Early last month, the "hardest working man in Catholicism" (we just gave him that title), Brandon Vogt, launched his newest web project, StrangeNotions.com, which aims to engage atheists in civil, fruitful and high-minded dialogue about the existence of God. He built it, and they're coming.
About a month ago, did you feel something in the universe shift? An almost imperceptible force nudging humanity toward a greater end? Do you know what that “strange” presence was?
Brandon Vogt making the Internet more civil … for atheists.
In early May, the busiest young evangelist we know launched his web project two years in the making, Strange Notions, to address this growing threat to Christianity and the culture. But he did it not by going on the attack, he did it by welcoming atheists into the fold.
“It needs to be focused on dialogue,” he said in a telephone interview earlier this week. “It needs to provoke discussion.”
Pointing fingers and regurgitating rote ideas online were taking the conversation nowhere, Vogt noted, but creating an online model of the ancient Greek Areopagus, a place of learning and idea exchange, could become more provocative. Contributing Catholic writers, theologians and intellectuals post a new article daily on the existence of God, and civil, well sourced and “high-minded” commenters are invited to join the discussion. Vogt has organized the resources well, with pages for recommended reading, for example, as well as a well-organized list of topics and starting points with drop-down menus. And then, of course, the “MUST READ” page, which leads to a list of commenting rules and tips. The Internet comment box is a notoriously unkind place, but Vogt’s specific but not intrusive rules aim to keep it respectful. It was a wild idea for such an untamed medium...
What's the danger in being a half-hearted Christian? Word On Fire blog contributor Fr. Michael Cummins tells us precisely. In light of the recent Good Shepherd Sunday, an inauthentic approach to an authentic relationship with Christ can be just as damaging as no relationship at all. Here he explains.
Pope emeritus Benedict often remarked that he thought it was not so much atheists who damage the Christian faith as it is the "practical atheists" who do the real damage. The "practical atheists" are those who profess themselves Christians but who then live as if God does not exist. At the heart of this practical atheism, which is very present in our day and also very easy to fall into, is an inauthenticity of relationship. We say one thing yet we do another and we convince ourselves that no one is the wiser; including God.
I believe that Good Shepherd Sunday, which we just celebrated last Sunday, calls us to reflect on authenticity of relationship. This last Sunday we proclaimed the truth that the risen Lord is indeed the good and beautiful shepherd who came to seek out and save the lost. But here is the rub: we cannot reflect and proclaim the Lord as “Good Shepherd” and ourselves remain inauthentic in relation to him. To proclaim Christ as the Good Shepherd demands an authenticity of relationship on our part. This authenticity of relationship is witnessed to us in Sunday's gospel (Jn. 10:27-30) - the relationship of us and the Lord and the relationship of the Son and the Father.
Jesus said: "My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me..." The movement of authentic relationship begins with our Lord. When we were lost in the darkness of sin and death, God came to us. God became incarnate and took on the full weakness and suffering of humanity. God took on everything except sin. "I know them...", says the Lord. Christ can authentically say this because it is true.
"My sheep hear my voice ... and they follow me ..." There are two parts for authenticity of relationship on our part. One, we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and two, we follow. To say we hear the voice and then live as if the voice does not matter is not authentic. To proclaim Christ as the Good Shepherd means we must continually "tune" our ears to the voice of the Good Shepherd, we must trust and we must follow...