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Christianity As a Minority

I am told that, in the course of my short lifetime, Christians have become a minority in this nation. While it is true that many people still self-identity as “Christian” in censuses and opinion polls, the fact of the matter is that very few in our culture live out that Christian identity in their own lives.

I need not cite any particular data. Almost all of the reports agree: attendance at Sunday worship is down, knowledge of Scripture has diminished and efforts at both Evangelization and (Christian) Social Justice simply do not bear the sort of fruit they once did. In contrast, secular alternatives to these Christian responsibilities are gaining significant ground every day. Instead of going to church on the weekend, most people go to the mall. Sales of Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey and any number of other neo-pagan novellas are up. Most Americans spend more time at the ubiquitous fundraisers, demonstrations and campaign rallies than they do preaching Christ or feeding the poor. In short, we have lost ground, much of it irrecoverable at this point.

It would be easy to look at these facts (that is what they are: facts) and miss the important truth they signify. The keys of the kingdom were given to the Apostles. The task of evangelization and catechesis were entrusted to us. If fewer and fewer people are choosing Christ, it is not that it is because He is less attractive now than He was centuries ago. Nor is it simply thay our culture offers more distractions than any other in history (though this is a major factor). No, the problem lies with us. If people are not choosing Christ, it is because we are failing to consistently offer the inviation.

Many other men better than myself have already noticed this. Men like Billy Graham, JP II and now Pope Francis have been quick to give us both advice and example on how to preach the gospel to this rapidly Paganizing world. Read their works and study their lives for lessons. To their words and works I can only add this: I find that the current situation is an interesting novelty. And Novelty, for me, has always been closely attached to Opportunity.

Allow me to explain. Now is not the time for some dreary message about how all hope is lost, how souls are daily plunging irrevocably into the great abyss, that culture is retrogressing and that the end of western civilization is nigh. All that may be true (and, if it is, it most certainly is tragic). Yet, deep down inside of me there is both a natural and a supernatural hope that I cannot shake. The natural hope is born of that strange human instinct for adventure and innovation. Christians today have an opportunity that many of our brethren in the past would envy: we have a Church that is, day by day, ever freer from confusions of society. Every reformer has noted that the ties between the Body of Christ and the body of the world, between the City of God and the city of man, are usually so blurred as to be indistinguishable. Not in our age, however. I feel that, at this moment, never has the line between “the Church” and “the world” been so sharply discernable. That is not to say that it is clear enough for us to judge what side of the line our neighbor is on. But I do believe, that perhaps for the first time since the founding of our country, the individual Christian finds herself in a climate where she can be certain of her own allegiance to Christ. If you put a political, economic or social agenda ahead of Him, it is very difficult to be blind to it. Consider the fact that, in our day, almost every political, economic and social force in this land has eventually stood at odds with the Gospel. That makes the pilgrim Church one of adventurers surrounded by hostile eyes and dangerous pitfalls. Such a fate is an exciting one, if nothing else.

I also spoke of a supernatural hope. It is this: following Christ will soon require of us a virtue that none of us has yet the opportunity to exercise. We will be rejected, spurned, “hated by all because of My Name.” We will be excommunicated from “good’ society. We will be delivered over to courts. Make no mistake: some of us will soon have the chance to be the first confessors and maybe even martyrs in the history of the United States. This is a chance to love unlike any other that can be offered the Christian. I cannot say on what issue the point will turn. Will we suffer for the unborn, or for our right to practice our religion according to conscience instead of government regulation? Will we die defending the immigrant or the infirm, both shunted away from their families by bureaucracy? Will our efforts to find peace in the world lead to destruction at home? I cannot say. I have not the vision. But I can say that this society, this culture, is close to losing patience with us entirely.

It require patience for an individual to endure the Gospel: any Christian knows that. To be constantly bombarded by its Truth, yet to live outside its grace, is an intolerable and annoying situation. To renounce its Love but to go on hearing its invitation is difficult. Soon, the members of this society might rise up against us. What form their anger will take is a mystery. But when the hour comes, we hope in Christ, who wanted so badly to find faith on earth while also bringing her the sword. Let us pray to Him for this faith, for the faith to remain true to the Love of His teaching, to reject all ethical shortcuts that would have us settle for “tolerance.” We are now being called to be adventurers and lovers of the highest order. Lets not dilute the water by wishing things were easier on ourselves.

About Daniel Lacourrege

Daniel Lacourrege is a 20-something year old theologian living in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. It is the best place in the world to be a 20-something. It is the third best place in the world to be a Catholic (Rome & Jerusalem claiming first & second).
His life has become one adventure right after another. Most of them start in a classroom or library, but very few of them finish there. He likes most things, but usually must be in the mood for them. The only thing he is never in the mood for is traffic.
If you feel so moved, you may email him at lacourrege4@archbishopshaw.us.

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