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Religious Change: The Whole World Turned Upside Down PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 27 December 2010 08:41

One of the things that has become obvious as I study the marvelous Atlas of Global Christianity (which I highly recommend to all libraries scholars of Christianity, and practitioners of evangelization), is that trends that western Catholics lament and tend to regard as a crisis of the west, are truly global rather than western.  They cross all kinds of religious, cultural, and national boundaries in ways that would surprise us.

For one thing, the whole world experienced massive religious change during the past century, not just the west and certainly not just Christians.   The fact that so many of our intra-ecclesial discussions presume that the religious world of 1910 still exists should make us stop and re-think our assumptions.  We are still prone to assume that religious identity is fundamentally stable and not easily changed.  But the religious world of 1910 has been swept away and not just in the west!

Here are the top ten global religious traditions by number of adherents in 1910 and 2010:

1910

1.  Christians

2.  Chinese folk religionists

3.  Hindus

4.  Muslims

5.  Buddhists

6.  Ethnoreligionists

7.  Jews

8.  Shintoists

9.  New Religionists

10. Sikhs

 

2010 (Faiths that have changed position are italicized, new “faiths” are bolded)

1.  Christians

2.  Muslims

3.  Hindus

4.  Agnostics

5.  Buddhists

6.  Chinese folk religionists

7.  Ethnoreligionists

8.  Atheists

9.  New Religionists

10. Sikhs

For instance, the largest faith in Asia in 1910 was not Buddhism.  Only 13% of Asians were Buddhist in 1910.  Far larger was what the AGC calls "Chinese folk-religion" which was practiced by 38% of Asians and 22.3% of the world's people a hundred years ago.

Chinese folk religion is an amalgamation of Buddhist, Confucian, and Daoist traditions, includes ancestor worship, and was practiced almost entirely by Chinese peoples. Today only 6.6% of the world’s people still practice Chinese folk religion.  It declined sharply under Communism when many Chinese folk religionists “converted” to agnosticism or atheism.

Agnosticism, one of the emerging “religious traditions” in the 20th century is defined fairly broadly by the AGC.  It includes 1) “classical’ agnostics who hold that it is impossible to know for certain whether God or any deity exists; 2) those who are uncertain about the existence of God; 3) other non-religious such as secularists and materialists.

A hundred years ago, 83% of agnostics did live in Europe and North America.  (Most of the remainder lived in Uruguay, which was the most agnostic country in the world in 1910.  37% of its population was agnostic.)

The mass conversion of Chinese folk religionists to agnosticism over the past century means that there are almost 4 times as many agnostics in Asia today as in Europe, North America, and Oceania combined. Asia, not the west, is the new center of world agnosticism because the Chinese people experienced massive religious change in the 20th century.

And that change, like all change, had unintended consequences.  The grand-children and great grand-children of those whose traditional folk religion was stripped away under Communist pressure are now becoming Christians in staggering numbers.  Chinese Christians have grown from 1.7 million to 115 million in one century.  In 2010, Chinese Christianity is growing nearly 6 times faster than the population.  The 21st century already looks very different from the world Mao envisioned when he led the Long March.

In many ways, China is the supreme poster child for global religious change.  A bastion of ancient folk religion turned epicenter of agnosticism and Christian powerhouse.  All in one century.

In visual form, the global rise of agnosticism looks like this:

% of world that was religious in 1910

percentage_of_world_religious_1910

 

% of world that is religious in 2010

percentage_of_world religious_2010

More on Religious Change: The New World of Unbelief


 
Evangelization & the World According to Peter Phan PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 26 December 2010 14:19

I have several times before posted on this blog about an understanding of 20th century Christian mission articulated by prominent Vietnam-born Catholic theologian Peter C. Phan in his article, “Proclamation of the Reign of God as Mission of the Church: What for, to Whom, by Whom, with Whom, and How?”

"But now things have changed, and changed utterly. The change from the enthusiasm and optimism of the World Missionary Conference that met in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1910—whose catchy slogan was "The evangelization of the world in this generation"—to the discouragement and even pessimism in today’s missionary circles, Catholic and Protestant alike, is visible and palpable. . . .To the consternation of Western missionaries, the shout "Missionary, go home" was raised in the 1960s, to be followed a decade later by the demand for a moratorium on Christian missions from the West.

