Tuesday, July 6, 2010

From Privileged to Persecuted

There is a ton going on with the church these days. John Allen has a good summary. He talks about the church moving from a culture shaping majority to position to a defensive counter-cultural position. This has been happening for a long time but it is getting more intense all the time. The scandals have quickened the pace of the change for the moment but many of these things would have happened anyway.

Pope Benedict is embracing this. It is sad to see that so many are rejecting the faith but it is in some ways easier than dealing with a majority with luke warm faith. He is constantly proposing a radical living out of the truth of the gospel. It is hard to do in countries full of nominally Catholic people. We see it in the appointments he has made. He has appointed theologians to positions that have been traditionally held by diplomats. First at Secretary of State, now at the Congregation of Bishops and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He is looking to be Catholic without compromise. The emphasis is on who we are and not on dialoguing with others.

For me, this is normal. Growing up Christian Reformed we were never the majority. Sure they are huge in Holland and a few dutch enclaves in North America but I never lived in those places. My church was always the creative minority. Smaller numbers meant greater zeal. It was a good dynamic. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, you live at peace with everyone (Rom 12:18). But most of all you just focus on doing what God is calling you to do.

Historically the church has gotten into trouble many times when it has tried to make alliances with political powers. It has done well when it has risen above petty politics regardless of the consequences. We are going there and the consequences might be severe. But there is much hope. There are no stats for orthodox Catholics but it seems their numbers are growing. They have more children. They produce more priests. The defend their faith because they can. A cultural Catholicism is not rationally defensible.

When the church becomes what it is called to be then it grows. That is easier to do when you are being persecuted. Nobody sees sacraments as their right. People expect you to be offensive.

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