Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Where is Christianity Going?

1. Where is Christianity going today in a world that is more and more going pluralist? In the Bible we read about the Tower of Babel. There we see that God demolished the tower and scattered the people. "The Lord CONFUSED the speech of all the world" (Gen 11/9). As we know the first eleven chapters of Genesis are about "origins": the origin of the world, the rigin of the human, the origin of sin, etc. With the "confusion"of languages the story of Babel may be about the origin of human differences. In other words, it is about plurality of people.

2. Pluralism has always existed. Today is has taken a new color. Today pluralism is closely linked with relativism. In relativism each one has his/her own truth. Relativism and pluralism today is a reaction against the usual understanding of truth. Relativism does not like to have a common truth. Truth should be RELATIVE TO each one of us. What is true for me need not be true for you. It is ok, let us not work for conversion. So today we see the choice for, say, abortion. A mother can decide on abortion as a mother's choice. It is true for the mother. Truth is relative to the mother. If she says it is true to abort a child, then accept it. It is her choice. The problem is, what about the child to be aborted?

3. Pluralism today can be very attractive. The Christian faith tends to be more and more accepted as a persona choice. Before we would say that, "I am a Christian because my family is Christian". Today with all the information and choices we have, Christianity becomes one among other choices. Religions are plural, so select one. For the Christian this becomes a challenge. The Christian faith cannot anymore be just a choice among other choices like commodities in a supermarket. Nor can the faith be simply an imposition of culture and family. The Christian who wants to be authentic with his/her faith needs to make a PERSONAL STAND: "I believe".

4. There is also a challenge for us who have to bring the Gosple to the "ends of the world". There is a challenge for mission in today's pluralism. How can we tell others about Christ and about the Gospel? CAN WE STILL BE ATTRACTIVE to the world?

5. We can look back at the early Christian experiences; the experiences of the Apostles, the gospel writers, the early Christian communities gradually spreading in the world. Something was common to all of them: JESUS HAD AN IMPACT ON THEM. This is a challenge for us today. Can Jesus still make an impact? And for us who go on mission--be it ad gentes or re-evangelization or pastoral or even just in the family--HAVE WE ALSO BEEN IMPACTED BY JESUS? This IMPACT of Jesus was the main "push" of the early Christians. It is evident in the Gospe texts. The early Christians have "seen the glory" of Christ. They were just so happy to share that.

6. Remember that early Christian expansion was not done with imposition and proselitizing. It was done by simple witnessing and simple preaching. It was simple BUT IT WORKED. The Christian faith extended way up China and India, for example, already in the early centuries.

7. Can we make the Gospel SPEAK INSIDE OTHERS? Can it introduce A NEW WAY OF LIVING? CanChrist be REAL to others too? Let us put this in a musical way. The music of the early Christians, can we play it today and make people listen and appreciate and adhere to Christ? How do we play that ancient music in a way that can be appreciated today?

8. Can we show how the Gosple can answer deep questions of people today, like questions of justice, human dignity, sexuality, women's rights, povery, the common good, neo-liberalism, etc?

9. Indeed, some Christians really do not like to go on mission. They do not like "proclaiming". If we accept that we can stop all proclamation, then what future do we have? Christ commanded proclamation: "Go", he said. He must have also had the future in mind. IF WE DO NOT GO, then what happens?

10. There are certain difficulties faced by mission today.

Mission is sometimes understood to be a "Western/European" activity. It is true that, historically, the big chunk of mission history was done by Europeans. This is why Christianity has been so linked with Europe. But today there is a need for new air current blowing. The Gospel is for all humanity. it is not "European". The Gospel responds to ALL HUMAN QUESTIONING. It is not just a Western/European response to Western/European questions. As a Church we need a CONSTANT conversion TO THE GOSPEL. We need to focus on the central core message of the Gospel.
Church image still looks conservative and "not modern" enough. Christianity looks like a religion with rituals and social cohesion, with hierarchy and other "conservative" stuff. Christianity looks just like any other traditional religion with social cohesion and "substantive" function. Some are irritated by the Church. Let us accept that Church history has really given this image. But the core of Christianity and the Gospel message is quite different.
If we look closely modernity itself owes a lot from Christianity. Modernity emphasizes the freedom and autonomy of each person to decide on how to live. Christianity emphasizes this too THROUGH THE INCARNATION OF CHRIST. The incarnation of Christ has honored each human person. The incarnation shows that God entered into the human condition to say that the human being is really of value. The choices and decisions of each person should be dealt with dignity. So the incarnation has emphasized human dignity. Human dignity of reason and choice is honored. Modernity owes this way of thinking from Christianity. Jesus shifted the usual religiosity of his time away from the "functional" and "substantive" features of religion. Jesus moved away from rituals and offerings and sacrifices and group-ethnic identity. He focused on the value of each person.
Christianity is not alien to humanity. Because of the Incarnation Christianity values humanity. Christianity may be a religion but it steps out of the usual functional and substantive religion because the importance is given to the human reason and choice. Let us try to explain this more. In the core of the Gospel the human person is respected fully. The Incarnation of Christ affirms the autonomy of the human person to choose and decide on life. Hence the human person is not PUT UNDER social forces. The human person is to discern and act without the pressures of the "functional". More important than cultural and religious and political boxes is the human person. Christ has affirmed this.

What can be the resonsbility of Christianity today?

a. The Church can witness to the value and honor of the human person as Christ did. In front of the many issues we face, that of injustice, inequality, consumerism and hedonism, we can, as Church show that the human is valued more than these.
b. Societies want to install justice and peace and economic equality. It is hard. Something more may have to be added. Christianity can offer this by introducing a cuture of love, compssion, forgiveness. Pope Francis himself said that what the world needs today is an experience of forgiveness.
c. Today we see the degradation of the environment. We have our theology of creation. We have a sense of the Sabbath that invites all to take a distance--a reverential distance--from the created world.

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