you know all that stuff about ‘Jesus died to save you from your sins…and if you don’t accept him you’ll go to hell?'”
“That’s what I believe.”
“You’re kidding me.”
Nope. The whole shootin’ match. Heaven. Hell. Purgatory. Angels. Demons. Shucks, I believe there were three wise men and the shepherds saw angels the night baby Jesus was born.”
“In the little town of Bethlehem?”
“Yup. How still we see thee lie.”
Therefore I also believe that the best thing I can do for people is pray for them, offer masses for them and their dead, hear their confessions and preach the old, old, story of a humanity that is not a prodigal son, but a prodigal race. All of us far from home either carousing in our selfishness or wallowing with the pigs as a result of it. I believe the heart of the story is the father waiting at the gate to welcome us home and the need for us to come to our senses and say, “The servants in my father’s house are better off than I am. I will arise and go to my father.”
This core message and core action is what the Christian religion is for. It’s the primary purpose, and if we lose that in an attempt to make ourselves relevant and useful to people, they are not stupid. They will soon realize that you don’t need religion to run rehab sessions, parenting classes, seminars on managing your household finances, charities to build houses for poor people or run soup kitchens or thrift shops. You can do all that wonderful stuff out of the sheer goodness in the human heart and more power to you.
Religion, however, is about God and humanity, souls and salvation and the supernatural. If we don’t do religion with all its fullness and seeming foolishness, then religion will die and it will deserve to die because we have sold people something false. We told them it was religion but it turned out to be social work. We told them was religion and it was only relevance.
True Christian social work is the result of religion, not the replacement for religion. That’s why Mother Teresa nuns spend an hour on their knees with God before they spend the day on their knees serving the poor. We serve the poor and minister to the needy because it is Christ in us, the hope of glory, which compels us to do what we do. As we do there is a transaction: we see Christ in the needy and maybe, just maybe they will see Christ in us.
This is only possible, however, if we stick to the main task, and when you analyze it–in the eternal perspective– to save a soul and help someone to heaven….
….that is fairly relevant and useful don’t you think?