Evangelization: how to do it?

I’d like to discuss something with my fellow Christians.  I’ll be writing from a Catholic perspective, but the Protestant position is basically the same, so I’ll be interested in everybody’s thoughts.

Jesus told us to bring the Good News to all people; evangelization is a serious duty for each of us.  My simple plan for converting the world is as follows:  there are about 1 billion Catholics in the world, and 6 billion non-Catholics.  Therefore, each of us should convert 6 people.  Done.  How hard could that be?  Just six people.  I must know dozens of non-Catholics and interact at least in small ways with hundreds.  I’ve probably got six decades of adult life, so if I wanted to, I could target one person for a whole decade (not that I think that would be a particularly effective strategy).

All right, let’s do it.  Let’s make converts.  But how?  How about the direct approach?  Preach at street corners; witness to our co-workers.  The trouble is that I can’t imagine one chance in a million of this actually working, or accomplishing anything but pissing people off.  How about the indirect approach?  “Preach” by example, by works of virtue and mercy.  This is what clergy usually tell us to do nowadays, and of course it’s a good thing, but it sounds like an excuse to not evangelize and pretend you did.  Faith can’t be spread entirely by spiritual osmosis.  At some point, we must bring up the subject of Christianity to the potential convert.  Besides, if the idea is to impress via good deeds, doesn’t that mean we have to make a point to show off to everyone how virtuous we are?  There are Biblical strictures against that.  The third strategy is prayer and fasting.  Again, those are definitely things to do, but is that really all we’re going to do to spread the faith?

To tell the truth, I have no idea how to make converts.  The correct answer, I know, is that we never really do.  Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit, not from us.  That can’t mean that we are to just sit back and wait for the Holy Ghost to start hitting people over the head; we have been told to spread the faith.  The effect (conversion) is always disproportionate to our contribution (witnessing, good example) to the cause.  Still, there must be an intelligible connection between what we do and what the Holy Spirit brings out of it.  Otherwise, why not just sit in your room and play marbles, saying that God may take your concentration on the game and, in His mysterious ways, use it for the salvation of souls?  Here’s where a theology of evangelization would be helpful; instead, theologians have spent the past century giving us arguments why we don’t need to bother with evangelizing (because, you know, everybody is already an “anonymous Christian”).

I can’t think of anything I could do to get through to these people.  I have had friends and family leave the Church, and there was nothing I could think to do to stop them.  I would always end up doing very little, thinking I should be careful to maintain a positive relationship, don’t let it turn into an argument, set myself up to “subtly” win them back later (although the opportunity for “subtle” action never does seem to arise.)  In retrospect, I half wish I had just made an ass of myself, and demanded they repent their heresies for reasons X, Y, and Z.  I can’t imagine it working, but at least when I face judgment I would have been able to say that I did something.

Right now, aside from trying to shelter the souls of my wife and daughter, this blog is my main evangelization effort.  That’s pretty puny, given that this isn’t even an apologetics blog, and I don’t give my readers reasons to convert–although if anybody wants to hear why I think he should be a Christian, I’d be happy to oblige.  However, my impression of the culture is that the main things that keep people away from and hostile to the Church are philosophical/moral/social beliefs rather than strictly theological ones.  To be a Christian, you must believe in stuff like the Incarnation, but most nonbelievers never even get as far as asking whether they believe this.  They know that the Church is hierarchical, patriarchal, and anti-democratic; they think these are damning faults, and so they never even consider the Church’s more distinct doctrines.  If I can knock down these false philosophical positions in some people, their main obstacle to the faith will be removed, and that seems like a major thing.

Still, I suspect that what I just wrote is just rationalization, that I am substituting something difficult and frightening–actually outing myself as a Christian and preaching the Gospel to people who will hate me for it–with something easy and enjoyable–blabbing anonymously on the internet.  I haven’t significantly helped in the conversion of anybody, so I’m definitely not on track to make my quota.  Even in my extended family, where I have made some efforts–encouraging prayers before meals, arguing the Church’s positions against my modernizing elders and contemporaries–it’s not clear that I’m making anything but a superficial difference.  I really don’t know what to do.

So tell me, what do you do to spread the faith?

