Christian Formation and the Cost of the Culture Wars

A reflection by Sarah

About five years ago, I taught a course called Christian Beliefs at a Catholic university. During each class period, we would discuss a different topic that connected in some way to the ideas presented in the Nicene Creed. On the first day of class that semester, I gave the students index cards and asked that each fill his/her entire card, front and back, with as many responses to the following question as possible: “What do Christians believe?” I taught that course twice and have not since been assigned to teach another like it, but being the pack rat that I am, I kept those cards and flipped through them last week while planning an activity for my current freshmen. I had almost forgotten just how troubling the responses where.

First, a bit of context: there were twenty students in the class, mainly from Christian backgrounds. Thirteen identified as Catholic, five identified as Protestant, and two identified as atheist/agnostic. Of the thirteen Catholic students, ten had attended a Catholic high school. Eight of those had been through twelve years of Catholic education. Three Protestant students and one atheist/agnostic student had received education at Christian high schools. Given this information, one might think most of these students would have no trouble generating a list of Christian beliefs that would include many of the religion’s core tenets.

As I perused these index cards last week, I was taken back to the shock I experienced as a second-year teacher reading the responses my class had provided. A few were easily predictable:

  • “Christians believe in Jesus.”
  • “Christians believe in Jesus as the savior.”
  • “Christians believe that Jesus died for our sins.”
  • “Christians believe that baptism washes away sins.”
  • “Christians believe you need to ask Jesus into your heart to go to heaven.”

But those accounted for such a small percentage of student responses. When asked “What do Christians believe?” almost every student in the class included at least two of the following on his/her list:

  • “Christians believe gay people are going to hell.”
  • “Christians believe gay people are sinners.”
  • “Christians believe gay people are pedophiles and shouldn’t be priests.”
  • “Christians believe that if you’re gay, you can’t have sex.”
  • “Christians believe that you have to choose to be straight if you love God.”
  • “Christians believe abortion is a sin.”
  • “Christians believe abortion is murder.”
  • “Christians believe in protecting unborn babies.”
  • “Christians believe you have to be pro-life.”
  • “Christians believe you have to vote pro-life.”

Most students who listed two or more of the above had written perhaps one other statement of belief on their index cards. One responded, “I know Christians don’t like gay people or women, but that’s all I ever learned in Christian school. I don’t know what else to list.” Another produced only four items on her card, indicating that Christians believe in Jesus as savior, gay people as sinners, abortion as murder, and Genesis 1 as a literal account of a six-day creation. A significant number also included statements defining Christian beliefs against certain actions, groups of people, or other kinds of beliefs:

  • “Christians don’t believe other religions are true.”
  • “Christians don’t believe you can be gay.”
  • “Christians don’t believe it’s okay if you kill your baby.”
  • “Christians don’t believe in Muhammad.”
  • “Christians don’t believe in terrorism.”
  • “Christians don’t believe in committing sin.”

I remember taking these cards home after class that day and puzzling over them. Had my students just blown off the assignment? Or were they really unable to think of any other theological issues as core tenets of the Christian faith? At the beginning of the next class session, I initiated a discussion about the responses. I asked everyone to work together in small groups and describe in detail their thought processes during the index card assignment. As I drifted from group to group listening to the conversations, what I heard surprised and saddened me. I heard stories of students who were taught to say a few words for the unborn every night at bedtime prayers but had no idea how to describe the Holy Spirit, students whose high school religion courses had covered morality backwards and forwards but had never touched on Scripture or Church history, students who had attended Catholic school since kindergarten but had no idea that Jesus was God until they had read the first chapter of our course textbook, and students who were becoming (or had already become) so disenchanted with the shallow messages they were receiving at church that they were considering leaving Christianity entirely. It became clear that my students hadn’t blown off the assignment at all. In fact, they had taken it very seriously, and many had articulated carefully all the tenets of Christianity they had ever known.

I handed each group a copy of the Nicene Creed and explained that for the rest of the semester, all our readings would center on theological exploration of different parts of that statement of faith. I asked groups to spend a few minutes looking through the Creed and jotting down some questions they had about what they read. It didn’t take me long to see how eager most of the class was to learn. They posed some excellent questions: What does it mean to say that Jesus is one in being with the Father? What does that weird “light from light” phrase mean, anyway? Why do Protestant churches that use the Creed recite the part about belonging to one holy, catholic, and apostolic church? I remember hearing one young woman say to her peers, “I’ve recited this every Sunday of my life, but never really stopped to think about what it means.”

