Sunday, 5 June 2011

Modernity and Church

In the whole question of the (Catholic) Church and the world, we come again and again to the various ways in which adaptation to "'the world" can in fact be an expression of shame and fear – guilt at having failed to "hold" the modem world and to charm it with spectacles, pageantry, lively new debates, and other contrivances. To be dominated by the fear of losing our "hold" on men, especially on youth, is implicitly to confront the world in abject shame at the name and power of Christ. We do not preach Christ, we preach our own modernity, our own cleverness, our liveliness, our fashionableness, and our charm; or (if we are conservatives) our unshakable security and unchangeable rightness, our inviolable respectability (and God knows that is no attraction for youth of the world!).
Bonhoeffer, writing in the time of the Hitler Jugend, wrote: "The Church offered no resistance to contempt for age and the idolization of youth, for she was afraid of losing youth and with it the future. As though her future belonged to youth!"
The last thing in the world that should concern a Christian or the Church is survival in a temporal and worldly sense: to be concerned with this is an implicit denial of the Victory of Christ and of the Resurrection.
Yet this is what seems to concern most Christians. It is this fear of destruction and of suffering that has reduced the "Christianity" of so many Christians to mere anti-Communism and little else. It is this mortal terror of not "surviving," or indeed of not having a privileged place in society, that makes Christians willing and eager to destroy Communism with H-bombs. Or, in the case of liberals, the same fear takes another form: the fear of falling behind the intellectuals and the radicals who seem to make more sense than anyone else, and who seem to know the way into the future. The same fear of not surviving, of not being acceptable any more, of not having any place m the world of the future!
Anything that a Christian does under the impulsion of this fear is bound to be, in some way, an evasive repudiation of the name of Christ, whose death has "overcome the world" and whose resurrection is the only pledge of a real future that anyone can possibly have!
Thomas Merton, Conjectures of Guilty Bystander (Image Books, 1968), pp125-6