How to Evangelize the “Nones”

How to Evangelize the “Nones” July 8, 2017

Bishop Robert Barron on the challenge of evangelization in the postmodern world.

After noting the challenges (scientism, the culture of “meh”, and the culture of self-determination), Bishop Barron then goes on to discuss the opportunities that lie at our feet:

1. The first opportunity: An intelligent truth

“I hate dumbed-down Catholicism,” Bishop Barron emphatically told the audience.

“What do I mean by that? It puts a huge stress on the superficial, the ‘banners and balloons Catholicism’ as I call it. We are a smart religion. When we don’t express Catholicism in a smart way, people fall away,” he said.

In particular, the Bishop urged catechists, apologists and evangelists to equip themselves with a good grasp on one of the great arguments for the existence of God. Young people often don’t have a robust understanding of God beyond a vague and irrelevant deity, he noted.

His favorite argument is based on contingency – that existence flows from God, and everything on the world gets its existence from him, because nothing created itself.

“The God that I’m talking about sustains the whole universe moment to moment the way a singer sustains a song. Continual creation – that’s the God the great Church talks about, that we must convey to our young people,” he said.

2. The second opportunity: The goodness of radical Christians

When the Christian life is embraced fully and radically, it’s goodness stands out to the world, Bishop Barron said.

The best example of this in the 20th century was Mother Teresa, who evangelized the world by her radical witness of goodness – caring for others indiscriminately, he said.

Throughout the history of the Church, he said, it was the “goodness and radicality of the Christian life that got the attention of the world,” through great saints like Benedict, Dominic and Francis.

“We need to recover what all these great figures found – this splendidly radical form of the Christian life. When it’s lived publicly, it evangelizes,” he said.

3. The third opportunity: Authentic beauty

Perhaps the best opportunity from which to start evangelization is with the authentic, objective beauty of the faith, Bishop Barron said.

And he’s not just talking about something subjectively satisfying like, say, deep-dish Chicago pizza, he said.

“The objectively valuable and beautiful is not like that, it’s something so intrinsically good and beautiful that it seizes us, it stops us in our tracks – something called aesthetic arrest,” he said.

It’s an easy place to start evangelizing because it’s as simple as “show, don’t tell.”

“Just show people the beauty of Catholicism – show them Cathedrals, show them the Sistine Chapel, show them Mother Teresa’s sisters at work. Don’t tell them what to think and how to behave, show the beauty of Catholicism, and that has an evangelical power,” he said.

“There’s nothing more beautiful than the dying and rising of Jesus Christ,” he said, and the apostles in the New Testament communicate this with a “grab-you-by-the-shoulders” urgency.

“These are people who have been seized by something so powerful and so overwhelming that they want to grab the world by the shoulders and tell them about it,” he said. “We need to be filled with the same ‘grab-you-by-the-shoulders’ enthusiasm” about the beauty of our faith, he added.

“Yes we face obstacles, but the saints always loved a good fight, and we should love a good fight too, because we go forth with this great truth, goodness, and beauty of Jesus Christ.”

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