As it turned out, we had a wonderful semester. Truly this was one of the best groups of students I’ve taught in my career so far. And even though one young man informed me crassly that the best part of the whole term was the day I mentioned that nude baptisms were performed in the early Church, I’m hopeful that most students left the course at least somewhat more knowledgeable about basic Christianity than they had been previously. What saddens me is the reality that a group of young Christians in their late teens and early twenties—most of whom had been Christians their entire lives—were in need of such a basic introduction to their own religion. I see this need emerging again and again in my theology courses, but I’m less surprised by it now after having gained a few years of teaching experience.

The fact that such a reality is possible in a classroom filled with students raised in the Church makes me gravely worried for the future of Christianity. It becomes clearer to me every semester that we as a Church have misplaced our priorities. And it’s not always the students from conservative backgrounds who exhibit this lack of basic Christian education. With some regularity, I encounter students who identify as liberal Christians but know only about Christian principles of social justice and little to nothing about the theology that undergirds those principles. If you look at how Christian leaders are portrayed in the public eye, it never has anything to do with affirmations of the Trinity, the power of the sacraments, or the hope of resurrection. More often than not, Christian leaders that most people see publically (especially in the media) are combatting behaviors and social norms perceived to be contrary to the Christian faith. It seems that anyone can create a list of items that Christians are against: gay marriage, abortion, war, capitalism, poverty, etc. It’s no wonder these are the first sorts of things that come to mind for a lot of young people when they try and list core tenets of the Christian faith. It’s regrettable that Christianity is becoming more defined by boundaries of the culture war than by the good news of Christ. We lose people because we lose the opportunity to invite them to follow Christ as one of his disciples.

As a student of church history, I’m all too aware of the fights people have fought with a desire to keep Christ at the center of the Church. But as issues like homosexuality, abortion, and freedom of religion become the defining issues of American (small-o) orthodoxy, I have to wonder if we’ve placed the culture wars at the center. Every day at work, I see the consequences of these religious battles as I look into the faces of the next generation. I can’t help but sound off from my corner of the universe, entreating all Christian leaders of every tradition to return their focus to Christ. Surely, the attractive pull of the Gospel has the power to guide us all into the fullness of life in Christ… while also having the power to bring the next generation along with us.

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47 thoughts on “Christian Formation and the Cost of the Culture Wars

  1. Excellent report from “your corner of the world”. It’s easy to suspect and assume that this trend of what I will call “inarticulate, narrow belief” is directing so much political and social argument, but hearing your story helps calm my anxiety (and apathy) when thinking of engaging either side – you saw a change. Hearing that your students might have moved from the smaller list of (unchallenged) beliefs to a larger set of more valuable and helpful questions makes me hope that it also led to a deeper respect. A deeper respect for the long-held (and much-challenged) tenets of belief found in the Nicene Creed and, maybe, a revulsion for the lesser thought-through assumptions they had listed before. Anyways, THANKS for teaching. and thanks for posting. In Christ, Leslie Banta

    • Hi Leslie. I’m glad you stopped by today. This particular group of students made me feel quite hopeful. That semester was fantastic. Not every section ends up being so great, though. I’ve had my share of unsuccessful classes, and I suppose every teacher does. But it feels great to be able to help students who are genuinely interested in learning more about Christianity. Thanks for your comment and the encouragement. 🙂 -Sarah

  2. Sarah this is so insightful and true and is the reason I couldn’t stay in church and stayed away from church for so long. I am still struggling with what the purpose of church is. Especially if there are so many different denominations and styles of belief. Especially when they want you to protest abortion clinics and evangelize people on the streets. I am not sure this is what I want to be doing.

    This may be a little off on a tangent but why do we need to go to a formal church any way? Can’t we just gather with believers? Do I really need to take communion? Do I really need to join a study group? I guess my question would be how are we supposed to be discipled?

    • Hi Kathy. You always have such great questions for us. Thank you for asking us to spend more time thinking on certain issues that might not have occurred to us otherwise. I get the “Why do we have to go to church?” question (and some of your others) quite a bit from my students. However, I don’t have a simple, concise answer that would fit well within a brief comment. Lindsey and I have been discussing your questions from today, and we think they might be best addressed in a full post at some point within the next few weeks. We’re also considering posing these as our Saturday Symposium topic this week to get feedback from others on this topic. We think these questions are important and need to be addressed thoroughly, but we might need a few weeks to do that. So often, your comments inspire new posts for A Queer Calling, and we are very grateful to have you as a reader. -Sarah

  3. Kathy, you can do all those things. Do they help you? Do you believe you need redemption, do you feel a need to grow closer and closer to Jesus? Have you found Him elsewhere? I doubt you will outside of the Church, but who knows? Keep looking, and when you get tired just know that the doors will be open.

