Part of the reason we hesitate to evangelize sometimes, I believe, is that we can't find our part in the story. What story? My point exactly. Maybe we have the mundane landscape of postmodern America to blame, or the decades of catechesis that taught a vanilla faith; whatever the cause, it has made the big picture hazy. We've replaced the fire of the holy Spirit with the glare of our HD tabernacles.
We don't really live in a culture of encounter; and when we don't know how to truly encounter one another, how are we supposed to lead people to an encounter with God? And if we can't communicate how to encounter God, how are we going to tell other people their part in a story where God is the main character?
I admit I have struggled, especially recently, when it comes to getting enthusiastic about evangelization. So many other inspiring worlds pull at me, while remaining steadfast in my faith can sometimes just seem like a chore.
Allow me to explain. While I'm not too well-versed in some of the epic stories being told through movies, video games and TV series these days, they do compel me — because I am yearning for a story that's larger than life, and I think this is a common desire among us all. I've been told the story of Christianity is the greatest one ever told, but to be honest it just doesn't resonate with the same epic quality as the ones hitting screens today. Do we simply need to tell the story of Christianity in a more larger-than-life form? It seems that has been tried with Downey and Burnett's docudrama The Bible, their movie Son of God and their follow-up TV-series, AD. They are just a few among the many who have tried to capture the story through cinema. But if the Bible and Gospels are the greatest story ever told, then why aren't these movies and shows the best ever made?
There Are Other Cultural Battlefronts
I don't mean to get sidetracked by talking about film adaptations of Christian stories. That's really another blog post for another time. But the idea I do want to get at is somewhere in there. I believe the reason we have trouble getting enthusiastic about evangelization lies in the gap between the message and the medium. If Christianity is the greatest story ever told, for some reason today's best storytellers don't want to tell it.
Why? Does it just seem too old and played out? There really aren't many original stories out there anymore anyway. Maybe there's more to it than the media and entertainment dimensions. I believe those are just two puzzle pieces in the big picture. Those are two battlefronts that simply overlap sometimes. So maybe we're just looking at evangelization in terms of reaching the masses on those two fronts. This would be a valid reason to become discouraged and unenthusiastic about the mission of evangelizing, because to be honest we are a far cry from making a strong impact in those fields.
Thank God it's not the only battlefront in this cultural war. We live in a fragmented society, and this is another reason it's so hard to see the big picture. Christianity teaches us to live a whole, holistic, holy lifestyle. Secularism breaks up life into pieces. Our job is one place. Home is another place miles away. Friends and family are in other towns and states. And this is just segregation in the physical, geographical sense. Next we have specializations within specializations of the many and various fields of study and work, causing specialists in one field to ignore those in another. When there's too much segregation of practices, the integration of ideas becomes nearly impossible because each step requires a leap into another field. We can overcome this obstacle by just learning to work together, but first we need a reason to do so.
What Christianity Offers
The secular world doesn't really have a reason to unite, except maybe under the banner of autonomy (which is kind of a contradiction). But the Church has a common vision as the united Body of Christ. Think of the many other battlefronts where the good fight needs to be fought; Hollywood, academia, Capitol Hill, to name but a few. This will take a concerted effort, so overcoming the postmodern challenge of segregated life is imperative.
We've lost the plot of the great story of humanity. We don't know where we're going so why should we have any sort of urgency to get there? That is why I have lost the fire. In a culture of relativism where anyone can really choose their own reality, why not just choose the one that's least demanding?
That mentality is exactly what we have to guard our souls from; our own souls and that of our society. So what does the Church have to offer society? A positive, overarching vision for humanity that brings our eternal end into view. We've seen how blurry that vision becomes when Christians become slackers in living out their baptismal calling. If that's not enough to motivate someone to evangelize then who knows what is?