Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Why Catechesis?

I’ve been mulling for a while how “easy” it is for people to become Christians, primarily in the Protestant world.  Megachurches like Saddleback, Willow Creek, and Lakewood garner much attention and followers, and even where I live, there are a handful of “mini-megachurches” like Christian Life Assembly and West Shore Evangelical Free Church. What I strongly dislike about these places is the methodology used to bring people in (which itself is a problem).

A big problem I have with much of Protestantism (primarily “low liturgy” folks) is the whole “being saved” concept.  Recently, I finished reading Karl Keating’s book “Catholicism and Fundamentalism”, in which Keating defends accusations levied against the Church while at the same time raising questions of fundamentalism.  One chapter is devoted to salvation and the notion of “being saved.”  All one has to do is simply accept Jesus into their heart and their ticket to heaven is punched.  That’s all there is to it, say the fundamentalists.

This is highly contrary to what the early Church did and what Catholicism still does today.  People interested in becoming Christians went through a period of education, or catechesis, before deciding that yes, this is what they wanted.  This process today takes months, starting in the fall and ends at Easter, a stark contrast to a five minute prayer.  Persons are presented with what Catholicism teaches and believes and are essentially asked, “Do you accept this?”  I find it saddening that far too many Christians know little about the beliefs of the denomination they belong to and how they differ from others.  Far too much is based on the “feel” of a particular church, which is where megachurches come in.

Places such as this attract people with their many programs and activities so that in a sense, your life becomes entrenched in that one place.  This promulgates the “bring people in” model of evangelism, which is not what Jesus said.  “Go out into all the world and preach the Gospel” is the command given by Jesus before his ascension (Matt. 28:19, Acts 1:8).  The Church should be what attracts seekers, not a church.  In other words, it’s our job as Christians to lead by example, to “preach the gospel always and, when necessary, use words” as St. Francis of Assisi said.  Along with that though, we also need to educate and have good catechesis so that maybe, just maybe, we can develop Christians with a deeper understanding of the faith, whose roots are deep in the Gospel, and those who can defend the faith well.

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