This morning I recalled listening to one of my favorite theologians (from NY, so imagine the accent) rant on about all-things-Christology to some brother-priests, and while he was ranting he made a certain point that really slapped me in the face.
He was remembering a comment from one of his parishioners who said, ‘Father, you know it’s really hard to think our kids will accept and practice all this teaching on chastity in a culture that is drenched in unbridled sex.’ After making a few side pastoral caveats to his priest-audience regarding the need to walk like a shepherd close to the people along their way of imperfection, this theologian said: ‘So I told this guy, Look, what did you expect from a faith that worships the dead corpse of a Jew whom we say is the epitome of love? Christianity is about bloody, unbridled love. Yeah, really hard, but it’s what we’re supposed to be about.’
He continued on by arguing to his Ordained audience that trying to convince unconvinced people of our ‘Christian ethic’ — based on reason and natural law — without converting their hearts to Christ Crucified, is, in his estimation, futile. ‘Without an understanding of the world read through the Cross, and without the grace that comes from the Cross, who can be expected to buy, let alone live, any of it? The Roman Empire was not converted by arguing natural law theory in Roman Courts, but by being soaked in rivers of martyrs’ blood.’
Though his point is a hyperbolic, and their is obviously an absolutely necessary role for people of faith to make reasoned arguments in the public forum, I do think his pithy-potent insight is absolutely and uniquely Christian; and we Christians have to be careful not to surrender this insight even as we seek to argue a unified natural law theory to an ethically fragmenting culture.
Evangelization and reasoned dialogue stand in a constant tension that will always only know a restless resolve.