Thursday, July 18, 2002

A question for Kairos readers

I need your help. St. Francis said "Preach the Gospel wherever you go. Use words, if necessary."

Well, I am finding it necessary. It is fairly easy here at Kairos to do so, among other reasons, because most of the readers I know about are already Crhistian, and most on the orthodox end of the Catholic spectrum. Not much struggle there.

Where I am struggling is how to deal with it in my private life, among friends and relatives who do not have anything that could be meaningfully called a Christian faith. Some have some vague forms of Christianity that they wear like an old shirt, comfortable and well-worn, but not really fit for use outside narrow confines. Others are vaguely pagan or atheist. All are the sort you would describe as "good people" who do good things and, in some cases, do a better job caring for the suffering than I or many of my more explicitly religious friends do.

The trouble is, as my own faith deepens and grows, it becomes more apparent to me as an imperative that I need at least to try to teach them, explicitly, with words, about the Gospel. This makes me uncomfortable for a whole lot of reasons. First, as much as I have rebelled against it and fought with it, I am a victim of the multicultural brainwashing college and the media have inflicted on me since the mid 80s. My own initial instincts around moral attitudes sometimes repulses me, because it is so heinously relativistic. Second, etiquette sometimes makes the religious education of another sticky at best. And, finally, there is my own repugnance (described in my earlier post today) at smug Christians Who Have All the Answers and use their "prayers" like a cudgel on me. I want nothing to do with that sort of thing, and fear any effort to spread the Gospel to those who have already rejected it will invariably lead me into all sorts of sins of Pride.

(As an aside, I have some experience of the kind of thing I'm talking about. This past winter, I got it into my head to give out to homeless people those aluminum space blankets that weigh very little and fold up to the size of a deck of cards. I don't like giving money to addicts to fuel their addiction, and this seemed like a good compromise to doing something for them, but not helping them hurt themselves. All went fine for a while, until I got it further into my head that simply waiting for a homeless person to cross my path was pretty lame, and I should actively find some to help. Anyone who has ever tried this knows what an act of condescending arrogance this turns out to be. So, once bitten, twice shy, as they say.)

So, I'm looking for advice from readers. It is plainly and clearly an obligation of a Christian to spread the Gospel. It is good that I do Kairos, if it helps spread or deepen it among Christians, but I seriously doubt whether anyone is ever going to undergo a conversion simply by reading the blather I post in odd moments. How do you approach those around you, in charity and humility, but with something that is nevertheless "the answer"?


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