Christians have a big lesson to learn from the Left if we really want to evangelize
April 12, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – In March 1948, Douglas Hyde resigned as news editor of the London Daily Worker, renounced his twenty years as a member of the Communist Party, and became a Catholic. He wrote a short book, Dedication and Leadership, offering insights into the striking success of the spread of communism during the first half of the twentieth century, which contrasted with the relative stagnation of Christian Churches.
I was reminded of Hyde’s book while listening to Janet Smith speak at the Catholic University of America’s symposium observing the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae. Smith talked about how pastors and mentors often don’t ask people “to do big sacrificial things.”
That is a huge mistake.
Here is a short litany of statements from Hyde, who shows why during the 20th century, communists did a far better job recruiting converts to their cause than Catholics did winning converts for Christ. For our purposes today, it may be helpful to substitute the word "leftists" for "communists."
The paradox is that the Communists show a faith in their people which Christians, who are supposed to be the great defenders of the human person, are too often not prepared to show. They ask for a lot and they get the big response they expect.
And here is the key:
They say that if you make little demands on people, you will get a mean little response which is all you deserve, but, if you make big demands on them, you will get an heroic response . . . if you call for big sacrifices people will respond . . . and moreover, the relatively smaller sacrifices will come quite naturally.
Our own timidity, amplified by political correctness, makes us afraid of offending people with the full, sometimes hard, truths of the Gospel, but in so doing we end up denying them the Gospel.
If the fullness of the Gospel is preached, we can expect more than “heroic” responses; we can expect transformed lives displaying the Gospel’s mighty power.
The Communists make far bigger demands upon their people than the average Christian organization would ever dare to make . . . they have discovered that it is good psychology to ask for a lot. It is bad psychology and politics to ask for too little.
You must believe in the human material you have at your disposal. You must not be afraid to make big demands upon it and you must skillfully and intelligently call for sacrifices, following up each such call with another.
While Christianity trades in Absolute Truth, not psychology and politics, Hyde’s point is well taken. And more than that:
When you have succeeded in making men believe that change is necessary and possible and that they are the ones who can achieve it; when you have convinced them that they and the small minority of whom they are a part can transform the world in their lifetime, you have achieved something very considerable indeed. You have put into their lives a dynamic force so powerful that you can bring them to do what would otherwise be impossible. The dull and humdrum becomes meaningful. Life becomes purposeful and immensely more worth living.
Catholics talk about membership in the mystical Body of Christ. But very few feel that sense of oneness which the Communist feels with men everywhere.
The Communists were right when they said that there is a great battle going on all over the world which in the final analysis is a struggle for men’s hearts and souls.
This is a turning point in man’s history, a terrible, yet tremendous time in which to live.
And here’s a final money quote:
The Christian may say that the Communists have the worst creed on earth. But what they have to appreciate is that Communists shout it from the housetops; while too often those who believe they have the best speak with a muted voice when they speak at all.
All of this bears upon the anemia, the malaise, of the Catholic Church in the western world today: Despite possessing the Truth––distilled, packed down and flowing over––we are not as victorious as we should be in the battle for hearts and minds. Because of this, Christianity is losing its influence on civil society, evident at the ballot box and in legislative, judicial and executive measures. As a result, we live at a time when religious liberty is seriously imperiled in the western world.
And all the while, the number of committed Catholics in our hemisphere is dwindling.
The Catholic Church is a repository of the greatest truth, wisdom and experience known to mankind. Yet there are forces acting both outside and within the church now encouraging us to cast aside the commandments and natural law in favor of appealing to people’s own sense of what is best for them.
That is a losing strategy, behind which one can detect the whispers of the ancient serpent.
The pastoral practice of “accompaniment” does not reflect the Gospel preached in the early Church. On the day of Pentecost, Peter told the crowd, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” (Acts 2:38).
Peter did not ask the 3,000 gathered to make the most generous response possible based on their own personal truths. He asked for the maximum, not the minimum: “Repent and change your life.” Yet we are too timid to tell people this, and theologians search for reasons to justify their own timidity, if not their lack of faith, in the Gospel.
Cardinal Sarah has said, “To omit the ‘hard sayings’ of Christ and his Church is not charity.” We cannot be more compassionate than Christ, who said, “go and sin no more.”
Personal experience has taught me this is true: Years ago, while I was still living as a gay man, I would not have come back to the Catholic Church if I had been told it was ok to continue living the way I was and still call myself “Catholic.” Instead, it was Christ’s words, “go and sin no more,” coupled with the promise of the Holy Spirit which drew me back, and brought healing to my life.
A few more words from Hyde:
Never in man’s history has a small group of people set out to win the world and achieved more in less time. Certainly [communists] have brought far more people under their sway by the methods they employ than anyone else has during the same period. Moreover, they have always worked through a minority.
Yet that describes exactly the history of the early Church, which spread like wildfire, despite the fact that believers often risked their lives for believing.
If the majority of members of an organization are half-hearted and largely inactive, then it is not surprising if others who join it soon conform to the general pattern.
The gospel of “affirmation” is not the Gospel. The pastoral practice of “accompaniment” pales compared to the splendor of the Truth of the Gospel. These are concoctions of the minds of distracted theologians. Only the Gospel which points to the Cross of Christ––and His blood shed there––is real and powerful, and is truly Good News.