Who Are We Trying to Evangelize?

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In all the recent discussions about the Church drawing converts under the stewardship of Pope Francis (a proposition of dubious merit), it is argued that Pope Francis’s pastoral style is one particularly suited to bring in people who have long been disenchanted with the Church. The underlying assumption seems to be that those whom the Church should be catering to are liberal Protestants, fallen away Catholics, and non-religious people of various stripes. At least this is the impression that I get from reading comments and articles defending the Pope’s, err, temperate pastoral approach.

Yet are these the only groups of non-Catholics that we should be trying to encourage to come into our fold? Not everyone who is a non-Catholic is reflexively suspicious of the Church and her dogmatic teachings. In fact there are many  like Chris Johnson at the Midwest Conservative Journal – a Protestant who has taken up the cudgels so frequently for the Church that Don has named him Defender of the Faith – who are better exemplars of the faith than many actual Catholics. In other words, there are many (for lack of a better word) conservative Protestants who are every bit as much in need of evangelization, if only to just nudge them gently over the line towards full conversion. Yet where is our missionary outreach to them?

In fact, these very people are being turned away from conversion. While the likes of Johnson have long been disgusted by the leadership of the Anglican communion, what are they seeing from Rome and elsewhere that is drawing them closer to our side of the Tiber? Why bother going through the pains of throwing off one’s childhood religion, spending hours in RCIA, and accepting the full teaching authority of the Church when they will get the same wishy-washy sermons, the same watered down doctrine, and the same reluctance to combat the culture head on? At least Episcopalians still have a pretty liturgy, so might as well just cling to that.

Three out of every four people are not Catholics, and of the remainder who knows how many take their faith seriously. There are all sorts of individuals who need to be brought the Good News of Christ. There isn’t one “right” way to reach them, yet more and more we seem to be favoring a model of evangelization that runs counter to our purposes. Soft pedaling our core teachings and relaxing the rules might get some people’s attention to start with, but it is not enough to truly convert their hearts. Meanwhile those that might be most inclined to walking through that door are more likely to pause as they witness a pale imitation of what they hope to leave behind.

At the risk of bringing politics into this, it is not altogether unlike the attempt to turn the Republican party into the Democrat party light in some mistaken attempt to draw more votes. But why would voters go for the low calorie version when the real thing is so much more decadent and filling? Similarly, a Protestant-light version of Catholicism will win few converts but turn away those on the threshold of coming home.

 

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29 Comments

  1. Good points Paul. Some of the attraction the Church holds for thoughtful people with a more developed religious sense night just be the depth and beauty of her moral teaching- strip that down and what will attract them?
    Also I wonder about those who may not think quite so deeply about religion but who might be attracted by this new popular appeal to the senses… I got an image in my mind of an old story about man who marries a very attractive woman, only on the wedding night to find the false eyelashes and long blonde wig are just the beginning of the deception. He would probably be left hoping Cardinal Kasper was on the marriage tribunal.

  2. Anzlyne wrote, “Some of the attraction the Church holds for thoughtful people with a more developed religious sense night just be the depth and beauty of her moral teaching”

    That is certainly true, but that moral teaching must have its ground and motive in Christ alone. At its heart, the moral teaching of the Church is this: “It is necessary for the soul to be in fear and distrust of self; … It should make its pleasure and joy depend on sacrificing to Jesus all joy and pleasure which it might have apart from Him. And when partaking of those things in which Providence obliges it to be occupied, such as eating, drinking, and conversation with creatures, it must be sparing in all, must discard what is superfluous, and must renounce, in the use of them, the joy and pleasure to be found tin them, uniting and giving itself to Jesus as often as it feels itself tempted to enjoy something apart from Him and not Himself alone.” (J J Olier, The Christian Day)

    Many saints, St Francis de Sales, St Vincent de Paul, St John Eudes, St Louis de Montfort believed this can only come from an absolute focus on Jesus, the incarnate Word of God, both in His sublime divinity and in His complete self-abasement as God become man.

