Europeans meet Christianity today for the most part with feelings somewhere in between incomprehension and hostility. These sentiments are clothed in wise words and polite smiles, difficult to detect. What is it? Some kind of allergy? Does the mere presence of Christianity make people uncomfortable? Is it a constant reminder of something one does not want to hear of? What makes expressions of Christianity so unbearable that they must be hunted down, as a last resort by the force of law?
And why is it that the largest grass-roots organization in Europe – if the reader is so generous as to grant me using this term for Christianity – is so little heard in the public? Which association has an office and full time staff in every one-horse town and yet receives little else but criticism?
Alasdair MacIntyre wrote that Saint Benedict did not want to save Europe but live Christianity in a radical form together with his friends: and in doing so, he inadvertently saved Europe. John Courtney Murray wrote, "The Holy Spirit does not descend into the City of Man in the form of a dove. He comes only in the endlessly energetic spirit of justice and love that dwells in the man of the City, the layman.” What are these energetic laymen now to do?
The first step is to be even better Christians. Remember Mother Theresa’s, "The only things that have to change are you and I." On a personal level this means to be faithful in the many little things that come our way every day, to yearn for spreading the gospel, yes, to go and tell it on the mountains.
Christians often speak on societal issues in public without mentioning the faith, in order to offer an argument to everyone interested, not just to believers. This is very considerate… however: in doing so, are we not withholding the real thing which ordinary people in front of their TV sets would need to hear? Don’t get me wrong: I am wholly intrigued by the Christian natural law tradition and ability of explaining almost everything by reason alone. And I fervently disagree with the Austrian pastor who expressed his similar dismay by saying: “I can’t believe you are using right reason in public debate instead of the bible!” But maybe Christians should talk more about their faith to the viewers and into their searching hearts than trying to make the interviewing journalist agree. Just a thought.
In my village of origin a large cross is attached to the outside of the local parish church. On it are inscribed all of the years in which a major outreach of evangelization has been organized there, beginning in 1865. The pattern ends in 1961.
Secondly, Christians need to be more outspoken. A German research institute recently concluded that the most noticeable thing about Christians is that they are unnoticeable. It is the responsibility of every single Christian to change that.
Christians need to shape the public debate. There is a lot to give! No important issue should go uncommented. The main call for Christians is to be more authentic and less afraid, to be well informed and to speak up with intelligible and reasonable arguments. For a Christian to engage in the public debate is an act of charity!
- Politicians inspired by Christianity should not leave their faith like a hat in the wardrobe in front of the halls of power. They have reason to be less timid. They should be very keen to work for the protection of human dignity and against legal restrictions that either directly or indirectly effect Christians, in the awareness that in the context of broad reaching legislation that limits fundamental freedoms, spotty and provisional exemptions for Christians do not suffice for the preservation of and shaping of a free and just society.
- Those who work in the fields of media and arts must try to work towards a more positive portrayal of Christians and to combat the prejudices created by negative stereotyping.
- Those who work academically and on the intellectual level should try to bring Christian principles out of their current lonely ghetto and into the mainstreamed debate.
- Christian parents must make the passing on of the faith to their children a priority. This includes a careful and considerate choice of schools. Those who work in the field of education need to revisit their profound responsibility and renew their commitment to their faith.
- Church leaders should allow themselves to clearly articulate the Christian point of view and to address the foundational concepts and frameworks needed for all people to seek happiness.
The time of watching the developments of society from your living room sofa is over.
So, is this the grand master plan? Probably not. But as Christians we know this: We are only responsible for that which we are able to do. Yes, our goal is to do our part in shaping the world so that it becomes a place in which all can flourish. But if we are not able to make changes on the large scale, our second goal is to be of assistance to those individuals, be they only a few, who are listening and who are beginning to reconsider and ponder what Christianity tells them. Yet even if it does not happen, and even if no one listens, it still will have been worthwhile so to say metaphysically to have voiced the truth, to have spoken up for the weakest, and to have proclaimed the Christian faith.
By Gudrun Kugler and the Europe for Christ! Team
This article is an excerpt of a contribution to the publication “Exiting a Dead End Road, A GPS for Christians in Public Discourse”. Republication welcome, credit required. www.europe4christ.net.