Written by Sherry
Thursday, 21 January 2010 07:38
Have you met Noah and Joan?
On the Archdiocese of Washington blog, Msgr. Charles Pope meditates on the fact that in 2010 we can cocoon ourselves from any ideas or influences that we don't want to be exposed to.
The bottom line is that increasingly I can very carefully control the content of my life, what will influence me and what will be my daily fare."
Msgr. Pope points out that this is increasingly complicating the task of evangelization:
I also find that many people don’t have a clue as to what I am talking about either. Often they have not heard of basic biblical figures and stories. Increasingly they are unfamiliar with Church teachings, feast days and basic theological terms. The clear challenge is that we have to get our message “out there.” But lately there are a lot of “theres” out there! The opportunities to communicate are enormous but so are the challenges as many people (me included) continue to live in a world that is more and more a self-selected universe which shuts out all unwanted influence and only admits what is pleasing and affirming but far less challenging and expansive.
In the Making Disciples weekend that we just offered for the Archdiocese of Omaha a couple weeks ago, I shared some of these admittedly funny, if alarming, factoids: about the level of ignorance of fundamental Christian beliefs in the American and European populations at large:
A Gallup survey shows that fewer than half of Americans can name the first book of the Bible.
Only one-third know who delivered the Sermon on the Mount (many thought it was a sermon by Billy Graham, not Jesus)
One-quarter of US adults do not know what is celebrated on Easter. In the Netherlands, a brand new study reported that 58% of adults don’t know what Easter is about.
St. John's University, U.K: 60 percent of British adults surveyed had no idea what the parable of the Good Samaritan is about.
The most widely known Bible verse among church-going adult and teen believers is “God helps those who help themselves."
And my personal favorite for sheer charming cluelessness:
A 1997 Barna survey:12 percent of adults think that Noah's wife was Joan of Arc. As In Noah & Joan Arc.
As Tim Keller, the pioneering pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan - which is successfully evangelizing and forming thousands of young adult Christian professionals in the very belly of the post-modern beast - has pointed out (I'm paraphrasing):
We used to think that Americans had essentially Christian "heads", that they had been exposed to the basic concepts of a Christian worldview, and our job was to give them Christian hearts, so that they would personally claim and live the faith they'd already been exposed to. This simply isn't true anymore. Post-modern Americans have deeply non-Christian heads. Often they have deeply anti-Christian heads. They already believe things that make the truths we are proposing impossible to grasp or believe.
The point being: this isn't true just of Catholics who haven't been catechized since the Council. It is true across the culture altogether, no matter what what background you hail from. This is a much bigger, global trend.
Many don’t know the basic facts of The Great Story (the essential Gospel of Jesus Christ).
A good deal of what they think they “know” is wrong.
The bits they "know" don't make sense or are impossible to take seriously.
Even if they know bits of The Great Story, they don’t know how those bits fit together to make a whole. (As one young unbaptized and uncatechized "Catholic" friend of ours described his understanding as a teen-ager: " Jesus is God - sorta - or something like that.")
They don’t know what The Great Story means.
for their family
for their friends, neighbors, co-workers
for their world
And that is one of our first and most basic challenges.