    Thus, in a beautiful passage, St Augustine says, “If it be allowable to the poet [Vergil, Eclogues 2.65] to say “his own pleasure draws each man,” not need, but pleasure, not obligation but delight, how much more ought we to say that a man is drawn to Christ, who delights in the truth, who delights in happiness who delights in justice, who delights in eternal life and all this is Christ?” On John’s Gospel 26.4 http://www.augustinus.it/latino/commento_vsg/index2.htm

    He also says, “”Men are not willing to do what is right either because the fact that it is right is hidden from them, or because it does not please them… It is from the grace of God, which helps the wills of man, that that which was hidden becomes known, and that which did not please become sweet.” On the Merits and Remission of Sins 2, 17, 26 http://www.augustinus.it/latino/castigo_perdono/index2.htm

    More succinctly, ““Whatever most delights us, it is necessary that we should act in that way.” On Galatians 49 where he contrasts the delight in feminine beauty with the delight in chastity.
    http://www.augustinus.it/latino/esposizione_galati/index.htm

  3. “The underlying assumption seems to be that those whom the Church should be catering to are liberal Protestants, fallen away Catholics, and non-religious people of various stripes. At least this is the impression that I get from reading comments and articles defending the Pope’s, err, temperate pastoral approach.”

    The current Pope often tends to be the most loved, at least among those who do not attend Mass, by people who would clap if they saw a Catholic church in flames.

  4. Yes Michael I see the love of Christ embodied in our moral teaching. I noticed That when Fr. G. Murray was on R. Arroyo program he “explained” pope Francis by saying the”heart of the gospel ” is separate from her moral teaching. ? ? ?

  5. The teachings of Christ are inviolate. A doctrinally watered down Catholicism will decimate, rather than build the Church. No one really wants to be part of a second-rate organization.
    It has been estimated that over 100 million Americans do not have any church affiliation. According to the 2013 Catholic Almanac, there were 76,588 new receptions into the Church during 2012, which equates to one new reception for each 902 Church members, or 1.9 per priest in the USA. The only religious group that has a worse record of evangelization is the Jews as they do not evangelize at all.
    The typical Catholic attitude is toward evangelization is laissez faire, in that we have no right to try to influence others, or to interfere with their choices. As a result, I believe souls are pouring into hell in unprecedented numbers.
    The Church in the U.S. is slowly dying and our supposed leaders have blind eyes. Even those bishops who have reputations for doctrinal orthodoxy do little or nothing to evangelize. Those that are involved in what they consider evangelization focus entirely of keeping Catholics Catholic, and they do a lousy job at that as the numbers continue to decline. Evangelization is sharing the Gospel message with those who have not heard it.
    I have been involved in full-time evangelization since 1989. Over the years, I have written to numerous bishops and have a thick file of letters that essentially offer excuse after excuse as to why they are not interested in a concerted evangelization program. The bishops are content to close churches, reorganize or reshape their dioceses into “Clusters”, rather than trying to fill them. Twenty years ago, there were 58,000 priests in the U.S., there are less than 40,000 today. Approximately 1,050 parishes have been closed during the same period.
    Where is the zeal for souls that characterized the U.S. Church in the 1950’s? We need leaders who are willing and able to proclaim the Gospel message in its entirety, without glossing over the difficulties and challenges. There will always be those who look for the easiest road, however, Jesus said, “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24). The narrow door is the Catholic Church. It is only through the proper reception of the Sacraments of the Church that we can have an assurance of salvation.

  6. The good of mankind is the sacrifice of praise and worship to God. Jesus came to lead us in praise and worship to God. The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the tabernacle, on the altar, on the earth, made known to all people, starting with one’s own elf, that is “beginning in Jerusalem”, is evangelization. “…and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name, to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem.” Luke 24: 47-48
    People repent. The ordained priest conveys the remission of sins through Jesus Christ, through the Sacrament and the Church, beginning with one’s own soul. The individual attending Mass and receiving the Sacraments is evangelization of us and them.

  7. Jesus Christ is “the Way, the Truth and the Life”, the Church as His Bride can be nothing else but living the Way, in the Truth and Life. There is and can be no Church without all the truths that have been handed down to us in the Apostolic Tradition, the Gospel, held and protected by the Fathers and authentically taught by the Magisterium of the Church down through the ages and to this very day. The Magisterium today consists of Pope Francis and those bishops in communion with him.

