Pope on offensive in UK
Pope Benedict XVI took a swipe at the "atheistic extremism" and "aggressive secularism" of the UK (and modern Europe in general) in his first speech in Scotland, according to the UK Guardian: "As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the 20th century [Nazism], let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society," he said.
I suppose that's one way to skin the secular cat--and the pope is right about Nazism--but I doubt very much that the pope reached beyond the believing choir with his strong words. In fact, I think he may have further hardened them, since some atheists might have thought B16 was comparing them to Nazis. Even the usually genial Cardinal Walter Kasper had similarly tough language for secular Britain and its prominent atheists.
I have to wonder, though, if there couldn't be a different approach. Let's face it: Christianity has been dethroned in Europe, and the political power the church has left is fading, even in places like Latin America. This isn't a bad thing; indeed, it may make possible a new Christianity, one less in Caesar's back pocket.
But it does mean that the gospel must once again compete in the marketplace. I for one think it has a lot to offer, a lot more than even the most generous humanism. But I don't think hearts are going to be won over on the intellectual battleground, a conflict that ended in a draw a long time ago.
I think hearts will more likely be won through heroic love and service, in acts of healing and mercy that recall the ministry of Jesus, in the beauty and simplicity of our prayer, in showing by our lives that the Way of Jesus is worth living. Or we could even try our sense of humor.
Christiainity isn't a head trip; it's a way of life. I think we should be showing rather than telling (off) those who do not believe what a beautiful thing a life of faith and can be.