The Marketing Of Catholicism
One of the main concerns of the Church in the last 50 years – and I mean, even from good, orthodox priests and laymen – seems to be to make the message of Christianity attractive, or easy to digest, or such that it would appear an improvement in one's quality of life. The idea seems to be that the world out there lures souls with the promise of fun and joy, and a list of prohibitions isn't really the best way to attract people to give Christianity their serious consideration.
I wonder whether the entire concept does not need a re-thinking.
As I see it, the entire idea of why we must be Christians does not revolve around the “fun” and “joy” of following Christ – though it might certainly be so in individual cases, and a life lived in faith has pleasures that wordly natures will never savour – but around our destiny if we refuse to do it.
Christianity isn't a “fun option”, or a “better choice”; similarly, atheism or unrepentant grave sin are infinitely worse than “poor choices”. It is no surprise 50 years of trying to persuade people of this have brought us to the level where we are now.
Christianity is, first and foremost, harsh. Harsh in the brutal commandments – not suggestions of “better choices” -, harsh in the consequences for those refusing to do so, harsh in the crystal-clear warning that no alternative ways are acceptable.
The main issue of the commandments is that God forbids the relevant behaviour. The fact that, say, marital fidelity will lead to a more serene life in the long term than a long string of love dramas outside of the marriage is secondary to the fact that marital fidelity is demanded, and it is demanded before any consideration of how good it is for one's life on the whole. It is demanded because God wants it. Period.
Christ doesn't seem to promise much fun anyway. A sword instead of peace, enmity even inside the family, hate and persecution rather come to mind. Yes, joy is also there, but notice even the joy of the martyr going to his execution is but a result of his unconditional and unquestioning acceptance of God's rules as such, and even when it hurts; the most so, when it hurts.
When we, therefore, spend our time wondering how to make Christ's message more attractive, I doubt we are employing our time wisely. This little blog never tries to sweeten the pill of Catholicism, though if you knew its author personally you would find him, in his private life, far more lighthearted and good-humoured than the unspeakable mess about which he almost daily reports makes him appear. Harsh rules do not make for dour people, but for people honest enough with themselves to recognise the Truth, and adult enough to deal with it to the best of their ability.
The simple truth is that Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and those who reject him to the moment of their death will go to hell; yes, they will go to hell, and they will do so even if they are the funniest, most tolerant, most helpful, generous, planet-loving, tree-hugging, cat-stroking, “inclusive” people around.
Not really fun, uh? How many of those approached with the “fun 'n joy” marketing method will ever accept it, provided they are even told at some point? They have started looking seriously at Catholicism because of the implicit promise of harmlessness, because of the untold assurance it will not spoil the fun. When they discover that Christianity, seriously intended, is a huge poop in the middle of their party, do not be surprised if they suddenly start “dissenting”, or say they felt “refused” by the Church. They will, though, feel “accepted” by the likes of Bergoglio, those for whom not to spoil the party – and be popular in the process – is the first and only Commandment.
A Catholic must, if you ask me, rather be promised toil, tears and sweat, with the possibility of blood; and must be told Jesus will recompense him with infinite generosity for all of them, whilst He will be terribly just (I wonder whether Francis knows the expression Rex Tremendae Majestatis) with those who refuse to accept Christ's not-at-all-fun rules to their last breath.
This used to be, in past ages, a rather normal thinking. No fun was ever promised. Life was seen as rather a vale of tears. The Seven Sorrows of Mary were common knowledge. Christ didn't smile from the Cross. The Cross was a calling, not a bad marketing instrument. A good Catholic had no expectation of a bed of roses. Consequently, he did not need the juvenile, stupid pursuit of an unrealistic happiness that today moves so many people not only to divorce and remarry, but even to demand that they be not seen as public adulteres, and even admitted to Holy Communion. Fools born of a fool, “fun” age.
The old mentality – the one without unrealistic expectations, and without divorces – worked rather well for two thousand years, saving countless souls.
Then the age of the aggiornamento began.
A world made for the stupid, the unbelievers, and the Jesuits.