    The Church in our present era has been given the commission to evangelize and re-evangelize the world. In a sense, it has only begun this process. As we are called to evangelize a world that for many reasons has not yet heard and accepted the Gospel in faith, so too the Church is beginning to re-evangelize all those who are baptized (don’t forget ecumenism here) and whose faith in Christ may or may not be weak but whose faith in the Spirit’s presence and action in the Church is all but non-existent. This would include all who dissent in some way, and some form from the teaching of the Church in its fullness [to be honest I have met very few who do not dissent or at least disagree about some actual Church teaching [as distinct from a Church policy etc]-a sad commentary, but not one limited to either ‘liberal Catholics’ or ‘non-practicing Catholics’

    While I think discussion and dialogue within the Church is fine and healthy, where do each of us stand with the Church? Are we with her-as She is at this moment, in the Catholic Church headed by Christ under the leadership of Francis and the bishops in communion with him, or do we stand some place else? If with her, the question is how can we ourselves be part of this ‘new evangelization’? If not with her, the question is how long are we going to remain apart?

  8. Victor R Claveau wrote, “The teachings of Christ are inviolate. A doctrinally watered down Catholicism will decimate, rather than build the Church”

    Yes, but we have to distinguish between the Kerygma – the Church’s proclamation to the world and dogma

    St Peter’s sermons in Acts give us an example of the Apostolic proclamation:

    1. The Age of Fulfilment has dawned, the “latter days” foretold by the prophets.
    2. This has taken place through the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
    3. By virtue of the resurrection, Jesus has been exalted at the right hand of God as Messianic head of the new Israel.
    4. The Holy Spirit in the church is the sign of Christ’s present power and glory.
    5. The Messianic Age will reach its consummation in the return of Christ.
    6. An appeal is made for repentance with the offer of forgiveness, the Holy Spirit, and salvation.

    By contrast, dogma, as Joseph Ratzinger (as he then was) explains, “as the self-engaging affirmation of faith, has its primary home in the event of baptism, and so in the liturgical sealing of a process of conversion wherein a man turns from belonging to himself alone and accepts in its place the bond of existence in the way of Jesus Christ.” In the baptismal dialogue, it is the representative of the Church who identifies the content of the shared faith, and the individual candidate who appropriates this with his “I do believe.” The threefold response to questioning about the mystery of Father, Son and Spirit formed the basis of the primitive creeds.

    We should not confuse the initial proclamation – the Kerygma, with Dogma, whose setting is primarily liturgical and communal. Whilst proclamation is for the world, dogma in the form of the creed was guarded by the arcana dsciplina, the secret teaching, disclosed only to the catechumen in the process of baptismal initiation. It is the difference between evangelisation and catechesis.

    Of course, once people accepted the Apostles were messengers from God, they were bound to accept all that the Apostles taught them; when they entered the Church, they entered it in order to learn. The Church was their teacher; they did not come to argue, to examine, to pick and choose, but to accept whatever was put before them.

  9. I don’t mean this as an accusation against Paul, or any of those who criticize Francis’s approach. You know what’s in your hearts better than me. I know that when I start to think this way, I sense a lot of the brother of the prodigal son in me. Resentment that I’m not getting rewarded for having followed the rules. The hero of the parable is the father, who acted out of love, not the son who confused obedience and love. We’re called to obedience out of love, and we should rejoice at a brother’s return. If we know people who are attracted to the theology and discipline of the Church, we should be reeling them in ourselves.

  10. We seem to be somewhat hung up on this “perception of the unorthodox” … and afraid of anyone sharing our bed who hasn’t already changed his/her clothes (read converted into true faith). Rather I see it as akin to going to a restaurant (excuse the shallow analogy). We have the best food, finest service … but maybe an outer decor’ that seems less than inviting to some (stodgy, uncaring, not joyful) (not true, but perceived). If only we can get some of these hungry folks to come inside, examine the full menu and taste the delicious food, we may satisfy their graving. That in part is the church I think PF wishes for. Now this is idealist on the surface … but we can agree to convert one soul at a time … bite by bite.

