Gashwin posted this classic "secular conversation" with "the new boyfriend of the best friend of a good friend's girlfriend" (It's too early for me to follow that particular relationship trail!).
A few of the highlights:
"On abortion, "Well I can't tell a woman what to do or not to do. That's judgmental." (So, if the woman in front of us turned around with a gun and wanted to kill you, I should not interfere?)
Oh but a fetus isn't a human being. On humanity, "We're no different from other animals really ... " (So, you're ok with the fact that eating a burger makes you complicit in murder? Would you eat a human being in the same way? How many cows do you know who've come and shared their deep angst with you?)
This repartee continued on and off through the day, at a fun, friendly level. At dinner, some other friends of friends of friends joined us for a bit. One of them was wearing a tee-shirt that read, "Make love, not babies."
"There you go dude, that's how one takes care of abortion."
I just shook my head.
The kicker was, "But you'd be ok with murder, right, if it meant killing the followers of those who pray to a different invisible man in the sky?"
An invisible man in the sky. That's who God is for this chap.
The thing is, he was raised Catholic. Baptized. First Communion. Confirmation. Yet, God is nothing but some invisible man in the sky, with no impact whatsoever on his life.
Later on in the evening, we were sitting up on a parking lot waiting for the fireworks to start, and sipping more, um, beverages.
"So, why seminary, man? I've gotta ask." So I talked a little bit, very briefly, about how I fell in love with Jesus Christ. "That's cool man." "
Sherry's comment: I found these new figures in the Pew Study over the July 4th weekend and don't know how I missed it before. And it has really shaken me up.
Based upon data from the Pew Survey, Gashwin, there's no guarantee that your friend of a friend of a friend actually believes in the possibility of relationship with God, much anything more. His talk of the "invisible man in the sky" sounds like he might not. But there's no way to know until you establish trust and invite him to tell you what he really thinks.
Because only 48% of adult Catholics are certain there is a God with whom one can have a personal relationship. And you can't really entrust yourself to Christ until you know that God is a God to whom you can entrust yourself.
Huge numbers of Americans are - of all religious background - are even further from a Christian world view. They believe God is an "impersonal force"
13% of "evangelicals"
29% of Catholics
34% of Orthodox
50% of Jews
42% of Muslims
54% of Hindus
You get the picture. There a huge number of Americans upon whom the basic gospel is probably just going to bounce off because they don't have the most fundamental mental categories necessary for it to make sense.
As Gashwin puts it:
It's been ages really since I've been around really secular people. Even as a campus minister, most of my interactions were with Catholic students. Sure I have secular friends, but they live far away and most of the time we don't talk about religion. And in seminary and formation, one is among insiders, so to speak, most of the time.
So ... who is going to be the one who might be able to share the Good News with young people such as this man? Our priests? Hardly -- they're busy feeding the sheep who do show up. In fact, the underlying assumption about ministry is that we'll serve those who show up. Very little time or energy is spent trying to reach those who are not there. We are mostly focused inwards. Our focus outwards tends to be related to outreach to the poor or charity -- no mean thing at all, and a constitutive element of living a Christian life. But what about evangelization as in inviting others to befriend Jesus Christ?
Would a young person such as this one, for all practical purposes a non-believer, open up in the same way to a priest? Perhaps, though when would he have an opportunity? In this case, I was friends with his girlfriend, not quite yet a priest, enough intrigue there to get a conversation going.
Who interacts regularly with the secular world? Not our priests. This is the job -- no, this is the vocation of lay Catholics. To take Our Lord with them into the world, into the work places and yes, even to ballgames, as appropriate.
G - you are going to so love Making Disciples cause we are dealing exactly with the questions you are asking!
Not that we have all the answers but we are seeing some very exciting things. Awarenesses and skills you can take with you into seminary and, God willing, into the priesthood. And that lay apostles can take to ballgames and into their families and into the marketplace.
If you would like to spread the love of Christ with others, consider joining Gashwin and Fr. Mike and me and a whole group of really interesting fellow Catholics at Making Disciples, August 8 - 12 in Spokane, Washington.