In keeping with the solemnity and purpose of the great day in the church year, all links will prompt us to ponder the state of our faith and that of the Christian church in the West.
Rod Dreher in “Why Convert to Islam?” reflects on a testimony in First Things of Jacob Williams, a Brit who converted to Islam. Why?
Aside from the fact that I always find it fascinating to learn why people embrace a religion into which they were not born, Williams’s essay reveals how and why the pathetic weakness of UK (and European) Christianity has left a vacuum that Islam is prepared to fill.
As Williams watched the moral anarchy and disintegration of British culture, he looked for a way forward in education at Oxford—only to see the disease more advanced there. He also didn’t see it in the one place that should have been a countervailing force:
It was clear to me that what the authorities in my world celebrated—the collapse of family life, the slaughter of the unborn, the deterioration of high culture—were, in truth, social evils that followed from the decline of the Church. Christianity seemed the natural alternative to secularity.
But when I entered the chapels and listened to the ministers, the regeneration I sought didn’t happen. Christian voices sounded all too agreeable and compromising. I wanted something stronger, something that didn’t bargain with secularism. I found it in Islam.
In short, Christianity in Europe and America, in its efforts to remain on friendly terms with the culture, has spent far too much capital being agreeable. As I noted in my book, Jesus Mean & Wild, Jesus was anything but agreeable, but he was strong and not about to bargain with unbelief as we are wont to do.
Toward the end of this longish blog post, Dreher quotes some timely advice by one of my spiritual heroes, Alexander Schmemann, calling us to demanding forms of prayer, obedience, and acceptance. Sobering and yet inspiring reading for me anyway.
The West’s Spiritual Crisis
You cannot mistake Guinean Robert Cardinal Sarah as someone who bargains with unbelief. Here’s his prophetic jeremiad on the state of Western Christianity. Sarah is a man who has informed my faith (especially his book, The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise). Admittedly, he’s attracted to sweeping assertions and harshness, but woven into hard words are diamonds of truth that reveal the core issues of Western culture:
The spiritual collapse thus has a very Western character. In particular, I would like to emphasize the rejection of fatherhood. Our contemporaries are convinced that, in order to be free, one must not depend on anybody. There is a tragic error in this. Western people are convinced that receiving is contrary to the dignity of human persons. But civilized man is fundamentally an heir, he receives a history, a culture, a language, a name, a family. This is what distinguishes him from the barbarian. To refuse to be inscribed within a network of dependence, heritage, and filiation condemns us to go back naked into the jungle of a competitive economy left to its own devices. Because he refuses to acknowledge himself as an heir, man is condemned to the hell of liberal globalization in which individual interests confront one another without any law to govern them besides profit at any price.
I’m recommending only reading the first part of this interview, through question four. After that, matters uniquely Catholic are discussed.
A Witness to the West from the East
Another Christian who is anything but agreeable is Chu Yiu-ming, leader of Chai Wan Baptist Church in Hong Kong. He was recently arrested for being involved in pro-democracy movements. At his trial, he recounted his testimony
… of finding hope in Christ after a bleak childhood and defended his calling as a minister to fight for human rights, dignity, and care for all people.
“We have no regrets. We hold no grudges, no anger, no grievances. We do not give up,” he said, speaking on behalf of fellow activists involved in a campaign to bring universal voting rights to Hong Kong. “In the words of Jesus, ‘Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires; The Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!’ (Matthew 5:10)”
Chu faces up to seven years in prison.
The Ultimate Miracle of Good Friday
Finally, a short piece on “Why God Needs Skin in the Game.” And by implication, the divine grace that gives us courage to engage our culture with the boldness of Chu and Sarah and, yes, Christ.
Grace and peace,