Friday, August 19, 2005

Different paths to God

More on Europe's spiritual decline, this from the U.K.'s Guardian Unlimited ... Different paths to God. Quote!

Few things are funnier than middle-aged clergymen trying to appeal to young people. This is a serious problem for organised religion, for if it cannot appeal to young people, it will die out. It is also a problem for the rest of us, since the religious styles most attractive to young men are often the most intolerant and aggressive: fundamentalism is a disease of adolescence, and uncertainty. So it is sobering to reflect that the fate of Christianity in Europe this century may well depend on the legacy of two elderly men who could not appear less relevant. One, Brother Roger, the 90-year-old monk who founded the Taizé community, was murdered on Wednesday in his own church, apparently by a mentally ill person. The second, 78-year-old Pope Benedict XVI, has arrived in Cologne for a festival of a million mainly young Catholics from around the world.

This is a common refrain. "Religion must be relevant! It must appeal to the young! It must speak their language!" Not really. To me, the constant urge to change Christ's message to keep up with the latest inane whims of the culture is a blueprint for defeat.

Perhaps now I qualify as an old crank (I'm 36) but appealing to the young is not the church's biggest problem. The Gospel, faithfully delivered, appeals to no one, regardless of age. Without the quickening work of the Holy Spirit, it is all so much foolishness.

That said, the Gospel, faithfully delivered, should never rely on the whims of culture. The need for a Savior is universal and timeless. If you are a human being, you are destined for Hell and in desperate need of a regenerating Savior ... and only one qualifies. More ...
It is easy to see the contrast between the two men as one between top-down and bottom-up religion, or exclusivity and inclusivity. The Pope, as Cardinal Ratzinger, was the embodiment of orthodoxy; Brother Roger seemed not to care who came to pray with him, nor where they came from. The pilgrims to Taizé came often as individuals; they come to the World Youth Day in groups. But the conflict is not so deep. The two men have a great deal in common. Both believed Christianity is essential to Europe's future. Neither man's style of religion could satisfy everyone. Christianity needs both emotional outreach and intellectual boundaries if it is to survive.

Not really. Christianity is not dependent on us for survival. God always will have his remnant, and no one can snatch them from his hand. The church must deliver the word and sacraments, without giving a rip about what the culture is up to.