In addition to the political factors, the collapse of mission as we knew it was also caused by the unexpected resurgence of the so-called non-Christian religions, in particular Hinduism and Islam. The missionaries’ rosy predictions of their early demise were vastly premature. Concomitant with this phenomenon is an intense awareness of religious pluralism which advocates several distinct, independent, and equally valid ways to reach the Divine and therefore makes conversion from one religion to another, which was considered as the goal of mission, unnecessary."

Phan even contended in an America article, The Next Christianity, that "Christians constitute no more than 3 percent of the entire Asian population—after 500 years of evangelization."  Since this passage occurred in a paragraph about Asian Catholicism, I have to presume it was a mere slip of the keyboard for Phan as he surely must know that while Asian Catholics make up 3% of Asians, Catholics are a distinct minority among Christians in the 21st century.   In fact, Asian Christians make up 8.5% of the population of Asia as I write.

After perusing the Atlas of Global Christianity, I realized that Catholic leaders in Asia may still be reeling from the blows of the 20th century.  In 1910, Catholics did made up 54% of all Christians in the whole of Asia, 85% of all Christians in southeast Asia, and 50% of all Christians in east Asia. Catholics had been the dominant form of Christianity in Asia for over 300 years.  Simultaneously, Catholics had also been a tiny minority who had suffered heroically for the faith.  A people can build a strong sense of self in 300 years that is not easily shifted by changes in the world about them.

But in the last half of the 20th century, the world did change.  The explosion of Protestant missions and indigenous Christian groups in Asia changed everything.  Today, Catholics only make up 38.8% of all Christians in Asia, 68% of Christians in southeast Asia, and a mere 14.4% in east Asia where Independent Christians are now the dominant group.  Over 50% of Asian Christians are now renewalists.  In 2010 alone, there were 4.5 million Asian converts to Christianity, easily outstripping the numbers becoming Christian in Africa.

Christianity in Asia, 1910

christians_in_asia_by_country_1910

 

Christianity in Asia, 2010

christians_in_asia_by_province_2010

 

As to the “collapse of Christian mission” that Phan refers to, that has to qualify as one of the most spectacularly failed prophecies of the 20th century.

In 1910, there were 48 nations in Africa and Asia where Christians made up less than 1% of the population.  In 15 of those nations, the number of Christians in the population was so tiny that it was statistically 0.0%.  There were 7 countries where there wasn’t a single known Christian.

In 2010, 7.4 million Christians live in the 7 countries where there wasn’t a single Christian a century ago.  The 15 countries that were 0.0% Christian 100 years ago now hold nearly 36 million Christians.  And the 48 nations where Christians made up less than 1% of the population in 1910 are now home to a staggering 268 million Christians.  There are no nations left on earth without a Christian population of some kind.  There are no countries whose Christian population is a statistical zero.

This series continues with Religious Change: The Whole World Turned Upside Down, Part 1.

 

 


 
Let's Begin: The State of Christianity in 2010 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 26 December 2010 12:21

I got an early Christmas present a couple weeks ago:  The Atlas of Global Christianity.  AGC (as I will abbreviate it) focuses on the global and regional changes in Christianity and other world faiths that occurred from 1910, when the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference took place, to where we are today in the last week of 2010.

AGC is a mighty book: two feet high, one foot wide and 360 pages long.  With thousands of graphs, all of which are available for download on the accompanying DVD!

It is going to be my primary source for my blog series this week on global Christianity and global Catholicism at the end of 2010.   Let me just throw out a few fascinating factoids for you to contemplate as I compose more substantial stuff:

Fastest growing faith in the world? Baha’i which grew from 225,000 in 1910 to 7.5 million today.

Largest group of “renewalists” in the world? Latin Rite Catholics: there are 133 million Latin rite “renewalists”. (“Renewalist” is a generic term for Christians  of any communion with a charismatic colored spirituality.)

Fastest growing Christian community between 2000 and 2010?

Afghanistan: mostly through immigration fueled by the war.  No 2 is Cambodia where Christian growth is mostly due to conversion.

Conversions to Christianity in 2010? 16 million

Country where largest percentage of Christian growth in 2010 is due to conversion? China (65.8%)

Number of Christian baptisms in 2010? 49 million.