  11. Based on the comments it seems I did not do a very effective job at communicating my point. I’m not arguing against bringing anyone into the faith, but rather am just wondering if some of our attempts at outreach and the way that we’ve tried to massage our message aren’t turning away certain potential converts. I welcome anyone who is truly converted, whether they be a conservative Episcopalian or militant atheist, I just want to make sure that our efforts are aimed equally at the former as much as the latter, and yet it seems to me that we tend to gear our outreach much more towards the latter.

  12. Paul: I fully understand and do appreciate your points (and agree with most) .. my comments were generalized and formed form many posts across this and similar blogs.

  13. I do not believe there is a one-size-fits-all

    In his letter to Simplician, St Augustine says, “Here someone will say, why was not Esau called in such a way that he would be willing to obey? We see that people are variously moved to believe when the same facts are shown or explained to them. For example, Simeon believed in our Lord Jesus Christ when he was still a little child, for the Spirit revealed the truth to him. Nathanael heard but one sentence from him, “Before Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree I saw thee” (John 1:48); and he replied, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.” Long after, Peter made the same confession, and for that merit heard himself pronounced blessed, and that the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven were to be given to him. His disciples believed on him when by a miracle in Cana of Galilee water was turned into wine, which the evangelist John records as the beginning of the signs of Jesus. He stirred many to believe by his words, but many did not believe though the dead were raised. Even his disciples were terrified and shattered by his cross and death, but the thief believed at the very moment when he saw him not highly exalted but his own equal in sharing in crucifixion. One of his disciples after his resurrection believed, not so much because his body was alive again, as because of his recent wounds. Many of those who crucified him, who had despised him while he was working his miracles, believed when his disciples preached him and did similar miracles in his name. Since, then, people are brought to faith in such different ways, and the same thing spoken in one way has power to move and has no such power when spoken in another way, or may move one man and not another, who would dare to affirm that God has no method of calling whereby even Esau might have applied his mind and yoked his will to the faith in which Jacob was justified? “

  14. Paul thank you for writing this. I had been thinking along these lines as well.

    I have a friend who is pretty non-religious but fairly socially-conservative. She has been going to church more recently. I suspect that the change in tone from the Pope could be a turn-off for her.

  15. “Who are we trying to evangelize?” Or, better, who is Pope Francis trying to evangelize.

    We already know the Pew Survey conducted Mar. 2013-October 2013, the results of which were posted 11/25/13, which showed no positive change at all in the number of self-identified Catholics in the US, nor an increase in their Mass attendance,as a result of the expected and much-ballyhooed “Francis effect.” Neither did the 10% of respondents who said they were former Catholics decline in number, evidencing no return to the Catholic Church, something that John Allen and the NCR-ilk promised would occur.

    No doubt the Pew Survey is a group of grouchy traditionalists, but one area it did identify as a possible trend was a reduction in confessional practice (only 1 or 2% but a decline nonetheless, so it would seem occurring because PF has suggested they dont need to anymore?) and also the general trend of a decline in weekly Mass attendance, a pattern which has continued for US Catholics since 2007.

    Now, we can be certain that if there were any positive increases reflected by Pew [and there are none], the Pope-Franciscans would be cudgeling those of us who continue to point out the confusion and contradictions of his many conflicting statements, as well as those by his lieutenants Kasper and Muller, and his rudderless leadership of Peter’s barque. However, when Illinois legislators voted for same-sex marriage in their state this past fall, several of them quoted PF’s “Who-am-I-to-judge” as evidence of support for their stand. When PF called together a religious orders conference in Rome Nov.27-29, 2013, he praised only one group by name — the ecumenical but Protestant-founded Taize community, not a Catholic order at all. Gee, PF, you couldnt find one good order ANYWHERE inside the Church to laud? When a well-known local (CA) bishop recently wrote back to individuals who questioned pro-pan-sexual ‘Catholic’ Santa Clara U professor Lisa Fullam and her mandatum to teach, he cited Pope Francis’ support of “open dialogue” in theology. And yet we know there is no accord between Christ and Satan (2 Cor 6:15). St Dominic chose his standard to be white and black, because the Truth of Christ was as definable and disparate from evil as black and white (Surprise!).