    But why the Church? Why any church? I could give you several reasons for that, but perhaps I would bore you. If you’re a lapsed Catholic, I would just invite you to go to Mass in a nice church any day you’re feeling down or in need, and see if you can find any beauty at all, any rest for your soul there. That’s why I go to Mass every Sunday – not because I’m obliged to, but because the peace and order I find there, I cannot find anywhere else.

    And I have never listened to a single homily about abortion. That wouldn’t be necessary, though, as I suffered its evils in my own skin. Indeed it was the pain and guilt I suffered that turned me from an atheist to a repented sinner in confessionary, and few were the times I felt so light as after being absolved by the priest and told, with a smile, to raise my head and move on. And then I partook of communion with tears, and then my healing began.

    • Hi Bruno. Thanks for reading our post today. You bring up some good points about the experience of church bringing beauty, rest, and healing. My experience of church has included those things as well. I think many people experience church in ways that do not include these or other noticeably positive aspects. Certainly going to church is not just about feeling good and being able to say, “I got something out of the service/Mass/Divine Liturgy today,” but I can see why a person might wonder about the purpose of church if the experience is consistently negative. Thanks again for stopping by, and I hope we will see you here again. -Sarah

    • Bruno

      Thanks for your questions.I am glad you told me about your experience with confession and communion. I guess this is one way in which we can find a benefit in going to church to be reminded of what Jesus did for us. I don’t have a Catholic background at all but currently attend an Anglican church. At age nineteen I joined a strict fundamentalist church and stayed there for about eight years. After that I stayed away from church for long time and tried to go back on a few occasions, trying different denominations. The issue of same sex marriage along with other divisive issues, I mentioned above, did impact me and made it hard to connect with others and continue attending church. As well, because I am LGBT, I didn’t find church to be a comfortable place for me.

      Perhaps going to a fundamentalist church changed me. It is my view now that there are paradoxes and inconsistencies in life and imperfections in people and chaos in nature. It makes me doubt that we can rely on formal religion as the answer. I don’t think we find Jesus specifically within the walls of a church. So that is why I am questioning the role church would play in our lives. The fundamentalist church was very controlling in almost every aspect of my life including what I ate and whether I could work on a Saturday and what holidays to celebrate. When a church has that much control over your life it makes you wonder where the freedom is in Christ.

  4. You must have a great memory for what happens in your classroom. I can’t remember what happens in class from one semester to the next, much less five years later. With all the Catholic, Protestant, educational, etc. context…do you ask students to tell you this information about themselves? I’ve thought about asking my own students more about their respective backgrounds, but never have.

    • Hi Cat. I do ask students for a lot of information at the beginning of each semester. This helps me understand the students’ backgrounds, level of exposure to theology and religious studies, and interests. At the beginning of the course described in my post today, I had students fill out an additional index card each with responses to background questions I ask (e.g. What is your religious background? Have you ever taken a theology or religion class before? Did you attend a Catholic, Christian, or other religiously affiliated high school? Middle School? Elementary school?). I ask students these same questions at the beginning of every course I teach, though I’ve made slight modifications to some questions over the few years I’ve been teaching so far. I find that asking for this information helps me a great deal when I’m selecting videos and additional resources to have my students read. I also keep the information cards after the course has ended so I can refresh my memory if a student contacts me four years later for a recommendation. Thanks for reading today, and we hope to see you again. -Sarah

  5. You have described this perfectly. However, it’s not just the media. In my opinion what appears to be a Christian obsession with LGBT people stems from advocacy groups. They push buttons to raise money. I am only surprised that you did not get some antisemitic remarks as well.

    • Hi David. You’re right. it’s not just the media. I’d agree that the messages we hear from advocacy groups are a significant part of the problem too. Oddly enough, I’ve never heard a single anti-semitic remark in any university or high school course I’ve ever taught. I’m not sure if that’s because I’ve ended up with students who don’t know much about or give much thought to the Jewish faith, or if there is some other reason for this. Thanks for reading and commenting today. -Sarah

    • Speaking for myself, my unnatural obsession with LGBT comes from being directly attacked in my wife’s and my choice to give life to a special needs child.

      LGBT rhetoric is so anti-procreative that it infects my ability to protect my child from a culture of death that would tell everybody that he doesn’t deserve to live.