US region which saw the largest growth in Catholicism between 1910 and 2010? Middle Africa where Catholics grew from 0.6% of the population in 1910 to 44.4% in 2010.

 

And here’s something that I find particularly evocative.   A picture of the Christian world that St. Augustine knew compared to the spread of the Christian faith today.

African Christianity in 400 AD

christian ad_400_africa

 

African Christianity in 2010.

christian ad_2010_africa

 

This series continues with "Evangelization and the World According to Peter Phan"

 

 


 
Baptism: the Road Less Traveled PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 26 December 2010 00:00

Just after Thanksgiving, a question occurred to me that I had never considered before.  Do we have any idea what percentage of the human race has actually been Christian since Pentecost?

I turned to my copy of the  2001 World Christian Encyclopedia and discovered, as I suspected, that they had not only asked the same question but seriously attempted to quantify an answer.  (Of course, these figures are at best, an educated guess.  But a guess by the only group of scholars in the world who have been pondering these sorts of questions and gathering this sort of data for the past 30 years.   It is the general outline rather than the specific numbers that are most useful.)

The graph below shows a startling reality that our intra-ecclesial discussions hardly ever address: the vast majority of human beings who have ever lived were not only not baptized, they never had an opportunity to hear about the Christian faith and/or be baptized.

As Catholics, we hold the sacramental economy of salvation to be normative, but in global human experience it has been anything but normal. Baptism, it turns out, is the road less traveled.

Take a moment to consider this graph.  The darker terra cotta color on the bottom represents the percentage of the world population that has been Christian over the past 2000 years.  Although there has been truly significant growth over the centuries, it is immediately obvious that non-Christians have always greatly outnumbered Christians.


slide-1


Here are the numbers that correspond to the graph above:

Year            Global Population (millions)            % Christian                     % Non-Christian

100 AD                          179.51                                      0.45%                               99.55%

500 AD                          190.32                                    19.86%                               80.14%

1000 AD                        263.65                                    16.94%                               83.06%

1500 AD                        422.95                                    17.94%                               82.06%

2000 AD                      6,055.05                                    33.02%                               66.98%

2200 AD (est)             10,561.48                                    36.39%                               63.61%

Most of us would have no problems with acknowledging that in 100 AD, only 1/2 of 1% of the human race was Christian. But most Catholics in the west think of the world of 1500 AD as basically consisting of Christendom, a world where almost everyone was baptized.  But baptized Christians constituted slightly less than 18% of entire human race in 1499, the year that Thomas More first met his great friend, Erasmus.

From a global perspective, Christendom - which was essentially Europe in 1500 - was a ghetto.  Like many other human cultures,  Christian Europe understood itself to be the "civilized world".  Because of the difficulties of travel and communications, medieval Christians had fairly vague ideas of what lay outside.  (For example, the trail-blazing Franciscan John of Montecorvino, the first Archbishop of Peking, spent 5 years on his original journey to China.  Hearing of his wonderful work, the Pope sent out 7 Franciscan bishops to consecrate him Archbishop, but only 3 actually made it to Peking a year later.)

The World Christian Encyclopedia sums up the big picture this way:

  1. 1.  Of the roughly 36.8 billion people born between 33AD and 2000 AD, only 24%, or about 8.8 billion, have been Christians. (24.5% of all the Christians who have ever lived are alive today.  13.6% of all Christians who have ever lived are Catholics alive today.)

  2. Christianity has twice experienced explosive growth that dramatically outpaced world population growth.  The first time was between 33 AD when followers of Christ probably only numbered a few hundred and 500 AD when 37.8 million Christians made up nearly 20% of the global population. The second time was between 1800 and 1900 when Christians grew from 22.68% to 34.46% of the world's population in a single century.   A good deal of this growth was the result of dramatic improvement in health care and life span in 19th century Europe.  At the same time, the great Protestant missionary movement emerged out of an American student revival in New England in the early 19th century.

2.  More than three quarters of all men and women born since the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, were never baptized. And this does not include the many millions who were born before the Incarnation!

3.  Evangelization:  Even more thought-provoking is the fact that only about 36% or 13.25 billion of all born during those 1,967 years were evangelized.  That means that only roughly 36% ever had a real opportunity to be baptized and respond to the gospel. Approximately 23.5 billion human beings - 64% of all who have lived since Jesus of Nazareth walked the roads of Galilee - never had the option to become a Christian.

