It’s quite a mouthful of a word. I found the postings by Deborah Gyapong – Fr Ray Blake writes on evangelization and the article she describes – He asks some important questions about whether people are really serious about evangelizing.
There are some interesting questions. The first is whether Christianity is just about saving people from a prospect of eternal hell when they die or introducing them to a different philosophy of life that can transfigure their entire being. Usually, western Christianity is perceived as a set of oppressive regulations and directives like the ones that come from Brussels about health and safety and building the zero-risk world. How boring! Indeed, at the eve of the French Revolution, the Aristocracy had ceased to believe in Christianity, but promoted religion because it held the people in check. In those days, the Church was the ultimate Big Brother!
Now, if Christianity can be seen to be something soul-transforming, beautiful, mystical, other-worldly, then it will have the power to attract those who are spiritually open. If it is something not very different from the political ideologies screaming out of any number of loudspeakers, and the evangelisation message has nothing concrete to offer (a real Christian community that will bring the experience of beauty and the sacred), then it is little more than a cruel mockery.
I have been into this subject before. Who are we trying to evangelise? Invariably, the efforts of some go out to a particular cultural reference – that of materialism and popular culture. Conservatives are going to be very insistent on the exclusive claims of Christian churches, bringing in the element of constraint and moral blackmail. Join us or perish! Is that not the message that frequently comes through, blaring out of the megaphones? How about some muscular “masculine” (extreme right-wing, uh-hum) stuff! Religion for rugby players? What about religion for artists, musicians and poets? That’s an embarrassing question.
While “evangelism” is tied to conservative political ideology and treads on man’s quest for freedom and and spirit, many of us will be alienated. If Christianity has freedom and beauty as a part of its message, it will also attract the more sensitive of us. I and many others are not interested in the apologetics and exclusive claims, but we would be interested in the beauty of the liturgy and a more profound vision of Christ’s Romanticism and Cynicism.
Let us make Christianity more than an anti-hell insurance policy or some other materialistic tripe! Jesus was not interested in reformations and moralising, but in our love and innocence re-found, in our aspiration for a higher life than legalism and formalism. We need to appeal to the heart, the aspiration to true freedom and the sense of sacredness.
If we begin to live it, then others might begin to feel it.