42 Responses

  1. Important question.

    Here are some ideas from Peter Kreeft (who is probably the best we have nowadays)

    http://archive.catholic.com/thisrock/2003/0301fea1.asp

    Also related, sociologist Rodney Stark has argued that most conversions (in history) occur among friends and families – as it were ‘by example’, and very few from the ‘cold calling’ approach.

    My own observation is that conventional Christian evangelism is apparently working very well in ex-atheist, ex-pagan China, and probably Africa; but is ineffective (for obvious reasons) in Islam, and ineffective in a different way in the post-Christian West.

    In the West, at least, we have been living through times of massive apostatsy, and people are immunized against conventional Christian evangelism when very young.

    And a huge problem is the role of ‘nice’ avowed Christians in forwarding the agenda of evil – such that most Christians, and most priests and most of the institutional Church arguably does more overall to help evil than Good.

    (Remembering that all evil necessarily contains Good, and that the greatest evil has always been done by those who were substantially Good, or even mostly-Good.)

    So, in such a situation in the West, I would suggest that *discernment* (telling right from wrong, detecting the wiles of covert evil and rejecting it) is more important than evangelism of the old kind – since old style evangelism, even if successful, is likely to lead to the service of evil (in a roundabout, rather than direct, fashion).

    And further, it may be that discernment within the institutional Chruches may be even more important than outside them – or else Christians will find that humble obedience to the Church ends-up being humble obedience to Antichrist (which is something about which Christians have been clearly warned in Scripture).

    So, it may be that the best work could be – soul by soul – helping to prevent apostasy and heresy within the institutional Church – e.g. to maintain the spiritual values of Christianity against the continual pressure to subordinate them to a worldly (Leftist, hence fundamentally atheist) socio-political agenda.

    And perhaps the best work will be done through prayer rather than communications: in a world of noise and distraction in the public sphere, it seems likely that silence, withdrawal and devotion are what is needed – not shouting Christianity through a bullhorn or broadcasting it via the mass media.

  2. Christ said plainly, “My sheep recognize my voice”. I can vouch for that, as the single most influential factor in my road to Christ was READING THE NEW TESTAMENT. I think 95% of our evangelization should be devoted to getting people to encounter the Word of God through the testimony of Holy Scripture.

    In the end, I think we err in attempting to gain members for Christianity. Instead, we should be encouraging followers of Christ.

    On a practical level, people are left with a bad taste in their mouth because of Christians and Christianity (hypocrites, Inquisitions, whatever…). When evangelizing, focus on what people know about the WORDS OF CHRIST. Usually, people who reject “Chrsitianity” know next to nothing about what Jesus actual said or did. THAT is your opening.

  3. Bonald, one thing that you yourself might be especially well positioned to specialize in, is to make people aware of the limitations and lies propagated by the anti-Christians, esp. related to science. Most people have no clue that their faith in “science” is completely misplaced and utterly unfounded.

    Putting cracks in their anti-Christian worldview is a huge service, consider it like unto “tilling the ground” in preparation for the planting of seeds. This is the neglected art known as Polemics, the more aggressive brother of Apologetics.

  4. However, my impression of the culture is that the main things that keep people away from and hostile to the Church are philosophical/moral/social beliefs rather than strictly theological ones. To be a Christian, you must believe in stuff like the Incarnation, but most nonbelievers never even get as far as asking whether they believe this. They know that the Church is hierarchical, patriarchal, and anti-democratic; they think these are damning faults, and so they never even consider the Church ‘s more distinct doctrines.

    I think this is on point. And I don’t think that is rationalizing. It seems like it would be the only process which would work for those of us who happen to be choleric authoritarian types rather than convivial meeter and greeter types. In my experience, the personality of the Catholic plays a big part in this, perhaps more so now than say when St. Dominic was around. People will write the street preacher off as nuts, if for no other reason than that he is street preaching, but if they know someone who they genuinely like (because that Catholic has the type of personality that everybody likes), they are more likely to want to believe that Catholic’s likeability is a result or at least somehow tied to his religious convictions.

    One young man I knew was this type. When I had met him, he had been Catholic for six years, traditional that is, and in that time had converted 60 people or so – and I didn’t hear this from his own mouth, but from a close personal friend of his family. Nobody did not like him. It’s a grace.

