“Sometime in the 1980’s, Christians in the West began to label evangelistic techniques and reconfigure church services to reduce the message to the lowest level of cognition in the audience. As nobly intentioned as that was, the end result was th lowest level of writing and gospel preaching one could imagine. Mass media was brought to aid this purpose, and before long evangelicals were seen to be masters in entertainment and minimalists in thought. As this was happening, the intellectual arenas were being plundered and young minds gradually driven away from their “faith” in the gospel message. Christians are paying our dues today and likely will pay for an entire generation.” (from the Introduction to Beyond Opinion)
While I don’t think that Zacharias’ observation applies equally to Catholics as to evangelicals, I do think that it is incisive. I see a deep alienation between the community of faith and the scholarly community on issues of theology, Bible and practice in both Protestant and Catholic groups. It seems that this has been brought about by certain anti-intellectual tendencies in the community of faith and by results-oriented evangelism that counts quantity but not quality–not to mention the sweeping problems in the scholarly community! There is a proliferation of Catholic and Christian TV shows, websites, radio stations, etc. But there are fewer and fewer people to watch them, donate to them or listen to them.
The evangelization of our generation must be a deeply personal activity involving friendship, grassroots community, deep conversations and lovingly shared home-cooked meals. Our generation is not starving for more Christian media or more entertaining worship services, but we are starving for love, friendship, deep connection with others–for a life that is personally meaningful because it is full of persons with whom we can love and share and draw near to God. But this deeply meaningful type of evangelization can only be carried out on the most solid of intellectual foundations, a sincere and honest approach to the Bible, a reflective and fully obedient attitude to the Magisterium, and a full embrace of the Faith with all of its complexities, controversies and paradoxes.