I've been meditating on this for several weeks now.  There are so many implications.  I re-read my 32 page compilation of magisterial teaching on the topic of evangelization.  A number of things really stood out this time.  But one in particular:  most of the time western Catholics think and write and speak and practice as though baptism is the historic norm and not being Christian is the exception. At the beginning of the 20th century this was true for Europe (94.5% Christian), North America (96.6% Christian) and Latin America (95.2% Christian) but 65% of the human race lived in Africa and Asia where it was most definitely not true.

What does the Church say on the topic?  Here's a taste (the emphasis is mine):

  1. 1. "The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all.  . . For such people salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his Sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit. It enables each person to attain salvation through his or her free cooperation." (Redemptoris Missio, 10)

2. "Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things,(127) and as Savior wills that all men be saved.(128) Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.(19*) Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life." (Lumen Gentium, 16)


3. It is necessary to keep these two truths together, namely, the real possibility of salvation in Christ for all mankind and the necessity of the Church for salvation. Both these truths help us to understand the one mystery of salvation, so that we can come to know God's mercy and our own responsibility. Salvation, which always remains a gift of the Holy Spirit, requires man's cooperation, both to save himself and to save others. This is God's will, and this is why he established the Church and made her a part of his plan of salvation.(Redemptoris Missio 9)


4.  But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.(129) Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, "Preach the Gospel to every creature",(130) the Church fosters the missions with care and attention. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 844)


5.  The respectful presentation of Christ and His kingdom is more than the evangelizer's right; it is his duty. It is likewise the right of his fellow men to receive from him the proclamation of the Good News of salvation. God can accomplish this salvation in whomsoever He wishes by ways which He alone knows.(133) And yet, if His Son came, it was precisely in order to reveal to us, by His word and by His life, the ordinary paths of salvation. And He has commanded us to transmit this revelation to others with His own authority. It would be useful if every Christian and every evangelizer were to pray about the following thought: men can gain salvation also in other ways, by God's mercy, even though we do not preach the Gospel to them; but as for us, can we gain salvation if through negligence or fear or shame—what St. Paul called "blushing for the Gospel"(134)—or as a result of false ideas we fail to preach it? (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 80)

What does it mean, that the mysterious and difficult path through which salvation can happen for the non-baptized, has been the only way available for the majority of the men and women He has created and loved? What does it mean for the Church's primary mission of evangelization, for our theology and pastoral practice?

Comments?

PS.  I'm posting a new end of year series on the State of Christian and Catholic mission in 2010.  If this sort of thing floats your boat, we'd love to have you join the conversation.



 
Urbi et Orbi PDF Print E-mail
Written by Istvan Kovacs   
Saturday, 25 December 2010 07:38

Pope Benedict XVI leads the Christmas Mass in Saint Peter's Basilica on Friday.

101224-pope-mass-hmed-2p.grid-6x2

In the "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message, the pontiff said the Christmas message of peace and hope was always new, surprising and daring and should spur everyone in the peaceful struggle for justice.

 


MESSAGGIO NATALIZIO DEL SANTO PADRE E BENEDIZIONE URBI ET ORBI , 25.12.2010

MESSAGGIO NATALIZIO DEL SANTO PADRE E BENEDIZIONE URBI ET ORBI
  • Alle ore 12 di oggi, Solennità del Natale del Signore, dalla Loggia della Benedizione il Santo Padre Benedetto XVI rivolge il tradizionale Messaggio natalizio ai fedeli presenti in Piazza San Pietro e a quanti lo ascoltano attraverso la radio e la televisione.
    Questo il testo del Messaggio del Santo Padre per il Natale 2010:

     

    TRADUZIONE IN LINGUA INGLESE

    "Verbum caro factum est" – "The Word became flesh" (Jn 1:14).

    Dear brothers and sisters listening to me here in Rome and throughout the world, I joyfully proclaim the message of Christmas: God became man; he came to dwell among us. God is not distant: he is "Emmanuel", God-with-us. He is no stranger: he has a face, the face of Jesus.

