Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 104 Comments
Facing the “plurality of value systems and ethical outlooks” associated with secularism, Pope Benedict XVI today urged Portuguese Christians to embrace the “nucleus” of their faith. The pontiff also hinted they should expect blowback, calling Christians to be ready for “the radical choice of martyrdom.”
Benedict hailed the secular separation of church and state for “opening up a new area of freedom for the church,” but also warned that the ethical pluralism can sow confusion about “the human meaning of life” and also “marginalize” the public role of religious faith.
During comments aboard the papal plane, Benedict nonetheless stressed the importance of dialogue with secular culture.
“The presence of secularism is something normal, but a separation of cult from life, a separation of secularism from cult and faith, is anomalous and must be overcome,” Benedict said. “The great challenge is for the two to meet and to discover their true identity … this, as I said, is a mission for Europe and a human necessity in our time.”
All in all, Benedict’s pitch vis-à-vis secularism on the opening day of his four-day swing in Portugal seemed a version of the ancient Roman dictum, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” Benedict’s advice to believers making their way in a secular world was, “Seek dialogue, but be ready for martyrdom.”
And there it is. Pope Benedict XVI thinks the Church has a message that the world desperately needs to hear. But Benedict is realistic, not having forgotten this:
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
My gracious lord of Canterbury, on the other hand, remembers neither of these verses. The idea of western Anglicans like Dr. Williams seriously confronting and challenging the culture in which they live hasn’t been current for decades if not a good deal longer.
Oh, they’ll dash off sermons about racism, sexism, greed or not recycling at the drop of a hat. And they’ll condemn fictional sins like “homophobia” and “Islamophobia” before anyone asks them to.
But suggest that maybe words mean what they say and that homosexual activity is a sin? Suggest that sex before or outside of marriage is a bad thing? Come right out and forcefully declare that without faith in Christ and what He accomplished on the Cross, you’re not going to make it to heaven?
Non-starters. Because Anglicans like Rowan Williams fear a negative Times of London or Guardian leader more than they fear God.
Lots of things could happen, I guess. Those American Catholic bishops who really wouldn’t mind being Episcopalians could gain more power and influence. The next pope could be a lot more timid than the current one is.
But I’m not worried. While it might be smaller than small, God always preserves a remnant of people who love and believe in Him. As He told Elijah:
Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.