    It is over one year now of PF’s papacy, and the clarity, certainty, and purpose that existed under BXVI’s leadership has been completely shattered and the barque of Peter is clearly rolling aimlessly in the tempest. Victor Claveau lays it on the line
    (“The Church in the U.S. is slowly dying ..”); so does Fr. Brian Harrison OS (“Let us make no mistake: Satan is right now shaking the Church to her very foundations … If anything, the confusion is becoming even graver…”) We are not the relatively cohesive an institution/organization as we were in 1965, so we cannot endure another Montini-papacy on steroids with a PF happy-face on the eschatological issues. It appears that Romano Amerio’s prophecy that the Church may only survive in small cells here and there is coming closer to fulfillment.

  16. I am not a “Pope-Franciscan’, I am however a Catholic who attempts to live the Way, the Truth and the Life. I hope and pray that I am in full communion with the Church-I say hope and pray because besides the doctrinal, sacramental and governmental communion with the Church there is perseverance in charity-being in the state of grace.

    I do not accept and will not accept a narrative that this is ‘the worst of times’ in the Church. There have been far worse. Neither do I subscribe that these are the ‘best of times’-because frankly, although some believe that their own favorite time frame was that: early Church, Patristic Church, Medieval Church, Tridentine Church, etc,-there has been no ‘best of times’-any read of Acts and the history of the Church will tell anyone that.

    Since these are not ‘the best of times’ and the ‘worst of times’ I would encourage each and all to stop the Monday morning quarterbacking, or complain and sew parlor talk and get involved with the new evangelization according to one’s abilities, talents and specific vocation. Doing that is a full time job, and we won’t have time for the idealizing the universalizing and catastrophizing.

  17. “In fact there are many like Chris Johnson at the Midwest Conservative Journal – a Protestant who has taken up the cudgels so frequently for the Church that Don has named him Defender of the Faith – who are better exemplars of the faith than many actual Catholics. In other words, there are many (for lack of a better word) conservative Protestants who are every bit as much in need of evangelization, if only to just nudge them gently over the line towards full conversion. Yet where is our missionary outreach to them?”
    .
    True story: Way back when in the 60’s, when the Tridentine Mass was the “OF”, our Episcopal parish priest used to go over to the local Catholic parish to sit in the pews there with that parish’s congregation. (I assume this was not on a Sunday.) According to my father, said Episcopal priest was even allowed to take Communion.
    .
    Then Vatican II happened and the Church started to celebrate the Novus Ordo. The Episcopal priest? Well, he promptly stopped attending Mass at the Catholic Church. Why? “There was no longer a point to it.”
    .
    Of course, the reverse could be true as well. My husband, some time ago, went to the discuss his leaving the Church for a Protestant church. The response: Well, if it works for you, no problem. My husband, who had been hanging around more Protestants than Catholics at the time, decided there was no point to be coming Protestant.
    .
    Either way, I am not sure anyone’s attempt at Evangelization is really working out.

  18. Lots of different reactions to this post. I will try to offer a little clarity on my own words.
    In my first comment I tried to say that I am concerned about two groups of people that I think we are trying to evangelize.
    Combining those two groups includes just about everybody: 1) those who will think deeply about religion and the meaning of all these words, and 2) those who will think less deeply about it.

    In the first case I mentioned that taking away some of the coherence between the good news and moral teaching could leave people with a deeper religious consciousness unsatisfied. Michael kindly responded to my view of the inseparability of the “heart of the gospel” and the moral teaching. I understand what Michael said and all the wonderful quotes. Just in my view, tho, you can’t ultimately separate our moral choices from what we believe about God.
    In the second group I wondered if what appears to be a “softer” marketing technique since PF is in fact walking a line about truth in advertising… that is why I mentioned the newly married couple and the disappointment when we buy into something that isn’t what it represented itself to be.
    I say we can’t invite people to come investigate and join the Faith under the false pretenses that we don’t really hold to the doctrines we have always held.
    To me, after 2000 years, the kerygma and the dogma are inextricably united. We can’t offer the kerygma by downplaying the dogma.
    The real calling to follow Jesus does come from God, and He calls people each in a way that is meaningful to them. But we, as practical evangelizers, can look at the kind of results and facts given us by Steve Phoenix and adjust our approach, working to share the good news of the love of God. I say we need to be practical, remembering that Jesus said if they won’t listen, shake the dust off your feet and move on. (to someone who will listen)

  19. “I welcome anyone who is truly converted, whether they be a conservative Episcopalian or militant atheist,”
    .
    Freedom of religion, speech, press and peaceable assembly must remain absolute, so, that when the atheist, who is tolerated, chooses to embrace “our Creator”, and to believe, love and serve God, the atheist will not be “prohibited the free exercise thereof.”

