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Let's Talk About...Jesus - December 2017

posted Dec 29, 2017, 3:59 PM by RSO The Fenwick Review
By Jack Rosenwinkel '21

“I’m really fed up with Christians,” my neighbor told me. “The other night I was by the pond when these two guys with beanies and acoustic guitars asked me if I’d found Christ, and then they started playing Jesus music.”

As a Catholic, the thought of two hippies playing Jesus Jams by a pond makes me smile. But I can understand how hipster-fueled evangelization with spontaneous music can be a little off-putting-- especially in a society where religion is akin to going to the bathroom: if you have to do it, fine, but don’t talk about it. This attitude is a serious challenge to evangelization-- it’s hard to make disciples of all nations when the nations are too fed up with you to listen. I understand that any amount of evangelization will alienate some people, but this alienation becomes a problem when it annihilates any receptivity to Catholicism. Given that Jesus told us that we’d be persecuted for spreading the gospel, some evangelists seem to judge their effectiveness by how many people they’ve made mad. That’s not the point; any evangelization that drives people away from God undermines its own purpose, no matter how Christ-like the ensuing stigmatization makes us feel.

That’s not to say there aren’t real barriers to evangelization. A recent New York Times Op-Ed by Nicholas Kristof cited several studies which indicate that in academia, there’s significantly more hiring bias against Conservatives and Christians than against minority groups. Kristof cited a study by a black evangelical sociologist who found that 30% of academics said they’d be less likely to support a candidate for a job if they found out the candidate was a Republican. The numbers jumped to over 50% when the academics were informed the candidate was also an Evangelical Christian. While Catholics and Evangelicals face different social stigmas, they are stigmas nonetheless, and in or out of academia, these stigmas are a real barrier to effectively spreading the Gospel.

On top of the social stigma, there’s also the very real and uncomfortable truth that no matter how logical and persuasive you are, you can’t argue someone into faith. So how do we evangelize in a secular culture that ridicules and delegitimizes Christians? How do we lead someone to the Truth if we can’t just… convince them of it?

The answer is sanctity. Look at Mother Teresa. Before she became known around the world as a living saint, a young British journalist named Malcolm Muggeridge was assigned to report on her. At the time, Muggeridge was an atheist. He died a Catholic. This was not because Mother Teresa was a great apologist or philosopher, nor was it her ability to jam out to Matt Maher on the acoustic guitar. Mother Teresa led people to Christ because she reflected Him. After all, it’s hard to look God in the eyes and say He doesn’t exist. Her life was a witness. It showed that people really can live entirely beyond themselves, for selfless motives, and glorify God. Saints are beautiful works of art, and art teaches you something about the artist. When the world saw Mother Teresa- now St. Teresa of Calcutta- they saw the God who shaped her, guided her, and led her to change the world. She, like any Christ-like figure, had her opponents. All evangelists will. Jesus did too. But by being a mirror for Christ, she was able to effectively show people the truth. As Dr. Peter Kreeft once said, “Nobody ever won an argument against Mother Teresa.”

But what does that mean for you and me?

It means that we have to live up to our Baptismal call--we have to be saints. If we claim to be Catholic, but we don’t live it, then we’re not just being annoying evangelists. We’re being hypocrites. Teach with your actions! If they say you’re judgmental, show the mercy of Christ. If they say you’re boring, show them the wild joy of living the Gospel. If they say that God is dead, become a generation of saints. Especially in a culture that thinks religion is the dying tradition of the elderly, young Catholics have a duty to rise up and fight for holiness. If we want to show everyone that this is real, then we have to really live it.

Look around you. People are hungry for love and acceptance. They’re hungry for peace and freedom. They’re hungry for a life that has meaning. They don’t know it, but they’re hungry for Christ. In our sanctity, we can be beacons- drawing people in, and then pointing them to Christ. If we pursue holiness, then our “halos” become like McDonald’s golden arches- a glowing sign offering the promise of fulfillment and an answer to the nihilistic hunger of our generation. We have the Bread of Life, the food that will satisfy. What more could we ever need?