    For myself, I don’t worry about it. If God wants to use me, He will. There have been times where He has used me in a circuitous manner, times when I am asked advice for a friend to give a friend regarding whether or not to date a non-Catholic; it’s remoteness to the person may not matter, I don’t know. Sometimes they convert, sometimes they don’t. But in situations like that, or when the Faith comes up in conversation, or I am asked to defend or explain my beliefs, I just say a prayer, trust in Blessed Mother to give me the right words, and do the best I can. I have never been the instrument of conversion for anyone else, to my knowledge, but it’s not for lack of trying. ;P

    Another point which may influence conversion rates is the amount of time we allow ourselves to spend with non-Catholics in social settings. It’s a two-edged sword; on the one hand we run the risk of putting ourselves in occasions of sin, on the other, if we entirely avoid the company of non-Catholics, in what way are we allowing them exposure to our better example or Catholic culture? Do we meet them on their terms? And to what degree?

    I imagine as your daughter grows older you will be faced with these kinds of questions more and more. Should we let our children have non-Catholic friends? Should we expose our families to non-Catholic friendships, since doing so may include giving tacit approval to non-Catholic, immoral, or at the very least questionable culture, etc.? While it’s much easier on our minds to create a cultural bubble of like-minded people, that method does not gain on the ground converts. The majority of converts I have met, who aren’t Road to Damascus converts, were converted through peers who weren’t uber pious – they were trads who went to Mass every Sunday, but they skirted a cultural/religious line which I am sure their parents would rather they hadn’t.

    It’s a difficult question, and I don’t expect that I will have much influence beyond the circle of my own family, but even that would be a victory in my book.

  5. “I haven’t significantly helped in the conversion of anybody, so I’m definitely not on track to make my quota.”

    Wrong. I have you to thank at least in part for my conversion.

    I found Edward Feser through your blog — was directed to read The Last Superstition via his blog (which convinced me of certainty of God’s existence and of certain moral theological claims) — and, having resolved to become a Christian, was attracted to Catholicism thanks to your writings on the importance of authority.

  6. At St Nicolas-du-Chardonnet Church in Paris, you can follow a traditional adult catechism which is very helpful to me in organising in my mind why I believe and why the alternative is in fact irrational.

    This catechism is far more virile than what I received as a child and the priest puts foward a clear rational case for the existence of God, and by consequence why Traditional Catholicism is path to God’s graces.

    At the very begining of the first class, he explained that the faith was not like a teenage love affair where you lurch from passionate devotion to extreme disappointment. Faith is not a feeling but logical process thats leads you to the inescapable conclusion that we are here through God’s will, we have the choice to accept or reject this proposition but only through Christ, can you be saved.

    As for the rational demonstration for the existance of God, there are many non-refutable arguments.

    1) Science agrees that no human being can spontaneously cause to matter to appear, he can simply convert matter from one form to another. The same rule applies to nature, where a mountain appears by forcing material through the crust of the earth Conclusion, we cannot create matter therfore the source of all matter is divine.

    2) Everything is in continual motion, be it planets, the motion of continents, the growth of trees etc. For something to be in motion an initial force has to act upon it. The source of this catalyst is divine.

    3) False pagan religions ignore the primary causes and worship secondary effects such as the sea and animals.

    4) It is not possible to become a Hindu unless you are born into a caste, so that religion can only be false.

    5) Islam enslaves its people to the will of Allah. It’s a false religion

    6) Judaism restricts the one true God to a select few and thus negates God’s love for all humanity. That religion ended at the moment of Christ’s ressurection.

    7) Protestants take Christianity and strip it of the mystery and sanctity of centuries of tradition and reduce it to a humanistic free for all.

    8) Humans are unique amongst all creatures in having the capacity for reason and are therefore free to chose their paths. Animals are slaves to their instincts. The series of events that Darwinists believe that led to ensure humans are so different any other living thing is so improbable that it’s almost absurd.

    9) Jesus’s life, words and works were so earth shatteringly different from what we had seen until that time (or since) that he can only have been divine. If you accept everything he says except “No one comes to the father except through me”, why would you particularly select to ignore this?

    10) There were no material gains to be made by the early Christians who risked everything, up to their very lives, to spread the message of Christ’s death and ressurection.

    The first two arguments can be used with your secular human friends and they may not like the premise but they cannot refute it. If it starts them thinking that’s already good enough a start a path of questionning.

    They also have the advantage of not making you sound like an emotionally fragile religious nut.

