Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.
Our Tools for Evangelization Have Never Been Greater, Why Do We Stink At It?
So there are twelve guys in Israel with nothing but the sandals on their feet. They dispersed and did nothing short of change the world.
How did they do it? Evangelistic zeal. These guys really believed what they were selling.
St. Ignatius of Loyola was injured in the army and read a book about the saints and went out and changed the world. How? Evangelistic zeal.
So today, we have the internet, IPhones, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and various other apps, devices, and instruments to help us spread the Word throughout the world. One might have expected that such a technological revolution in the Western world would have instigated a resurgence in the faith. But where is Catholicism growing? Places like Africa and China where access to technology is severely limited either due to economics or government censorship.
Now, there's a theory out there that we're all pretty fat and happy in the West and as a rule fat and happy people don't like to pick up their crosses. Maybe people in other parts of the world have broader shoulders and possibly relate a little more easily to a suffering Jesus. Maybe life is so good for so many in the West that it's easy to forget God. On a random Tuesday afternoon when you have the choice between a kitten video and some theological heavy lifting, the choice might seem easy. Until Catholicism invents a virtual cross that doesn't chafe so much on the shoulders, it's passe for many.
Political conservatives will sometimes say that a liberal is just a conservative who hasn't been mugged yet. I'm not sure that's true. But sometimes maybe an agnostic is a Catholic who hasn't suffered. I know it's simplistic and broad. But I think there's some truth to it.
But there's something else. Even among many who believe, there is a sense that we lack zeal. Look, I understand why. The last thing one wants to be seen as nowadays is a zealot. So much so that people don't even believe that it's ok to believe, not really anyway. Being a Christian nowadays can bring you government fines, never mind eye rolls and jokes at our expense.
The problem isn't a lack of communication avenues. It's a lack of faith. Millennials, who implement technology more than other generations seem to be furthest from the Church. As Archbishop Charles Chaput said recently, "Very few of our active Catholic population are Millennials." You could figure that as they get older some will grow closer to the Church. Some probably will but I don't believe we're convincing young people of the truth of Christianity.
I fear that in some ways, many have tried so hard to make Christ relatable to people that people can't differentiate Christ from themselves. So there's no reason to change. For many, believing something is fine as long as it doesn't affect your life. The only belief that's tolerated is believing in yourself. That will change your life so much that your life ends up being exactly the same.
I think part of our loss of mission may be that many don't believe in Hell much anymore or if we do, we think it's empty other than Hitler and a few other assorted baddies from history. If you think everyone's going to Heaven, why push them to become Christians? If we all end up in the same place, why push it? Why be a zealot? Why stand out from the crowd?
I think that the Church needs to often stand counter to the culture. I think presenting the stark difference of an existence with a loving Creator as opposed to an existence by random chance is crucial. I sometimes think what we have to do is not focus on how like us Christ is, but how unlike us He is.
We don't even need sandals anymore. We just need zeal.