      Sarah and Lindsey are showing me a different side, and that’s why I’m reading them, but the insults have been EXTREMELY deep on the other side to the point of turning me very against homosexuality (and alternative, less moral heterosexuals as well- fornication, divorce and contraception are MUCH worse than homosexuality).

      • Theodore, we’re very sorry to hear that you and your wife have experienced personal attacks, and that perhaps your child has too. We’re glad you’re here and engaging with us. We know many, many other LGBT people besides us who would be absolutely supportive of you and your wife as you raise a child with special needs. Just as it’s wrong to assume that all conservative, straight Christians hate gay people, it’s incorrect to assume that all LGBT people are anti-procreation. But we do understand that continuous insults can be hurtful. We pray that you and your wife will have more positive interactions with others in the future.

  6. I was one of those kids who the different creeds, prayers, and catechisms pounded into my head so I could get confirmed. Lots of memorization, but not much understanding. That was catholic middle school. High school I got a different education; surprisingly my freshman year we got a nun who taught us deep critical thinking about the Bible as truth AND allegory. I don’t remember sophomore or junior year religion classes, but senior year was mostly practical application of faith in life.

    • Interesting. I had thought that the focus on memorization went out the window in the 70s, but I suppose some schools and teachers held on to it. In my nine years of Catholic school religion classes (in the 80s and 90s) the only thing I memorized was the Apostles’ Creed (in third grade). Memorization wasn’t really replaced with substance, though. The Creed is about the only concrete thing I can say I still know from those nine years. The rest of it made almost no impression on me at all.

      • I think another part of the problem is that in some Christian traditions, there are certain geographic areas in which standardized testing is used to determine how much students are learning in faith formation classes. I’ve also taught faith formation for children, and in places where testing has been a requirement. It wouldn’t surprise me if many of the kids in these situations were beginning to view faith formation as just another academic checkbox, just another test to pass. -Sarah

    • Sounds like you got a combination of sounds religious education and emphasis on memorization over content. I find that to be the case for many of my students as well. Though the class described in my post consisted mainly of students who had not experienced any sense of sound religious education, more frequently I encounter kids whose high school teachers likely tried to encourage deeper thinking, but were having to compensate for the students’ poor formation at earlier levels. I see that as a significant problem in certain Christian traditions. -Sarah

  7. Hey, so, since you asked, here are my comments: I think the problem isn’t the culture war; I think it’s that we suck.

    I think there’s a problem on the conservative side of describing the faith as moralistic legalism, on the liberal side of just saying Jesus is my boyfriend, but mostly, in my experience, it’s just that the materials are insipid and mediocre. They’re not heterodox, just utterly boring, so of course kids don’t listen or learn anything. And in all cases what is missing is the kerygma.

    If there is moralism, it’s most often not in the sense of culture war issues, but just a general pseudo-Pelagian message of, well, being a Christian is about being a nice person. No, it’s about throwing yourself at the foot of the Cross.

    This is what’s missing from catechesis.

    • I agree with a lot of what you’ve said, but I do still see the culture wars as a significant part of the cause. Maybe that’s partly because I’ve had a great deal of personal experience with seeing young people in my current and former Christian traditions learning nothing from their parents (as far as faith goes, anyway) except what *not* to do and for whom to vote. But yes, old heresies continuing to crop up is a huge problem. I find that many of my students are semi-Pelagian in their thinking about Christianity. In another course before we discusse heresies, I give students a quiz where they check off all statements with which they agree. We talk about how many of them checked off heretical beliefs of one kind or another. The “Jesus is my best friend and wouldn’t ask anything challenging of me” bit is something I hear all the time in addition to the moral legalism on the opposite end of the spectrum. Lots to think about. Thanks for stopping by! -Sarah

  8. Your apprehensions about the ignorance of your students are not misplaced. I taught a Western Civ course at a secular university in the Midwest for several years as a grad student, and it always amazed me to read student papers that mentioned they were Catholic or Christian or had gone to Catholic schools, and had learned next to nothing about the basic doctrines of Christianity, the creeds, etc. I distinctly recall two students’ paper that mentioned they had gone to Catholic schools all their lives and were now atheists, but really enjoyed learning about Thomas Aquinas! (I guess for some reason the Angelic doctor brought that out in them.)