    So my advice, is get some catechism from a traditionist priest and insert little comments into your daily conversations with colleagues and friends.

    Secular humanists believe that we are simply evolved animals. So we can question why no animal comes even close to us. Why do we have opposable thumbs to write? Why do we have speech and language? Why are we able to reason? Why do wear clothes? Why do need to eat a huge variety of food and not just one type?

  7. Evangelization with no prospect of success is not evangelization. It’s just playacting, a sort of narcissism. You live in a world filled with people who have hardened belief systems, what biblical writers called a stiff-necked and hard-hearted generation. They are not in the market for a new belief system, so any overt witnessing you do is going to be a “cold call.”

    What you can do, though, is let it be generally known that you are a serious Catholic. Many people will simply put this down as an odd personal foible, but for others–especially undergraduates struggling to preserve their faith–it will be evidence that an intelligent scientist can be a committed Christian. Falsifying malicious stereotypes is a very important form of witnessing, so Christian scientists evangelize simply by visibly existing.

    We all should be prepared to talk intelligently about our faith, however I doubt this makes many converts. In the world of educated infidels in which you move, intelligent Christianity is neutralized by treating it as a set of “interesting” philosophical propositions. What we really must prepare for are the “broken hearted,” whose world has fallen to pieces, putting them in the market for a new worldview. In these cases, your job is to remove the obstacles and objections to Christian faith. Christ does the calling.

  8. You’re probably going to hate this, Bonald, but you know what opened the door so that Prof. Charlton could convert me? GAME! The sequence was learn game -> witness first-hand that everything feminism taught me was lies -> wait, everything *liberalism* taught me was lies -> hmm, maybe Christianity really is responsible for everything I love about Western civilization -> if Christianity could do that much good, maybe there’s some truth to it; I’d better find out. It took many years, but the paradigm shift began with one tiny chink in the armor, and then the hole grew bigger and bigger, piece by connected piece, until it was all hole and transcendent came streaming in.

  9. Also, in terms of your duty to evangelize, I think your first priority is tending to the souls of your immediate family. Having more children is a good first step — the goal is to bring souls to Heaven after all — but continuing to provide proper moral instruction and example for your daughter and wife is a continuing priority.

    I’m inclined to agree with Dr. Charlton that no apologetics can resonate with the modern zeitgeist because it is constitutionally incapable of accepting the truth (it doesn’t even believe in truth). But Justin makes a good recommendation regarding polemics, which is something I think you do very well. Modern institutions, convictions, and ideals are false, and plainly so; since they are roadblocks to conversion they MUST be refuted.

  10. A related topic – should Christians make themselves identifiable?

    For example, wearing a cross, crucifix or some other Christian symbol – as a quiet witness.

    I think this would be a good idea; and it would mean that nothing need be said explicitly about Christianity – it could be up to another person to raise the topic, which would be the best way for these things to happen.

    It might also help for Christians in building alliances, to identify each other.

  11. I am reminded of the response given by Ananda Coomaraswamy – one of the greatest scholars of the 20th century, with a profound mastery of Patristic and Thomistic writings, as well as those of Platonism and Neoplatonism, the Vedas and Upanishads and numerous other traditions, and who looked upon traditional Catholicism, if not the post-Vatican II Church, with great kindliness – when pressed by a Catholic woman of his acquaintance to convert: “I am too catholic to be a Catholic.” (cf. “Selected Letters of Ananda K. Coomaraswamy”)

    Putting this aside, I am surprised that one of the most potent approaches of evangelization of the contemporary secular modern has yet to be mentioned: a clarification as to the manner in which the modern worldview is implicitly and irrevocably undermined by its philosophic reduction to existential nihilism. Why a clarification? The readily observable fact is that individuals committed to modernity and secularism rarely realize the necessary entailment of this commitment: the collapse of the domains of meaning and value, inescapably leading to existential nihilism. On the contrary, the utterly typical condition is that of the individual convinced there is no God and persuaded of philosophic materialism – whether articulated or not – who nevertheless possesses moral convictions, often passionately adhered to. The question that might very well be asked is: Why the utter failure to see the glaring contradiction? Is it a kind of societally induced selective stupidity?