  20. I think we should focus on evangelizing hot babes. The place will be overflowing if we get them in the door!

  21. I’d see a couple things as going on here:

    First off, the folks who are constantly crowing over what they imagine the latest sign of “change” coming out of the Vatican is think they like Francis because they think that he will overturn Church teaching and practice and turn it into a feel-good society with some liturgies thrown in for good measure. These people do not like what the Catholic Church is or teaches, and they will end up hating Francis if he doesn’t die young and leave them imagining that “if only he had lived” he would have got around to doing what they want. Among the non-Catholics and ex-Catholics who think that the first commandment is “Thou shalt never judge what anyone does in bed, for what is done in bed is holy if you like it” there will never be real converts.

    However, to extent your political analogy a bit: elections are inevitably won in the mushy middle — not the hypothetical “moderates” who want some sort of half Republican, half Democrat Frankenstein of a candidate, but the mushy middle which doesn’t have very clear political beliefs of any sort and so can be caught up into believing in some politician from either party because he says some particular thing that catches their fancy or simply seems like a dynamic personality.

    If the time I spent working on RCIA teams is any example, conversions often start in the mushy middle when some particular Catholic person or devotion or doctrine catches someone’s imagination and starts them off on a path of looking into the Church. If they never go past that, they’ll never become serious Catholics if they become Catholic at all, but from such small beginning people do sometime start to really learn about their faith and fall in love with Christ and His Church.

    I think that Francis’s public persona probably will catch many people’s attention and set them on a road which may lead to real conversion (just as John Paul II’s superstar image did the same in the earlier part of his papacy.) Other people I think he won’t appeal to as much or may even be an obstacle for.

  22. David P. “Spengler” Goldman has a review of a new book by Joseph Bottum that pertains to the discussion, albeit more in a what is it that’s being evangelized sense.

    Longish excerpt follows (the bolded bits I found particularly interesting):

    America’s consensus culture, Bottum argues, is the unmistakable descendant of the old Protestant Mainline, in particular the “Social Gospel” promulgated by Walter Rauschenbusch before the First World War and adopted by the liberal majority in the Mainline denominations during the 1920s. Although this assertion seems unremarkable at first glance, the method that Bottum brings to bear is entirely original. A deeply religious thinker, he understands spiritual life from the inside. He is less concerned with the outward forms and specific dogmas of religion than with its inner experience, and this approach leads him down paths often inaccessible to secular inquiry. The book should be disturbing not only to its nominal subjects, the “Poster Children” of post-Protestant America, but also to their conservative opposition. The battle is joined on a plane far removed from the quotidian concept of political debate.

    Bottum writes:

    We live in a spiritual age, in other words, when we believe ourselves surrounded by social beings of occult and mystic power. When we live with titanic cultural forces contending across the sky, and our moral sense of ourselves— of whether or not we are good people, of whether or not we are saved— takes its cues primarily from our relation to those forces. We live in a spiritual age when the political has been transformed into the soteriological. When how we vote is how our souls are saved.

    This might easily be misread as a rhetorical swipe at dogmatic liberalism. But Bottum wants us to understand that the inner life of secular Americans remains dense with spiritual experience, and that the post-Protestant experience resembles the supernatural world of the Middle Ages, but with new spiritual entities in place of the old devils and elves: “social and political ideas elevated to the status of strange divinities . . . born of the ancient religious hunger to perceive more in the world than just the give and take of ordinary human beings, but adapted to an age that piously congratulates itself on its escape from many of the strictures of ancient religion.” What Bottum calls the “re-enchantment and spiritual thickening of reality” is the subject of the book. It is an elusive quarry, for it is not a simple task to show that self-styled rationalists entertain a firm belief in the modern equivalent of ghosts and witches. For the post-Protestants, “the social forces of bigotry, power, corruption, mass opinion, militarism, and oppression are the constant themes of history” against which they must array themselves:

    These horrors have a palpable, almost metaphysical presence in the world. And the post-Protestants believe the best way to know themselves as moral is to define themselves in opposition to such bigotry and oppression— understanding good and evil not primarily in terms of personal behavior but as states of mind about the social condition. Sin, in other words, appears as a social fact, and the redeemed personality becomes confident of its own salvation by being aware of that fact. By knowing about, and rejecting, the evil that darkens society.

