Ever Met a Christian?

Reports on Benedict XVI’s outreach to Jews and Muslims during his first papal trip abroad last August provoked in me a set of paradoxical reflections on the nature of evangelization.

Does our concern for spreading the faith sometimes, and in subtle ways, unduly emphasize the church as institution, rather than as living embodiment of the gospel? And can our concern for spreading and promoting the faith be driven by a too human search for security, one dependent on the church’s presence and temporal influence in the world rather than on Christ’s promise to be with us all days, and, especially, on his injunction to us to be like his heavenly Father? To put it another way, can we fail in our obligation to be Christ to the world under the guise of being his apologists?

We know that what is unique in Christ’s instruction to spread the good news to the ends of the earth is that we love—without qualification: that we love others as ourselves, including enemies, strangers, those who do not share our beliefs, even those who hate us. One wonders how much this sublime love and this faith in Christ abiding with us through time are the prevailing motivations when, to cover up church scandals, we spend millions that might otherwise have gone to works of mercy (love!); when, over the centuries, we have found reason to demonize those not with us—Jews, Muslims, secular humanists,...

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About the Author

John Savant, professor emeritus at Dominican University of California, lives in San Rafael, California.