The recent cultural campaigns asking questions about God’s existence, and whether or not that should matter to us – should matter to us!
You may have seen the bus campaign sponsored by R. Dawkins & friends ‘There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.’ Produced in opposition to the visual Christian messages found in the public domain, the comment seemed to suggest that worry was associated with God while enjoyment wasn’t.
But the statement has also engendered a healthy Christian response, with one local church displaying the sign ‘There is probably no bus; so why not come in and enjoy God.’ Another has used the modern text message of: OMG! adding ‘Learn to say it and mean it’…and I’ve seen www.lookingforGod.come! with an arrow pointing to the church nearby.
The latest Alpha promotion asked several questions including ‘Does God Exist?’ with the familiar method of expressing an opinion in tick boxes of: □Yes, □ No □ Probably.
I saw examples where people had indeed ‘ticked a box’; one was Yes and one was No. The No was on a large billboard, where the person had made a significant effort to climb up and make their mark in a bold lime green. The Yes was in one of the tunnels at London Bridge station, where hundreds of people could potentially see this affirmative sign. The fact that people were stimulated enough by the question to physically express their declaration of belief was very interesting.
It made me consider all those people who are searching, who are asking the same questions and who are coming to our RCIA groups to figure this out: Is there a God?, Does God exist?, What do I believe?, What does it mean to say Yes?, Could we ever be satisfied with .. & How do we respond to… a Probably?, Are we part of transcending a Probably into a Yes?
These larger questions go well beyond ‘What does it mean to be Catholic …..??’ but they are linked to the deepest and innermost questions an enquirer might ask. How do we, as those walking alongside listen, respect the curiosity within the questions…. and wait. The Rite #6 mentions the periods of the RCIA and the steps that are part of the process with 6.1 ‘The first step: where an enquirer reaches the point of initial conversion and wishes to become Christian.’ Until that conversion of heart and mind, we are there to show through our lives, words and actions, the Yes of God’s love.
That waiting may challenge us not to rush to tick our own boxes. Do we turn our RCIA time into an assessment: Have they done this? Do they meet our criteria? Are we trying to give them the big answers too soon? Paul addressed this in his letter to the Colossians 4:4-6 when he suggests that we ’Be tactful with those who are not Christians and be sure you make the best use of your time with them. Talk to them agreeably and with a flavour of wit, and try to fit your answers to the needs of each one.’
Public displays which demonstrate a Christian presence and invitation may be the trigger/ prompt for those who are searching and some groups invest significant funding to promote their option. A 2005 study by the Heythrop Institute for Religion, Ethics, and Public Life called ‘On the Way to Life’ pointed out that: “If the religious community seeks to evangelise the culture, it must also be aware that it is being evangelised by the culture.”
In the world, in our Catholic communities, and in our RCIA groups, our witness, sincerity and visible Yes may also animate someone’s quest to encounter Jesus Christ, who makes God known to all.