    The desire to be redeemed from sin (redefined as a social fact) identifies the post-Protestants as children of the Puritans. That insight is what makes his new book a new and invaluable contribution to our understanding of America’s frame of mind. Just what is a secular religion, and how does it shape the spiritual lives of its adherents? Bottum deftly peels the layers off the onion of liberal thinking to reveal its Protestant provenance and inherited religious sensibility. The Mainline Protestantism that once bestrode American public life never died, but metamorphosed into a secular doctrine of redemption. And that was made possible by the conversion of sin from a personal to a social fact in Walter Rauschenberg’s version of the social gospel. Bottum writes, “The new elite class of America is the old one: America’s Mainline Protestant Christians, in both the glory and the annoyingness of their moral confidence and spiritual certainty. They just stripped out the Christianity along the way.” By redefining sin as social sin, Rauschenberg raised up a new Satan and a new vocabulary of redemption from his snares. According to Bottum, his “central demand is to see social evil as really existing evil— a supernatural force of dark magic.” Jesus, Rauschenbusch wrote, “did in a very real sense bear the weight of the public sins of organized society, and they in turn are causally connected with all private sins.”

  23. “I think we should focus on evangelizing hot babes.”
    .
    Don’t sell yourself short,CatholicsRock! Why not evangelize the red hot mamas and their shot gun daddies.

  24. “”By redefining sin as social sin, Rauschenberg raised up a new Satan and a new vocabulary of redemption from his snares. According to Bottum, his “central demand is to see social evil as really existing evil— a supernatural force of dark magic.” Jesus, Rauschenbusch wrote, “did in a very real sense bear the weight of the public sins of organized society, and they in turn are causally connected with all private sins.” ”
    .
    Jesus did not die for Satan, nor did Jesus come for Satan. Jesus came and died as the Son of Man. for each individual as though that individual person was the only individual person ever created.

  25. Ernst Schreiber
    Thank you for that quotation from David Goldman.
    It recalls a common theme of the New right in France, where Alain de Benoist has pointed out the Christian roots of liberalism. “ In most respects, it represents a secularization of ideas and perspectives borrowed from Christian metaphysics, which spread into secular life following a rejection of any transcendent dimension. Actually, one finds in Christianity the seeds of the great mutations that gave birth to the secular ideologies of the first post-revolutionary era. Individualism was already present in the notion of individual salvation and of an intimate and privileged relation between an individual and God that surpasses any relation on earth. Egalitarianism is rooted in the idea that redemption is equally available to all mankind, since all are endowed with an individual soul whose absolute value is shared by all humanity. Progressivism is born of the idea that history has an absolute beginning and a necessary end, and that it unfolds globally according to a divine plan. Finally, universalism is the natural expression of a religion that claims to manifest a revealed truth which, valid for all men, summons them to conversion. Modern political life itself is founded on secularized theological concepts. Reduced to an opinion among others, today Christianity has unwittingly become the victim of the movement it started. In the history of the West, it became the religion of the way out of religion.”
    It is worth noting that the elements that he identifies are precisely those stressed by Protestantism (especially in its Puritan or Calvinist forms), where they are not balanced by the ecclesial, sacramental and hierarchical elements that are central to Catholicism.

  26. While I understand that many people who are hoping for a change in Church teaching on the moral issues will never agree with Church teachings on these issues, I think that many who get their information from the popular culture and mainstream media may be willing to rethink their positions based on the actual teachings of the Church and the reasoning behind these teachings. We seldom if ever hear preaching from the pulpit on these issues–the result has been that the culture frames (and distorts) the debate. All we hear is that Church teaching amounts to a “war on women” and other such nonsense. Perhaps people who listen to Pope Francis and search a little deeper into Church teaching may be converted or brought back into the fold.

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