Saturday, November 25, 2006

Christianity and Culture: Jesus as LORD

Image and video hosting by TinyPicI read the below comment on Times online this morning with great interest. I have just returned from mass, had my breakfast and sat down to read some news. I began to think deeply about what Cardinal O'Connor is saying in this piece. Does it say more about the faith [or lack thereof] of Christians in England in particular and Europe in general than it does about the state of a 'shallow multicultural society?' I believe that was what Pope Benedict XVI was getting at in his address. Christians are losing their faith and because of that, culture is beginning to lose its ability to reason. This begs a question: 'Is the Church a transformer of cultures [which are not amoral things] or is culture to transform the Church?' and 'Which engine is driving either culture or the Church?

Christians have so privitised their faith in the name of piety it seems that saints like John the Baptist, Peter, or Jesus himself could be reduced to fundamentalist quacks. What do I mean? Well, I sometimes wonder if John the Baptist had been as wise and politically correct in his own day as we piously claim we are today that maybe he could have saved his own head. Or, possibly Saint Peter, had he obeyed men rather than God, he could have been saved from being hung upside down on a cross (as tradition claims he was). Or, Jesus, he would have been sent to sensitivity training for the things he said to the scribes, pharisees and rulers of his day. When we pray, we pray in the Name of the LORD Jesus. What does it mean for the world that Jesus is LORD? What does it mean for the Church? What does it mean for the voice of the Church in society? What does it mean for holiness in our own lives? These are important questions for us to reflect on as we come to terms with facing the reality of what our society has become. The voice of the Holy Spirit is speaking [to the Church], are we listening?
Pope Benedict XVI, in his well-publicised address in Regensburg, spoke of the crucial link between faith, reason and culture. He was stating that the only honest basis for dialogue is reason rooted in goodness and love. This applies not only to dialogue with religious believers whose understanding and spiritual traditions are different from Christians, but also to secular Europe.

Shallow multiculturalism that fails to appreciate the basis of culture in faith, leads us away from social cohesion. In its deeper meaning, multiculturalism is about mutual respect and understanding for those of different beliefs. It is not about fulfilling the secularist dream of banishing faith from the public square, but about admitting new varieties of faith and inviting them to join the public conversation and valuing what they have to say.

I am becoming tired of the mockery of those who seem to regard faith communities, especially Christian ones, as intrusive and contrary to the common good. I label them Christophobic. They wish to close off every voice and contribution other than their own. Their inability to see the Christian seed in what is noble and good in Western culture chills the possibility of a true pluralism. Sometimes it spills over into the kind of anti-Christian bigotry that has appeared on some university campuses.

The great majority of people in our country do not want the erosion of a culture that is ultimately rooted in Christianity and its values. The presence in Britain of Muslims and other faith communities is leading to a renewed interest in Christian identity, boiled down if you like to the simple proposition that if a Muslim woman may wear a headscarf, a Christian woman should be able to wear a cross.

What is lacking in the new secular aggressiveness is the very Christian virtue of doubt. Only secularists such as Professor Dawkins seem to have no doubt when it comes to faith. We cannot build a truly human society on such narrow and rigid foundations.

Religion is not safe or easy. The new presence in Britain of an angry expression of Islam is a challenge; but the right response is not an angry dismissal of faith. We will not bring about a society at greater ease with itself by attempting to declare faith-free zones. British society is not a secular fortress needing to repel boarders, but a society permeated by belief as well as non-belief. The public space must be broad and permeable if it is to be truly public.

On my entry into seminary 56 years ago, my parish priest advised me to “Pray for perseverance”. I thought it rather unimaginative counsel at the time; now it seems to me quite inspired. For believers, the real task is to witness to God’s presence by lives of love and service, patiently persisting with those we disagree with.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor is the Archbishop of Westminster


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Church transforming culture or the reverse? I think it goes both ways - always has and always will.

(btw, does anyone else out there hate this new "beta blogger" thing? what a hassle.)

12:33 am  
Blogger Jeff said...

Fr. Gordon

I agree; in what sense do you see these practically being worked out? How is culture shaping the Church? How is the Church shaping culture?

9:19 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One can point to historical examples of both, I suppose. For instance, the way that penance went from being a public to a private discipline, and how it became a "repeatable" sacrament. That is an example of culture/life changing the practice, and to some extent, the theology of the Church. Such changes are not always bad, I don't think. In modern times, the influence of the culture is especially evident in the liturgy of the Church and its music, art, and architecture. There are many more examples too. As for the Church influencing culture, we see that quite a bit with the various "morality" laws on the books in different states/countries. And there is a social influence as well. By constantly testifying to the dignity of the human person, the Church influences culture - government especially - to enact laws and policies that help those in need.

I think the Church has a divine calling to help shape culture, and to bring God's Kingdom into greater realization. This can be done on any number of levels, and although politics and church can be a nasty mix, I see nothing wrong with Christians working through the government, and urging them to pass laws which preserve and promote the common good.

As far as influencing culture now and into the future, I think getting more involved in the mass media is going to be critical, and especially the use of emerging technologies, like the web, and things like YouTube. And of course the traditional methods will still be used - government, grassroots charity organizations, and so on.

did you ever get my e-mail? just checking - i amm not sure if i have the right address for you.

4:33 pm  

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