Monday, November 24, 2008

Awake From Your Slumber

Richard John Neuhaus has a sobering look at the problem of Christianity Without Culture and the difficulties that may lie ahead as the Church struggles to maintain its place in the culture at FIRST THINGS:

Babylon cannot be transformed into the New Jerusalem. The latter is God's achievement in God's good time. To attempt to achieve it on our own is a delusion. Acting on the delusion leads to fevered fanaticism; the certainty of failure leads to bitter despair. But a Church that knows itself, and publicly asserts itself, as a distinct society in its place of exile seeks the peace of the city of man and in that seeking is, in this time short of the End Time, the prolepsis of the City of God.

The Church is not merely a voluntary association of the spiritually like-minded catering to the indulgence of private sensibilities in one of Babylon's many enclaves of choice. The Church is the Body of Christ through time proposing to the world the new creation inaugurated in his cross and resurrection and promised return. Whether against, above, in paradox, or transforming, she is always critically engaged—never surrendering to the cultural captivity that is the delusion of "Christ without culture."

Yes, the imminent Kulturkampf, if that is what is in the offing, will require legal talent, political strategizing, relentless persuasion, and all the other means compatible with our constitutional order. Most of all, however, it requires the courage born of faith that the Church really is the Body of Christ through time, a distinct and public community bearing public witness to public truths about the right ordering of life both public and personal. In Catholic history, the cry through the centuries is for libertas ecclesiae--the freedom of the Church to be the Church. For Catholics and others, that freedom now faces a time of severe testing. In the defense of that freedom there have been through the centuries martyrs beyond numbering. We do not know what will happen in the months and years ahead, except that now it may be our turn.

Will religion be able to maintain its place in the American public square (however boxed in it may be) or become nothing more than a "private matter" (as many secularists want)? The question may very well be put to the test soon.

UPDATE-- Writing along similar lines, George Wiegel argues for more robust adult catechesis:

Then we come to adult catechesis. This year, the pro-abortion candidate carried every state in what Maggie Gallagher calls the "Decadent Catholic Corridor" -- the Northeast and the older parts of the Midwest. Too many Catholics there are still voting the way their grandparents did, and because that's what their grandparents did. This tribal voting has been described by some bishops as immoral; it is certainly stupid, and it must be challenged by adult education. That includes effective use of the pulpit to unsettle settled patterns of mindlessness. This year, a gratifying number of bishops began to accept the responsibilities of their teaching office; so, now, must parish pastors.

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