gospel”—a “religion out of religion” (Claude Geffré). If the Church re-discerns the Gospel, and she does it, she may have to ask how prophetic she has become.
Pope Francis, with an audience with people engaged in inter-religious dialogue, said that this dialogue is a “walking with” people of different religious traditions addressing the problems and aspirations of all humanity. For the Church this means that what is really important is the Gospel for the Gospel addresses deep human questions. It means promoting the Gospel and not a “culture of a certain religion”.