Monday, June 6, 2011

The Irrelevance of Christ

According to Archbishop Antonio Maria Vegliò, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, man today “does not find the answers to the questions of life in Christ, and not so much because he rejects Christ, but because he does not seek answers, he does not ask himself about his existence, he is not concerned to give it meaning.”

Archbishop Vegliò made these comments at last week's conference on interreligious dialogue among Christians, Jews, and Muslims in Gödöllö, Hungary organized by the Hungarian presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Obviously what the archbishop says is a huge generalization and I only have the above snippet from an article on his talk and don't have the original text. So, I don't know what sort of evidence he offered for this claim. But we can verify it for ourselves in our own experience. If it's true, it's a sobering thought.

If the Church preaches Christ as the savior of the world, who cares? What does the world need to be "saved" from? What do I need to be saved from?

If the Church tells us that Christ offers meaning to our lives, who cares? What is "meaning" anyway and why does life need it?

That consumate pessimist Schopenhauer remarked in his magnum opus The World as Will and Representation that man is a "metaphysical animal" because of his penchant for posing ultimate questions. Schopenhauer understood better than most that man poses these questions not solely because of a detached intellectual interest in them (if there is any such creature as a "detached intellectual ineterest" in things) but because he himself, his fate, is implicated in them.

Finally, Schopenhauer is an idealist, in the philosophical sense, and I don't follow him there. But he is right that deep down we do have these "metaphysical" questions. The problem, however, is that we are not always in touch with what is deepest in us, sometimes for very good reasons: there are many moments when waxing philosophical is just not appropriate, like when we need to swerve to avoid some idiot who is getting over in our lane without looking.

But our whole life cannot be one of distraction from the metaphysical questions. In an age of cell phones, iPods, and blogs (all of which I have), it is especially difficult not to live that way. (But, let it be noted, I don't and never will have earphones for my iPod.)

We know that the word of the Gospel will prove fruitless if it falls upon unreceptive, unmetaphysical, soil. So, now as ever, the world needs to be prepared for the Gospel. How that gets done concretely depends on the particular historical context. Monsignor Vegliò might have put his finger on the sort of preparation required for many in our comtemporary culture (including ourselves), at least our contemporary western culture.

I don't like to sermonize, so I'll stop here.


  1. Sans earphones, you're gonna miss out on a lot of good audiobooks!

  2. My question is are you christian or jew?



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