“I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members,” so said the comedian Groucho Marks. I would probably say the same thing about a Church. I don’t want a Church that says I have no need to grow and develop. Nor do I need a Church that validates my held beliefs. I want a Church that challenges me, asks me difficult questions, shakes up my assumptions, makes me think, urges me to growth, and ardently desires to transform me into a saint.
Many Christian Churches have, for the large part, abandoned this vision. I was riding with a gentleman the other day who proudly spoke of his Church and how they do not even expect him to make an effort to look like Church is anything special on Sunday. “I can go in ratty shorts and T-shirt. And the music is rock and roll.” He was in his upper 50s. I said, “Wow. My parish is kinda headed in the opposite direction. I think it attracts the younger families more. It is my goal to expect more of them.”
The same could be said of philosophy and theology. Many Churches (non-Catholic) have changed their beliefs to an extraordinary degree. Go back to even the year 1900, and if we could do a graph, the rate of change would start slowly and then skyrocket. Really, what teaching in most Christian denominations do not simply mimic popular culture? Abortion, contraception, same sex marriage . . . gads, why even bother listing them all? Modern Church is about worshipping what we already believe and enshrining it in our weekend services.
Cultures cultivate. And our current culture is cultivating our Churches. It reforms them, informs them, coaxing God to change His mind on virtually any popular topic on order to match ours, the enlightened ones. Glad God is catching up.
It is one of the strengths of the Catholic Church that it is also so terribly cultural on a world wide (and historical) scale. It is a culture that cannot be voted into changing, or coaxed into matching the local thought beliefs, or pressured into accepting outside influence on its theology. It is designed to influence culture, not be influenced by it. If your faith, parish, or diocese is not working to change the family, city, or nation for the good, then it is failing. (If it is more influenced than influencing, it is dying.)
It doesn’t mean anybody has to listen. But we are not excused from being loyal to the truths of the faith. For if we are not leaven, we are salt that has gone flat.