    In this light, one can’t help but feel a certain grudging, at-arm’s-length respect for Nietzsche. For all that it is necessary to reject his ultimate positions, he had the very great virtue of seeing with complete clarity – a clarity that should be both commonplace and self-evident but somehow is not – the philosophic entailments of modernity and secularism: the “death of God” and the “last man”. Yet what modern individual sees this? What modern individual could live with his situation if he were able to perceive it clearly? To paraphrase the immortal line from “When Harry Met Sally”: “He’s the worse kind of nihilist. He’s the kind of nihilist who thinks he isn’t one.”

    In closing, let me point out that Dr. Charlton has particularly useful things to say on the topic of nihilism and contemporary man and I recommend a perusal of his blog in this regard. Let me end with a still-pertinent quote from the great Catholic novelist Flannery O’Connor: “If you live today, you breathe in nihilism … it’s the gas you breathe. If I hadn’t had the Church to fight it with or to tell me the necessity of fighting it, I would be the stinkingest logical positivist you ever saw right now.”

  12. Also, your essays so far establish a good reason to believe in God — but you should consider writing another essay on why to believe in Christ.

    That is, having made the leap into theism, why choose Christian theism? You would do a great service to the world by starting there.

  13. To heap some more praise on Dr. Charlton, not only his blog but his book Thought Prison as well contains an excellent diagnosis of the nihilist/modern condition from what I now recognize to be a kind of Voegelinian perspective.

  14. There are a lot of people in church that need to be evangelized.

  15. I’m very pleased to know I helped. I must draw attention to Feser’s blog more often.

  16. Hi JMSmith and Bruce,

    This issue of how visible I should be about my faith is something that I wonder about. I lean toward the view that professors should try to be discrete about their religious, philosophical, and political beliefs around undergraduates. I never bring it up. On the other hand, I don’t actively conceal it from students or colleagues either. If somebody asks me what I did Sunday morning, I’ll tell them that I went to church. My graduate students and a few of my collaborators have learned that I’m a Christian of some sort from conversations like that.

    If a student ever directly asked me what my religious beliefs are, I suppose I would tell them in a sentence or two, but then remind them that I hold no expertise over them in such matters. I want to be careful not to abuse my authority. Does this sound right to you?

  17. Yeah, that’s true. Really, the denominator in my equation should be a lot smaller (If the world really did have a billion committed Catholics and a billion committed Protestants, it would be a much different place.), so it’s worse than I said.

  18. I think it right and reasonable that we can self-identify as Christian and be recognizable as such – indeed I think we ought to do it.

    After all, Muslims are obvious by their style of dress etc, and can recognize and greet one another; Lefties have various signs like those rubber bracelets, ethnic things, AIDS ribbons, or badges for Greenpeace and save the whale.

    Christians should do the same, especially when we are in a minority – as in most colleges.

  19. You might be aware that straight-edge punks use recognizable symbols to signal their absolute abstention from drugs of all kinds.

    There is a radical group in NYC that refuses to masturbate. They wear a plain black rubber bracelet so long as they have managed to be true to that ideal. If they fail, they must take off the bracelet and suffer mild social rejection from those who still have the bracelet.

  20. I think we Christians are generally too discrete at the university, although I do not think we should rise to the standard set by the progressives who plaster their doors with pink triangles and Obama bumper stickers. If you are leading a Christian life, some religious paraphernalia will naturally be visible in your office from time to time: a Bible, a prayer book, a rosary, etc. I think the key is this: if it is there to sustain your religious identity, it is proper; it its there simply to announce your religious identity, it probably isn’t.

    With respect to conversation, I think you should let the student lead, but that you are free to follow them into any topic they care to discuss. I don’t think you should be so modest about your expertise. My sense is that you have a very good grasp of theology, philosophy, and history. You certainly know about 100 times more about these subjects than most religious studies professors know about physics. Here’s what I think we all need to remember. For all human history, up to about 50 years ago, serious people naturally discussed theological questions. Theology was woven into conversation the way that, say, economics is today. Only serious cranks were thought to be “always harping on about religion.” Our scrupulously atheistic conversations would have struck our ancestors as truly bizarre, like Victorian conversations with their various unmentionables. I think this example of sex provides the key. We must not treat religion as a “pass-me-my-smelling-salts” unmentionable, and we must not speak of nothing else.

  21. ” If I can knock down these false philosophical positions in some people, their main obstacle to the faith will be removed, and that seems like a major thing.”