    This message is ever new, ever surprising, for it surpasses even our most daring hope. First of all, because it is not merely a proclamation: it is an event, a happening, which credible witnesses saw, heard and touched in the person of Jesus of Nazareth! Being in his presence, observing his works and hearing his words, they recognized in Jesus the Messiah; and seeing him risen, after his crucifixion, they were certain that he was true man and true God, the only-begotten Son come from the Father, full of grace and truth (cf. Jn 1:14).

    "The Word became flesh". Before this revelation we once more wonder: how can this be? The Word and the flesh are mutually opposed realities; how can the eternal and almighty Word become a frail and mortal man? There is only one answer: Love. Those who love desire to share with the beloved, they want to be one with the beloved, and Sacred Scripture shows us the great love story of God for his people which culminated in Jesus Christ.

    God in fact does not change: he is faithful to himself. He who created the world is the same one who called Abraham and revealed his name to Moses: "I am who I am … the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob … a God merciful and gracious, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (cf. Ex 3:14-15; 34:6). God does not change; he is Love, ever and always. In himself he is communion, unity in Trinity, and all his words and works are directed to communion. The Incarnation is the culmination of creation. When Jesus, the Son of God incarnate, was formed in the womb of Mary by the will of the Father and the working of the Holy Spirit, creation reached its high point. The ordering principle of the universe, the Logos, began to exist in the world, in a certain time and space.

    "The Word became flesh". The light of this truth is revealed to those who receive it in faith, for it is a mystery of love. Only those who are open to love are enveloped in the light of Christmas. So it was on that night in Bethlehem, and so it is today. The Incarnation of the Son of God is an event which occurred within history, while at the same time transcending history. In the night of the world a new light was kindled, one which lets itself be seen by the simple eyes of faith, by the meek and humble hearts of those who await the Saviour. If the truth were a mere mathematical formula, in some sense it would impose itself by its own power. But if Truth is Love, it calls for faith, for the "yes" of our hearts.

    And what do our hearts, in effect, seek, if not a Truth which is also Love? Children seek it with their questions, so disarming and stimulating; young people seek it in their eagerness to discover the deepest meaning of their life; adults seek it in order to guide and sustain their commitments in the family and the workplace; the elderly seek it in order to grant completion to their earthly existence.

    "The Word became flesh". The proclamation of Christmas is also a light for all peoples, for the collective journey of humanity. "Emmanuel", God-with-us, has come as King of justice and peace. We know that his Kingdom is not of this world, and yet it is more important than all the kingdoms of this world. It is like the leaven of humanity: were it lacking, the energy to work for true development would flag: the impulse to work together for the common good, in the disinterested service of our neighbour, in the peaceful struggle for justice. Belief in the God who desired to share in our history constantly encourages us in our own commitment to that history, for all its contradictions. It is a source of hope for everyone whose dignity is offended and violated, since the one born in Bethlehem came to set every man and woman free from the source of all enslavement.

    May the light of Christmas shine forth anew in the Land where Jesus was born, and inspire Israelis and Palestinians to strive for a just and peaceful coexistence. May the comforting message of the coming of Emmanuel ease the pain and bring consolation amid their trials to the beloved Christian communities in Iraq and throughout the Middle East; may it bring them comfort and hope for the future and bring the leaders of nations to show them effective solidarity. May it also be so for those in Haiti who still suffer in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and the recent cholera epidemic. May the same hold true not only for those in Colombia and Venezuela, but also in Guatemala and Costa Rica, who recently suffered natural disasters.

    May the birth of the Saviour open horizons of lasting peace and authentic progress for the peoples of Somalia, Darfur and Côte d’Ivoire; may it promote political and social stability in Madagascar; may it bring security and respect for human rights in Afghanistan and in Pakistan; may it encourage dialogue between Nicaragua and Costa Rica; and may it advance reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.

    May the birth of the Saviour strengthen the spirit of faith, patience and courage of the faithful of the Church in mainland China, that they may not lose heart through the limitations imposed on their freedom of religion and conscience but, persevering in fidelity to Christ and his Church, may keep alive the flame of hope. May the love of "God-with-us" grant perseverance to all those Christian communities enduring discrimination and persecution, and inspire political and religious leaders to be committed to full respect for the religious freedom of all.

