of the Gospel?
The End of Comfortable Christianity
by Robert P. George
The days of socially acceptable Christianity in the West are surely over. The days of comfortable Christian orthodoxy are past. It is no longer easy to be a faithful Christian, a good Catholic, an authentic Evangelical witness to the truths of the gospel. A price is demanded and must be paid. There are costs of discipleship—costs that are burdensome and painful to bear.
Of course, one can still safely identify oneself as a "Christian," and even be seen going to worship services at church. That is because the guardians of those norms of cultural orthodoxy that we have come to call "political correctness" do not assume that identifying as "Christian" or going to church necessarily means that one actually believes what the Church teaches on issues such as marriage and sexual morality and the sanctity of human life.
Now, if one does not believe what the Church teaches, or, for now at least, even if one does believe those teachings but is prepared to be completely silent about them, one is safe—one can still be a comfortable Christian. In other words, a tame Christian, a Christian who is ashamed of the gospel—or who is willing to act publicly as if he or she were ashamed—is still socially acceptable. But a Christian who makes it clear that he or she is not ashamed must be prepared to take risks and make sacrifices.
The saving message of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes, integrally, the teachings of his Church on the profound and inherent dignity of the human person and the nature of marriage as a conjugal bond—a one-flesh union. Believing these things is a crucial part of the gospel.
These teachings are not the whole gospel—Christianity requires much more than their affirmation. But they are integral to the gospel—they are not optional or dispensable. To be an authentic witness to the gospel is to proclaim these truths among the rest. The gospel is, John Paul II said, a Gospel of Life. And it is a gospel of family life, too. And it is these integral dimensions of the gospel that powerful cultural forces and currents today demand that we deny or suppress.
We Still Believe
"If," Jesus said, "anyone wants to be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me." We Christians in the West, having become comfortable, had forgotten, or ignored, that timeless gospel truth. There will be no ignoring it now.
Powerful forces and currents in our society press us to be ashamed of the gospel—ashamed of our faith's teachings on the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions, ashamed of our faith's teachings on marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife. These forces insist that the Church's teachings are out of date, retrograde, insensitive, uncompassionate, illiberal, bigoted—even hateful. These currents bring pressure on all of us—and on young Christians in particular—to yield to this insistence. They threaten us with consequences if we refuse to call what is good evil, and what is evil good. They command us to conform our thinking to their orthodoxy, or else keep silent.
We believe the truth—in its fullness—about the dignity of the human person and the nature of marriage and sexual morality as proclaimed by the Church for two thousand years.
Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University (web.princeton.edu/sites/jmadison). His books include In Defense of Natural Law (Oxford University Press) and Conscience and Its Enemies (ISI Books). He has served as chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
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