Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Op-Ed: I'm Too Old for the New Evangelization and the New Atheism. What to do?

Good morning, people.  I am The Ironic Catholic and I'm 45 years old.

(R: Hi, Ironic Catholic!)

While I am not teetering on the brink of death, I am not young.  My then 8 year old reminded me of this recently and bluntly when she announced I was getting old, and I responded, nonplussed, "How can I be old when I still feel young?"  Her response?  ""Oh, Mom.  That's just your feelings teasing you."

I am 10 years away from AARP mailings and many years past being carded when I buy beer.  I am of the age that when I was pregnant three years ago, people did double takes.  I am of the age that all the music I grew up with has been dusted off and put on as my shopping soundtrack in every store I enter, since store owners think my demographic has money ( ha. ha. ha.).  Clearly we didn't have taste in music, but what can I say?  That was 30 YEARS AGO. Stop blaming me for Belinda Carlisle.  We were young.

The problem is that a few million emails, statuses, blog posts, and students remind me on a daily basis that we are in something new here. The New Evangelization!  to counter the New Atheism!  with the New Media!  And, according to the vibe I get, its time for me to listen up because I am clearly too slow and tech-ignorant to get it.  Which makes me feel curmudgeonly, but I'm still a little young that role.  Sigh.

So, I am in a quandary.  I'm the very definition of middle-aged.  So, gee, I can't be a New Atheist?  I guess that one is alright, since I'm not interested and if I were, would prefer the undeniable intelligence of some of the old atheists.  New Media?  Well, I'm doing a blog, but I think that is retro-media at this point.  Don't want to do Pinterest.  Don't want to do Tumbler.   Heck, Google Plus rejected ME, so I think the ambivalence is mutual.  I honestly just walked into a class and a student discreetly helped me turn on the computer (it was an Apple, people!  I do PCs!).  It's safe to say I don't have "New Media" written on my forehead.

But what about the New Evangelization?  Ooh, that's hot, because: 1. people are dropping religion in the USA like flies, 2. someone reread the Great Commission and remembered it was there, 3. it has the word new in it.  And I want to like it because I love God and want others to, as well.  But I suspect the New Evangelization is, for many people, just "Oh right! Let's do evangelization. That would be new!"  Or to put it more shortly: The "Do Evangelization".

Well, thank goodness, I found some people to agree with me.  C.S. Lewis (above) was not fond of "Christianity ands" (as in Christianity and ... the latest new topic.  Politics!  Fashion!  Grilled Pizza!).  And G.K. Chesterton warned against every new thing being embraced at the expense of old.  In fact, what is oldest is what is truly new.  So, in celebration of the Do Evangelization, I have a new (sorry) motto: Do the Old, it will be New! Wooo!  (Aside from bad rhymes, my self-esteem is now firmly retrieved from my impending midlife crisis.)  Inspired, I took my 45 year old self and did some old/new things this past week:
  • I talked in person to a couple of students about theology yesterday (face to face in my office).  It was positively Socratic, people.  And Socrates is old.  Really old.
  • I loved my family by getting everyone up and fed and dressed and to school.  No tweeting involved.
  • We went to the local house of hospitality for the homeless and talked with people, broke bread, laughed.  We craved face to face interaction over cell phones.
  • I listened to some people frustrated with local church stuff and encouraged "hanging in," perspective.  In person.  Complete with body language.
The "Do Evangelization" may have great reach with technology and all, but it is about human beings, not information.  People are converted by witness, not primers.  Nothing new about that...although when you encounter it, it feels new, because it is REAL.  And one of the greatest witnesses was a certain woman living in radically chaotic times, St. Teresa of Avila, who wrote:

May nothing disturb you.
May nothing astonish you.
Everything passes.
God never changes.
Patience attains anything.
He who has God within,
does not lack anything.
God is enough.

Eternal presence.  Huh.  Doesn't get older--or newer--than that.

Next time: Op-Ed: I'm Not Postmodern or Post-structuralist or Post-Enlightenment, but I like Post Raisin Bran.  Is that a crime?

Picture courtesy Brandon Vogt, who tirelessly does really great work for the New/Do Evangelization.  (Which I like more than I let on.)


Christine Falk Dalessio said...

I often feel in the same boat - because the folks to whom I have been ministering are now getting married and having children, and are smack dab in the middle of the "New Evangelization", a phrase that was reportedly coined by Pope Paul VI - it's been a long time, baby....
But maybe it's just time to remember to use whatever we've got to live a life of love that points to Love. And if tweeting and foursquare help share the love, so be it.

Rocket Scientist said...

My all-time favorite bible passage is from that curmudgeonly Jeremiah:

"Thus sayeth the Lord:
'Seek the old paths,
Where is the good way,
And walk therein,
And ye shall find rest for your souls.'
(Did I mention that we attend latin mass? (Novus Ordo - sorry for the "new")

And I pretend that I don't know the rest of the passage:

But they said "We will NOT walk!"
I set watchmen over you,
saying "Listen to the sound of the trumpet!"
But they said "We will NOT listen!"

God goes on to say
"Hear O Earth!
"I will bring evil upon you,
"The fruit of your own works,
"because you have not heard My word,
"And have rejected My law."

Ouch. Jeremiah may be cranky, but he had good reason. God had him try "the new evangelization". It didn't work. This should be a lesson to us to sit up and take notice.