The Gospel is addressed, not merely to individuals, but to the culture itself. Evangelization is not simply adaptation to the culture, either; nor is it dressing up the Gospel with cultural elements, along superficial lines, so that with modified figures of speech... the job is done. Faith is always open to bridge-building; it accepts what is good. But it is also a sign of opposition to whatever in the culture bars the door against the gospel. Thus, it has always been critical of culture also, and it must continue fearlessly and steadfastly to critique culture, especially today.... Easy compromises benefit no one.
On the Way to Jesus Christ, 48-50
Reflection – Someone posted this on my Facebook page, and it seemed topical. It speaks to something I’ve been personally wrestling with on and off on this blog. I am a Canadian, which means I’m culturally predispositioned towards being nice, conciliatory, peaceable in my dealings with others. I don’t really enjoy having fights with people. In Canada we all get cooped up inside for six-seven months of every year, so our national character is to search for peaceful co-existence at all costs, as the alternative is freezing to death.
At the same time, I am French-Canadian, and have the full expression of the Gallic temperament: fiery, passionate, heavily invested in ideas and philosophies, extravagant in speech. Furthermore, I care deeply about certain grave social issues and ills, especially those around human life and sexuality. I have deep convictions, and am deeply convinced that our current social norms and practices are, in fact, killing people, and not only in the direct reality of abortion.
But then there is Internet culture, which is polarizing, argumentative, confrontational, and quick to degrade every discussion down to nasty personal wrangling and invective. And of course this culture of division and anger is not limited to the Internet—our public and private discourse is increasingly quarrelsome and vicious. As a Christian I reject that mode of discourse and strive to find another way.
But finally, just to lay out the full contours of my challenge, I am a Catholic priest, and have a most solemn obligation to present the whole Catholic faith as it has been handed to me—not my opinions about it or my own bright ideas, but the Catholic faith. I happen to agree with the Catholic faith (good thing!), which makes it easier. But I need to do that on this blog no less than in the pulpit or in the confessional…
Anyhow, none of this is to whine about how hard it is. I voluntarily started this blog, and I love it – I just said to my superior yesterday that this blog is not ‘work’ so much as an really enjoyable hobby. But the challenge is real, nonetheless. It’s a good challenge. We have to find ways to talk about things that matter, things that people have very different opinions about, and find ways to speak strongly and seriously about matters that are, in fact, strong serious matters.
So Ratzinger in the above passage certainly encourages me, and I hope he explains here why we cannot just ‘be nice’ all the time. Contemporary culture needs to be evangelized, and evangelization does have this aspect of prophetic confrontation and critique. I’m always struck by Peter’s first homily on Pentecost Sunday (Acts ) where he says, among other things, ‘You killed Jesus! But God raised him up…’ Not a feel good homily, eh? Not very Canadian…
Our culture, our society is killing a lot of people. And it is despoiling the innocence of millions more—I just read a story the other day about ‘sexy’ clothing being marketed to six-year old girls. And it is deadening the capacity to think, to love, to commit, of millions upon millions more—I’m thinking of all the young men captivated by pornography these days. And… so much else is going on, but again I’m Canadian and I really don’t want to rant.
But, as the Lord says in Ps 50:21, ‘You do this, and should I keep silent?’ We have to find words to say what is wrong, what is evil and destructive and harmful in the world today, or how else will the world ever repent? In my case, because of my intellectual bent, I also search for ways to present the underlying philosophical errors-relativism, positivism, atheism-that drive many of these destructive forces.