    Dear brothers and sisters, "the Word became flesh"; he came to dwell among us; he is Emmanuel, the God who became close to us. Together let us contemplate this great mystery of love; let our hearts be filled with the light which shines in the stable of Bethlehem! To everyone, a Merry Christmas!

    [01847-02.01]

  •  


    (source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40804785/ns/world_news-europe)


     
    Gloria in Profundis PDF Print E-mail
    Written by Sherry   
    Friday, 24 December 2010 10:45

    One of my little Christmas literary treasures is an original Golden Cockerel Press printing of G. K. Chesterton's The House of Christmas illustrated with an engraving by Eric Gill.  I had planned to put it up today but my friend Mark Shea has posted that wonderful Christmas poem on his blog for your savoring.

    So I thought I'd post the Chesterton poem that is one of my other favorites.  It doesn't evoke our longing for our eternal home, for what C. S. Lewis named "Joy".  Here we contemplate the love and humility that made the Incarnation possible: the unimaginable distance that God crossed to seek and to find us.

     

    Gloria in Profundis

    There has fallen on earth for a token

    A god too great for the sky.

    He has burst out of all thing and broken

    The bounds of eternity:

    Into time and the terminal land

    He has strayed like a thief or a lover,

    For the wine of the world brims over,

    Its slendour is spilt on the sand.


    Who is proud when the heavens are humble,

    Who mounts if the mountains fall,

    If the fixed stars topple and tumble

    And a deluge of love drowns all-

    who rears up his head for a crown,

    Who holds up his will for a warrent,

    Who strives with the starry torrent,

    When all that is good goes down?


    For in dread of such falling and failing

    The fallen angles fell

    Inverted in insolence, scaling

    The hanging mountains of hell;

    But unmeasured of plummet and ord

    Too deep for their sights to scan,

    Outrushing the fall of man

    Is the height of the fall of God.


    Glory to God in the Lowest

    The spout of the stars in spate -

    Where the thunderbolt thinks to be slowest

    And the lightening fears to be late:

    As men dive for a sunken gem

    Pursuing, we hunt and hound it,

    The fallen star that has found it

     

    In the cavern of Bethlehem.

     

     

     


     
    God Rest Ye Merry - the Gospel in Carols PDF Print E-mail
    Written by Sherry   
    Friday, 24 December 2010 09:42

    Christmas Eve morning.  That rare thing - a cloudy Colorado morning with frost on the ground.  But the perfect setting for sipping a warm mug of Yorkshire Gold tea and listening to the live broadcast of the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College Cambridge.  It is beautiful and stately and luminous and Anglophile believing Christians like myself can't help but be moved and pray along.  "And the glory of Lord shaun among them . . "

    And yet I know all too well that for the vast majority of Brits, this service is an exercise in seasonal aesthetics; so removed from daily life that it doesn't even qualify as nostalgia.  Empty churches. Muslim women in full abayahs feeding the pigeons in Regent's Park below the enormous dome of the nearby mosque surrounded by the lush green of an English May.   Those are the images from my last trip to London in 2006 that flash to mind.  And listening to a passionate English missionary tell me of the revival fire he experienced in a giant Pentecostal Ukrainian church founded by a Nigerian pastor.  Not to mention the fact that coffee seems to have supplanted tea as the dominant drink of Londoners!

    I was struck by the wonderful old words of the carol God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman.  How charmingly the carol sums up the Great Story:

    God rest ye merry, gentlemen
    Let nothing you dismay
    Remember, Christ, our Saviour
    Was born on Christmas day
    To save us all from Satan's power
    When we were gone astray
    O tidings of comfort and joy,
    Comfort and joy
    O tidings of comfort and joy


    I could use that at the next Making Disciples weekend in Los Angeles in January, I thought excitedly.  I imagined 500 Angelinos lustily singing the familiar carol together as a fun segue into our section on telling the Great Story of Jesus.

    But then reality smacked me upside the head.  Most of the people coming are not Anglos.  They are Hispanic and Asian.   Cause the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is 70% Hispanic.  And many are first generation immigrants.  Some of them may not even know the words.  In any case, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen doesn't tap into the bone deep cultural reserves that the words would have evoked in Euro dominant American Catholics of the 1950's.  Or the 80's for that matter.   A world that no longer exists in many of our dioceses or parishes.