    But I doubt this has anything specifically to do with the churches or with Christians in general. It merely reflects their general ignorance about a whole host of subjects, I fear. I have had several students over the years who have thanked me for introducing them to basic knowledge of Western history, and I have long ceased to be amazed at what they don’t know. I will say that my impression of my students is much the same as yours—that they are intelligent, and genuinely eager to learn if you present your subject in an engaging manner, and make it clear to them why it is important to them.

    • Yes, that’s a great point. I’m generally surprised as well by what people don’t know. When I lecture on social justice, one historical question I ask my students in order to set the stage for The development of Catholic Social Teaching is, “What are some major historical events that happened in the 19th century?” Very broad question, and intentionally so. Yet, inevitably there are only two or three kids who can identify that the Industrial Revolution was occurring, or describe what the Industrial Revolution was. Many can’t name a single 19th century event outside of that either. I do still think part of the problem is the messages students hear in church and through their experiences with cultural Christianity. But yes, it doesn’t help that the American population is becoming increasingly ignorant of history and other important areas of basic knowledge. -Sarah

  9. Is the problem that they’re getting too much culture war from the Church, or that their formation in the Church is making no impression on them whatsoever and that their understanding of Christianity comes from the culture at large rather than their direct experience? Did kids raised in non-Christian homes also tend to name culture war issues?

    I mean, it’s clear that we’re failing to pass on the core of the Gospel. It’s not clear to me, though, that the out-sized place of culture war issues in these kids’ minds originates in the Church itself or whether, lacking any substantive idea of actually defines Christianity, they’re just filling in the blanks with the political identities and stereotypes that populate public discourse and popular culture.

    That doesn’t mean we bear no guilt for helping establishing or reinforcing those stereotypes or letting people believe that Christianity can be reduced to a political identity, but the solution isn’t as simple as downplaying culture war issues. It has more to do with finding a way to pass on that core in a compelling way that fundamentally challenges the assumptions behind the political categories and stereotypes.

    • Hi Lou, thanks for reading and for your comment here. I think it’s important to highlight the observation these students were raised in the Church even to the point of attending Catholic or Protestant Christian schools. I wonder if this is the view of so many young people within Christianity, what does that say about the view of kids not raised within the Church? I’ve had experiences teaching students raised in non-religious homes as well, and interestingly, though they see many of the same stereotypical culture war issues as being at the core of Christianity, often students raised in non-religious homes have a more positive sense of what Christianity is than some of my students who were raised in the Church.

      There are many possible reasons for this observation, but it’s a curious reality. -Sarah

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  11. I suspect that if you asked the same children a series of question about Geography, history, math, social sciences etc. you would get the same results. Some kids pay attention and some don’t. There is a lot going on in their lives that to them is much more important than school subjects. I don’t mean by saying this that we couldn’t be doing a better job of giving them a more solid grounding in things that matter. What sticks at 17 when we will live forever and what sticks at 45 when we know we won’t only time will tell.

    • It’s probably true that when asked about other subjects, many of the same students would have shown a similar lack of knowledge. However, in this case I don’t think it’s simply that the students weren’t paying attention in earlier schooling. My experience with this particular class showed that these kids were eager to learn more about Christian theology. Once we jumped into the course material, most of them did very well and probably retained things after the semester had ended. But I’ve also taught groups of students who are just as uninterested in theology as any other academic subject. -Sarah

    • What strikes me isn’t just how little was on those cards: it’s how much of what was there was culture war stuff and “Christians disapprove of XYZ.” I remember one college class English class where I could see the teacher being frustrated that nobody was making the connection she wanted with the book in question talking about the importance of words, so I raised my hand and gave her the beginning of the gospel of John. I was raised Jewish; a lot of my classmates were at least nominally Christian. But they either hadn’t heard “In the beginning was the word” or just weren’t making connections there. That I’d file under bad memory or not caring about an odd theological statement.

      Years of Christian schooling and not thinking of “Jesus is God” or anything about sin or redemption, let alone feeding the hungry and visiting the sick, suggests that something else is going on. If I was Christian, I’d consider this a problem. Even as a non-Christian, I’d like to see Christians teaching their children about the good things they should do, not why they think God disapproves of other people.

      • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Vicki. How little the students listed on the cards was quite surprising to me too. I think a lot of the problem rests with the parents. Glad you stopped by to comment! -Sarah

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  14. Maybe the new book by Cardinal Walter Kasper, spoken of as Pope Francis’ theologian, will be a help to us all.
    Mercy: the Essence of the Gospel and the Key to the Christian Life [Paulist, 2014]
    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mercy-cardinal-walter-kasper/1119128376

    As well as the new book by Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy [Loyola, 2014]
    http://www.loyolapress.com/the-church-of-mercy-hardcover.htm#

    Thanks for your much needed essay.
    God bless you and yours this Easter season.
    John

    • Hi John, thanks for reading. We appreciate your comment here. We agree that it’s very important for many Christian traditions to be exploring a theology of mercy; these books are excellent for people looking within the Catholic tradition. -Lindsey and Sarah

      • They will also point the way for those in other traditions to follow up leads provided in these books, and to look for points of connection with theologians across the spectrum,
        John

  15. I have been reading about Catholic schools recently because there have been several controversies where orthodox speakers have appeared at a couple of schools, and this caused all sorts of controversy.
    In my reading, it appears that the schools have become almost anti-Catholic; it appears they resist teaching fundamental doctrines and instead teach a water-down I’m OK, you’re OK Catholicism. And in some cases they actively seek to distance themselves from Catholicism or even oppose it in a very subtle way. So, the things students would hear about the faith would be things that put the church in a bad light, such as “The church hates gays” etc. These are bumper sticker comments of the left, and apparently a good number of the lay teachers in Catholic schools agree with such mis-characterizations. I don’t think it is that the schools are pushing kids to become anti-abortion workers, it is that they present an unattractive view of the church where it is full of hate.

    • Thanks for reading. We appreciate your comment. Please correct us if we’ve misinterpreted the first part of your comment, but what came immediately to mind were controversies like Sr Jane Dominic Laurel in Charlotte, NC. This interpretation informs the rest of our comment.

      When a person is trying to present teachings aligned with a particular Christian tradition’s understanding of sexuality, too often people focus on having the right answer without much regard for how they convey their message. It’s not enough to be factually correct, as a person must also convey teachings in a way that is kind, compassionate, and understandable by their audience. Many public figures have been clanging gongs when it comes to presenting a traditional sexual ethic; indeed, the tendency to stress dogmatic understandings has shaped many facets of the culture war. We haven’t had the opportunity to listen to any of these speakers at Catholic high schools, so we’re not suggesting that Sr Jane Dominic Laurel or any of the others sound like clanging gongs. We do have enough experience with theologically orthodox speakers to know that it’s possible for such speakers convey their message in a way alienates, for example, all LGBT people regardless of their theological orthodoxy. It’s possible that what some students might be reacting against with these speakers is not the orthodoxy, but claims that go beyond the scope of theology to assert questionable theories about homosexuality. -Sarah and Lindsey

    • Great question. I was also interested in knowing that. I remember that one day in this course not too long after the index card assignment, I asked the students what they thought it meant to be Christians. I got a lot of different answers, and unfortunately I don’t have a record of those like I do with the index cards. But I do recall that the students took seriously the opportunity to reflect more deeply on what it means to identify as a Christian. I think it’s an unfortunate reality that many (though I certainly would not say most) Christians haven’t given much time to considering the deeper meaning behind the label. -Sarah

  16. At the Second Vatican Council, when the Catholic Church set out to say, in modern language, what it is, the bishops produced Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church as the central document of the council.
    I think one can hear the clear voice of the Holy Spirit in the first line of that document — “Christ is the light of nations.”
    What could be a more proper Christian response to the modern world, which is at once so wonderful and so shattered?
    Moral teaching is important, and sometimes, as when the church confronts a murderous ideology, the moral teaching must take center stage.
    But we do not say “Correct conduct is the light of nations.” And for good reason.
    Christ is so beautiful. Thank you for the reminder to keep him at the center of Christian life. Lumen gentium cum sit Christus!
    (I had not encountered your blog before, but I ran across this piece, I think, on Realclearreligion.org.
    Now that I have found it, I look forward to being a reader.)

    • Hi Cyril. We are glad you’ve found us and are excited to have you as a reader! Thanks for your comment. It’s all too easy to lose sight of the fact that Christianity is about Christ rather than x, y, and z other things. In teaching theology, I find it essential to help students understand how those various other things ultimately connect back to Christ. Thanks again for stopping by. -Sarah

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  19. Honestly, I am confused. I wonder if these students know Christianity only as a list of culture war talking points because of their immersion in media culture rather than as the result of Christian formation. My experience is that the Church has a rather light touch on such matters in person. (Sorry if this has already been discussed.)

    • That’s an interesting theory. Perhaps it has just as much to do with media immersion, although my guess is that many of these students aren’t getting the best formation from their parents at home in addition to having significantly more media exposure than students of past generations. -Sarah

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