Friday, May 11, 2007

Preach Christ Crucified and the Church Will Grow

Richard Lapper writes in the Financial Times on Benedict XVI's visit to Brazil: "Protestantism is on the march, especially in Brazil and Central America. According to a recent study by the Fundacão Getúlio Vargas, a Brazilian university, nine out of 10 Brazilians were Catholics in 1970. Today the figure is nearer seven out of 10. Over the same 37-year period the number of evangelicals and pentecostalists has mushroomed, rising from only 4.8m to an estimated 43.6m today."

He cites three reasons:

1) Economics: The evangelicals contribute more and fund a greater presence.

2) Moral theology: "Like their counterparts in the developed world, Latin American Catholics are increasingly ignoring the church’s conservative teaching on contraception and sex-before-marriage and are critical of its hard-line prohibition of abortion and stem-cell research."

3) Liberation theology: "Pope Benedict faces an additional problem in Latin America. He has been a fierce opponent of liberation theology, a body of ideas developed in the 1960s that linked the church to grassroots movements of the left. Liberation theology has been on the wane – a fact likely to be confirmed at the Latin American bishops’ conference, which the Pope will open on Sunday. But it is still popular among many clerics in the region, especially in Brazil."

Like so much of the secular press, Lapper can not connect the dots. Evangelical Protestants (item 1) have been preaching the gospel of Christ, while "Catholic" priests have been preaching economics (item 3.) The former may not have Christ's teaching in its fullness, but they are much closer to the real thing than the lattter. The pope's job (his "special charism") is teach Christ's teaching even when the world does not want to hear it (item 2.)

It is the hundreth aniversery of Walter Rauschenbusch's Christianity and the Social Crisis in the Wall Street Journal, Joseph Leconte questions whether the social gospel is "Christianity Without Salvation" or indeed Christianity at all.

Edmund Burke advised us that the only remedy to bad religion is good religion.

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