    It is with these realities in mind that I am planning to do a little Christmas season blog series beginning on December 26.  The topic: the shape of the real world in which we 21st century Christians are called to announce Christ and a few of the implications for our discussions and pastoral practice.

    In the meantime, enjoy this wonderful recording of the King's College choir singing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.  Wherever you hail from, it is wonderful.

    May you all have a very blessed and merry Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  And remember to drop by during the week of December 26 for more on this very important topic for the New Year ahead.





     


     
    Have a peaceful and blessed holiday PDF Print E-mail
    Written by Istvan Kovacs   
    Friday, 24 December 2010 04:37

    May the Blessings of Christmas Be Yours…
    May these, along with other joys, be yours on Christmas Day…
    Faith to make heart serene…
    Hope to keep it light…
    And the Peace that Christ alone can give...
    To make your Christmas Bright…
    Have a Peaceful and Blessed Holiday.

     


     
    Jesus and Santa PDF Print E-mail
    Written by Istvan Kovacs   
    Wednesday, 22 December 2010 19:22

    Lately, it seems like some of us have been confusing Jesus with Santa. After all, they both have beards and several nicknames, and often, we get caught up hoping that they both bring us everything we want. However, this season let us remember that one of them comes to give us what we think we want; the other came to give us what we need.


     
    Bollywood Jingle Bells PDF Print E-mail
    Written by Sherry   
    Tuesday, 21 December 2010 12:03

    Dragging in the middle of the day?  Try moving with this 74 second Bollywood style wake up call.


     
    O Clavis David PDF Print E-mail
    Written by Sherry   
    Monday, 20 December 2010 06:18

    O CLAVIS David et sceptrum domus Israel, qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris et umbra mortis.

    O Key of David (Isaiah 22:23), scepter of the house of Israel (Genesis 49:10), who open and no one may shut; who shut and no one may open: come, free from prison captive man, who lies in darkness and the shadow of death (Psalm 107: 10, 14).


     
    American Christianity: "A Weak Culture?" PDF Print E-mail
    Written by Sherry   
    Monday, 20 December 2010 04:24

    The ever interesting Ross Douthat has a timely opinion piece in today's New York Times titled A Tough Season for Believers.  Here's a taste:

    "University of Virginia sociologist James Davison Hunter’s “To Change the World,” an often withering account of recent Christian attempts to influence American politics and society. Having popularized the term “culture war” two decades ago, Hunter now argues that the “war” footing has led American Christians into a cul-de-sac. It has encouraged both conservative and liberal believers to frame their mission primarily in terms of conflict, and to express themselves almost exclusively in the “language of loss, disappointment, anger, antipathy, resentment and desire for conquest.”

    Thanks in part to this bunker mentality, American Christianity has become what Hunter calls a “weak culture” — one that mobilizes but doesn’t convert, alienates rather than seduces, and looks backward toward a lost past instead of forward to a vibrant future."

    Snip.

    "Christians need to find a way to thrive in a society that looks less and less like any sort of Christendom — and more and more like the diverse and complicated Roman Empire where their religion had its beginning, 2,000 years ago this week."


     
    Jesus' LIttle Cradle: Romanian Orthodox Carol PDF Print E-mail
    Written by Sherry   
    Sunday, 19 December 2010 20:32

    I just found this lyrical Romanian Orthodox Christmas Carol and wanted to share it:  Jesus' Little Cradle.

     


     
    Christmas That Is Coming PDF Print E-mail
    Written by Sherry   
    Sunday, 19 December 2010 10:08

    G. K. Chesterton, of course.

    "There is no more dangerous or disgusting habit than that of celebrating Christmas before it comes, as I am doing in this article.  It is the very essence of festival that it breaks upon one brilliantly and abruptly, that at one moment the great day is not and the next moment the great day is.  Up to a certain specific instant you are feeling ordinary and sad; for it is only Wednesday.  At the next moment your leaps up and your souls and body dance together like lovers; for in one burst and blaze it has become Thursday.

    I am assuming (of course) that you are a worshipper of Thor, and that you celebrate his day once a week, possibly with human sacrifice.  If, on the other hand, you are a modern Christian Englishman, you hail (of course) with the same explosion of gaiety the appearance of the English Sunday."

    The Illustrated London News, December 19, 1906.

     


     
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