Signs of the Times, 1 of 2In this case, the “signs” are not clouds, tea leaves, or the demeanor of Ben Bernanke. No, in this case they were literal signs. While driving, my wife spotted two consecutive ads on a digital billboard for churches. The first had the tagline “We’re about people,” and the second included a sizable display of the name of the pastor. I think both signs are unwittingly demonstrative of our culture and about contemporary American Christian culture as well.
“We’re about people.” One immediately thinks of the supposed alternatives from which this particular church wants to set itself apart. What are other churches about, if not people? “We’re about rules”? “We’re about putting on airs”? “We’re about music”? “We’re about tradition”?
Being “about people” necessarily includes many “externals” or things that some Christians would consider superfluous. Do some churches place large emphasis on music (it doesn’t matter the style: chant, contemporary, Gospel)? Perhaps, but only because, as “people” we have an inherent love of beauty and an inherent need to express this love and our love for God through the artistic talents he gives us.
Do some churches place large emphasis on rules? Perhaps, but only because 1) we all have the natural law written on our hearts calling us to a standard of intra- and interpersonal behavior that bears codifying, and 2) we all find ourselves living within particular cultures that value additional customs or behaviors not necessarily found within the natural law but which cement familial and societal bonds.
Do some churches place large emphasis on tradition? Perhaps, but only because, as rational beings, we have the capacity to reason which includes, among other things, the ability to recall and reflect on our past. We also have an inherent love for ritual and reenactment (celebrating birthdays, telling old war stories, gathering at regular times of the year for family meals). Logically, we recognize that it is a fallacy to presume that the best and the most true is the most current; that the past has nothing to teach us.
So is the Catholic Church “about people?” Well, three persons, to be exact. If we attend church without the ultimate reason being the desire to more closely unite ourselves with the Holy Trinity, we are wasting our time. Going to church because of the pastor, the sermon, the music, the moral instruction, or the traditions is all secondary. He did not say “I came that they [you] might have fellowship,” but “I came that they [you] might have life.”
Next time you visit a Catholic Church and wonder what or whom “we’re about,” look at the crucifix and the red lamp by the tabernacle.