    I think this is very important. I used to be hard left. First I learned (largely through the internet) how feminism is wrongheaded and evil; then I came to understand anti-racism; then came to embrace hierarchies in general. Finally, thanks to blogs such as this one, I started to look Christianity squarely in the eye for the first time since my youth. I believed strongly in Western tradition and in hierarchical structures first. So I naturally started to ask, what is the source of all this tradition, and what is the Highest Point on that hierarchy upon which all lower levels must depend? And to ask such a question is already to begin to answer it.

    This path obviously won’t work for all people, but I believe there are literally millions of people like me who are in a similar situation.

  22. Interesting post.

  23. Unsolicited advice from a religious skeptic:

    1. Set a good moral example.

    2. Engage our intellect.

    3. Whenever your faith allows, avoid claims that outrage the ethos of science.

    4. Be available to answer questions when we ask you, but don’t push your theology unasked.

    5. When we do ask, admit your own doubts (if you have any).

    6. Talk about degrees of proof.

    7. Subtly work in the point that most of us skeptics ultimately have to take what Hawking and Dawkins say as arguments from authority.

    8. If your chosen skeptic does not object, go ahead and pray for him or her.

    9. Delicately try to find what our objections are to belief, and then point us toward answers.

    10. Be patient.

    Most religious skeptics really are not open to conversion. For some of them, the naturalistic explanation of the universe is fully convincing (recommend Anthony Flew’s, There Is A God). For others, the moral relativism made possible by atheism is too convenient (recommend Peter Hitchens’s The Rage Against God).

  24. The reason why the Church is not making converts is that Catholics are ashamed of our own beliefs.Whether the subject is homosexuality, abortion, democracy or contraception, the only thing we show interest in proving is that we do not make any special demands, or hold any unique views.
    Why then should any one care?People do not adopt a new understanding of the universe because the one they were raised with is successful – they do so because their old explanations of things are flawed in some non-trivial way.If the alternative we offer is, in essence, the same,we have lost before we have begun.
    When we begin to teach the objective and uncompromising Truth that we alone posses in fullness,as it was passed on to us by the Apostles, then, and only then, will the world discover anew that all roads lead to Rome.

  25. The key thing to remember is that you don’t convert anyone – God does.

    Pray, first for yourself and then for the people you want to bring to Christ. You can’t beat the Rosary and the Blessed Sacrament.

    Plus, this isn’t a competition. People often forget this. Don’t try to win arguments. This isn’t a debating club (or a thesis committee), and you don’t get points for the intellectual elegance of your apologetics. (I’m aware that I’m a prime offender when it comes to approaching religion from an intellectualised, rationalistic perspective, but I don’t kid myself that this has anything to do with the substance of faith.)

    At the risk of talking my own book, I’d say that you should decouple your faith from your right-wing political programme, which really has nothing to do with faith in Christ’s saving work. It’s bad tactics to give the impression that a Catholic needs to be a monarchist, or a Republican, or whatever, for the simple reason that it’s not true.

    Also you should pray.

    What else? We all know at least one person – in my case, my father – who is an exemplary Christian and leads a life which eloquently bears witness to the teachings of our Lord. Be that person for other people.

    Did I mention that you should pray?

  26. I completely agree about grounding yourself in the scriptures. I think that Fulton Sheen once said that your evangelisation will be condemned to being dry unless you’re saturated with the Gospels. I would particularly recommend the Gospel of John, which is an extraordinary text (the middle chapters would be one place to start).

    On a more controversial note, I would say that a knowledge of modern critical Bible scholarship (with its critique of fundamentalist literalism) actually deepens, rather than diminishes, one’s faith, but I don’t expect you to agree with that!

  27. I concur with Prof. Charlton. As a fellow Brit, he will no doubt agree that it should be something tasteful and discreet.

  28. To be fair, I think this has always been the case. In the “golden age” of Christendom, there were a lot of people who were baptised, got married and were buried within the church who had no real faith. Keith Thomas explores this in “Religion and the Decline of Magic”. Scepticism, irreverence and outright atheism were rife long before Richard Dawkins and the scientific revolution that supposedly discredited religion.

    The scriptures make it clear that sincere believers will always be a minority, and remnants have an important place in salvation history.

