Written by Sherry
Friday, 16 March 2007 07:24
There has been much discussion here and elsewhere on what exactly is "evangelization" and why are Catholics, unlike Protestants, so uncomfortable with the idea of proclaiming Christ?
Here is a very interesting post by a self-described "liberal" Catholic in his first year in a seminary with the Paulists.
Now, as many of us know, the Paulists were founded to evangelize. Specifically to evangelize American Protestants. But this whole evangelization thing is making this young man squirm. Especially when the Paulists send him, as apparently is their normal practice, to spend a week at the Overseas Ministry Study Center, an evangelical missionary study center in New Haven.
"So we are spending a week with evangelical Protestants to learn how to convert other people to Christianity; it is hard not to begin this seminar without an eyebrow raised. Not the Protestant part of course, but the evangelical part... yet this has been part of Paulist formation for years. . .
After freshening up at the hotel, we had back to the center for dinner and start to get to know the other attendees during dinner. Most of them have come to this seminar from all over the globe from serving in missions for different denominations. I meet one couple and tell them that I used to work for Catholic Relief Services and while I myself never got to go abroad, asked if their work ever crossed paths. The guy responded that their paths did not overlap too much because CRS’s relief work did not involve evangelization, and that it was important to both provide relief services in conjunction with spreading the Word.
That took me aback somewhat. I have done a lot of work with the poor through the Catholic Church over the years, and the one constant in the organizations that I have been involved with was that we would not push our religion on others. We would of course not be ashamed of who we are as Catholics and would share our faith if asked and as appropriate, but there were going to be no price tags on the work we would do for others. No required prayer meetings, no required testimonials; the poor have been stepped on enough. At the same time, this is also a time in my life where my relationship and understanding of God is on somewhat rocky ground, so if I go into a “faith off” with this guy, I suspect I’m going to lose, so I hold back. Plus, a part of me envies his certitude."
Notice his assumptions:
Evangelization = "pushing our religion on others", putting a "price tag" on our work, visions of "required prayer meetings and testimonials"
As though evangelization was forcing homeless men in a shelter to attend prayers before they could eat dinner. And yet, I know that the very sophisticated folks at OMSC (a very well-known institution that draws some of the foremost evangelical missionary scholar and strategists in the world) are proposing nothing of the kind.
His fears are a century out of date. The echoes of a much earlier generation of liberal Christians critique of fundamentalism in the early 20th century. Passed on from generation to generation in vague assumptions and horror stories. That make any attempt to proclaim Christ seem automatically simultaneously oppressive and laughable.
Whatever he ends up discerning regarding God's call and the Paulists, I hope he hangs around long enough to find out that that isn't what evangelization is about.