Christianity is the most popular religion in the world. However, its popularity is declining and has been for a number of years. Estimates claim that there are roughly 2 billion participants of Christianity making up 33% of the global community (http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html). There are numerous reasons for this decline ranging from interests in newer religious movements like that of New Age and Neopaganism to an overall lack of confidence in religious institutions that represent the ideals of the Christian faith. What is clear is that there is a definite interest in pursuing one’s spirituality. This interest however, is not being translated into church attendance.
My personal thoughts are that the Church is not doing the job necessary to bridge the past and the present. In other words, the Church has been slow to evolve itself. It has been slow in determining how to reach out to a generation that is rebelling against it, and it has been slow to shed the perception of “who/what it is against” rather than promote “what it is for.”
The answer is complicated and yet simple from where I sit. The answer can be found in the identity of Christ. Jesus Christ, a simple carpenter laid the foundation of what has become the largest faith movement in the world. How did He do this? How did this one man and a few lowly followers make their faith worthwhile and everlasting? Simply by doing. By participating in the world! Jesus was out and about roaming the streets and the village towns reaching out to those in need. They, in turn, reached out to Him. It didn’t matter whether Jew or Gentile, woman or man, rich or poor. Jesus demonstrated compassion and Godliness to all He encountered. More significantly, Jesus instructed his band of unlikely disciples to do the same commanding them to eat with the people that they preached to and healed. These people were considered sinners and the dredges of society by most, and yet Christ saw them for who they were, God’s creation. When the Pharisees objected to Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors, Jesus made this comment, “ It is the sick who need a physician, not the healthy.” [Mt 9:9-13]
Compassion for people without moral judgment is one step toward bringing people back into the faith we say we hold dear. Compassion, and I mean real compassion, the type of compassion that Christ practiced – compassion for the poor, the downtrodden, the outcasts, and the persecuted is where Christ focused his attention. So, then, it stands to reason that the Church should do the same. But do we? Do we get involved in the lives of those we find “less” than ourselves? Do we sit at the table and dine with those society has deemed” the dredges of society” If we do, is it with the same steadfastness Christ exemplified? Because you see, that is key.
Christians need to understand that the world is constantly changing, but in the midst of this change Christ’s teachings of compassion and love remain central to the success of mankind. Christ’s teachings point us directly to Peace and Union with ourselves and with the world.
David LaChappel’s photographs bridge our historical understanding of Christ with contemporary society. His photographs confront us with the reality of what is and what always has been. Some of the moral dilemmas our society faces today are different from those experienced by the ancients, and some are no different at all. Jesus practiced true love and compassion 2000 years ago, and he practices it the same today.
This is a video interview that is somewhat related to this posting.