  29. “At the risk of talking my own book, I’d say that you should decouple your faith from your right-wing political programme, which really has nothing to do with faith in Christ’s saving work. It’s bad tactics to give the impression that a Catholic needs to be a monarchist, or a Republican, or whatever, for the simple reason that it’s not true.”

    What I believe *is* true is that it is impossible – in the modern world, at this point in time – to be *left* wing and Christian: which is one reason why there are so very few Christians.

    Fitting one’s ‘Christianity’ around the constantly-changing priorities of progressive politics just won’t do – whatever people might have thought in the past, i should be obvious by now that the left is atheist: fundamentally, intrinsically.

    (PS. Bonald is not a Republican! Perish the thought. )

  30. Indeed! – and this is not easy, especially for people such as myself averse to anything like ‘jewellery’ (e.g. pendants).

    Still, there are various symbols such as crosses (of many designs) or (evangelical) fish, that are more like badges than brooches.

  31. Maybe we can agree on this much, Prof C: our Lord was neither a capitalist nor a socialist in the modern sense of those terms – and when discussing evangelism it’s perhaps best to park our left/right disagreements. There are plenty of godless atheists on both the right and the left, and they both stand in need of salvation.

  32. I guess it’s culturally easier for women to find something appropriate in terms of jewellery etc than us chaps. I’m slightly averse to the fish because I’ve been cut up (on my various journeys north on the M6 and M11) by incredibly rude drivers displaying that symbol…. 😉

  33. At the risk of talking my own book, I’d say that you should decouple your faith from your right-wing political programme, which really has nothing to do with faith in Christ’s saving work. It’s bad tactics to give the impression that a Catholic needs to be a monarchist, or a Republican, or whatever, for the simple reason that it’s not true.

    I think that theological conservatism is a better definition, e.g. belief in the Bible, belief in God and the spiritual realm, etc. Unfortunately Bonald is right:

    What I believe *is* true is that it is impossible – in the modern world, at this point in time – to be *left* wing and Christian: which is one reason why there are so very few Christians.

    It’s like the whole chicken and egg debate. Did the chicken come first or did the egg? To me it was the chicken because I believe in creation. Does liberalism make a person secular or does secularism make an person liberal? To me secularism came first and then liberalism. The same way orthodox religion and theological conservatism came first and then political conservatism. For a couple of people they won’t accept religion or even open their hearts to God if their political liberalism isn’t attacked first. Perrin you must understand that for these kinds of people removing the liberal effect makes them more open to rejecting the secular cause.

  34. Please, call me Reggie. I’d rather not get into a debate on the relationship between liberalism and atheism, though I will say that that relationship is much more complex than some people recognise, as shown by the right-wing atheists who post on this site. I am a political dork, as is Bonald and most of the other posters on here. But most people just aren’t political. They have no interest in public affairs or ideology. What they might just be interested in, however, is hearing that they have a soul as well as a body, that death is not the end, and that there is a God that loves them.

  35. But most people just aren’t political. They have no interest in public affairs or ideology.

    Most people aren’t political in the “I’m a political activist” sense but many do tend to have occasional interest in public affairs and what is going around the world.

    as shown by the right-wing atheists who post on this site.

    Interesting point. I’ve encountered a couple of these individuals and while some were quite nice, others seemed odd. Odd as in a twisted combination of metaphysical leftism and political conservatism, e.g. http://collapsetheblog.typepad.com/blog/2011/11/understanding-nazism.html

  36. I fear, Bonald, that you’ll hate where this answer is going, but I think you have to strike at people’s contradictions.

    Let me explain. The schools and media teach people that they should be both progressive and materialist. However, progressives have to believe in Charity, Equality, Justice… capital-I IDEAS. Meanwhile, materialist metaphysics leads to materialist ethics: Epicurus or Hobbes. Try to make it clear to people that if the ideals they cherish have any reality, rather than being as much delusions as Dawkins calls God, the only philosophically coherent answer is that they’re thoughts of the Nous or Logos. This is “the human preface to the Gospel.”

    The problem here is that if they take the second leap from Classical theism to Christ, they’ll be Christians of a progressive sort. But as much of a reactionary Christian who mourns that the Emperor of the Last Days hung up his crown after World War I as I am, I don’t think some political position is necessary to one’s salvation.

