Christians young and old alike will object: “But Stephen, for all your complaining, what is your positive plan to repopulate our Church? How are we going to build the Kingdom and renew the face of the earth if no one likes us? The Church is shrinking and our pews are nearly empty! What to do, what to do?” Well, as the saintly if relatively unpopular Pope Benedict XVI once said to a group of secular reporters, who would probably have rather heard a different message:
One might say that a church which seeks above all to be attractive would already be on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for itself, does not work to increase its numbers so as to have more power. The Church is at the service of Another; it does not serve itself, seeking to be a strong body, but it strives to make the Gospel of Jesus Christ accessible, the great truths, the great powers of love and of reconciliation that appeared in this figure and that come always from the presence of Jesus Christ.
As Christians at a crossroads, we must remember that our mission isn’t one of strategy so much as truth. For all our efforts to justify God to the world, we ought to spend more effort doing just the opposite.
Stephen Herreid is a Fellow at the John Jay Institute and the arts editor for Humane Pursuits.