  37. I wonder whether Christians have become too tolerant of various, overt opinions and behaviors that are in direct, explicit, inexcusable opposition to the Truth. At what point would I be guilty of sin for remaining actively, yet silently, friendly with an alleged Christian for whom Scripture is strictly, say, another means to Leftist policies, for example? Should I perhaps abstain from giving him even the validation of my friendship? my company? When does it become sinful to continue pretending that we’re not in fact promoting a culture hostile to His Word solely by living within it cooperatively, and reaping its material benefits, without the slightest substantial sign of protest?

    I’m thinking vaguely in terms of a rough “religion-oriented embargo”. I’m curious what kind of influence one might legitimately have if he were to establish an exceedingly high value for his friendship, approval, support, etc. and then proceed to only reward those whom will at least show outward respect for Christ’s teaching. The legal system would doubtless prohibit it, but I’m probably tending toward something along the lines of an employer who openly (or, I suppose, sometimes covertly) refuses to hire someone he deems even slightly disrespectful of the Church. More like a firm “With Us or Against Us” policy/mentality that doesn’t fade depending on the sector of life one happens to be acting in.

    But then one would inevitably face the dangers of chasing worldly resources “y’know, uh, for Christ” (especially when it’s to support that absolutely necessary popularity and high social status). Plus, at the stage we’re in, the boycott one faces due to liberal outrage would likely be the most crippling. Nevertheless, it’s arguably more important to reward goodness, particularly any visible displays of Christian livelihood, than it is to punish the evils of practical atheists. Maybe if Christians make an effort to support fellow believers, to relieve one another of the weight of that Cross, we won’t have to always be looking forward to complete alienation and struggle for it. And then such acts may gradually become more commonplace.

  38. […] do you preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world? How do you do it? For me it’s a combination of talking the talk and walking the walk. Faith without works is […]

  39. […] certainly agree with Reggie that most people don’t think that much about politics, which is fine, so when trying to save […]

  40. Last night at choir rehearsal a liberal tenor said offhandedly that religion had killed more people than any other casus belli. I said, “Victor, I’m sorry, but that’s just not true. Stalin alone killed more people than all the religious wars in history.” I expected to get a lot of blowback for that, and was stunned when five – five! – other choristers chimed in to support my point.

    People believe this hogwash uncritically, because no one has ever told them anything different, and we must take every opportunity to expose the errors of their beliefs. That’s how I got started toward conservatism: I realized that it was simply false that the FBI was after me on account of my Marxism. I realized that, on the contrary, they couldn’t care less. Meaning I was free to be a Marxist. Meaning that the New Left was, in an important way, wrong. That got me to wondering what else about Marxism might be wrong. And that was that.

    No one is going to change his beliefs unless he learns that they are wrong. So, to convert him, you must first disabuse him of his illusions.

    It doesn’t matter what the illusion is – feminism, global warming, “Republicans are all boorish uneducated haters” – just smash it to bits. But do it in the friendliest possible way. No reason to raise hackles. I find that one good way to do it is to bracket the iconoclasm thusly: “I used to think that, too, but then I learned that …[insert iconoclasm]. That really blew my mind.” Then, stop talking and gaze into the distance, as if you were reflecting upon profound truths.

    Your mission is simple, and humble: in the nicest, most thoughtful and irenic way, plant in your interlocutor the knowledge of a true bit of data that is incommensurable with his doctrines. That’s all you have to do. If these mustard seeds take root, the logic of things will eventually take him to orthodox Christianity.

    And, don’t underestimate the effect you are having with this blog. I have learned that even my *comments* at blogs have been important to conversions.

  41. “a liberal tenor said offhandedly that religion had killed more people than any other casus belli”

    Typical tenor….

    Even Steven Pinker – whose work on this is filled with errors – admits that religion was responsible for only 13 of the 100 worst acts of violence in history – and many of those can be analysed in terms of secular politics.

  42. I fancy, as a matter of history, liberalism began with English Nonconformists, in the aftermath of the Restoration of Charles II, when it became clear that reform of the Church of England along puritan lines was not going to happen. Locke is a prime example.

    Liberalism spread, with the conviction that religious pluralism was ineradicable. A rather curious example is Cardinal Richelieu and his spiritual director, the Capuchin, Père Joseph de Trembley. Both believed in religious freedom for individuals, along with a rigorous denial of “group rights” for Huguenots and both believed nationalism could replace religion as the common bond between citizens.

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