Many people wonder what the big deal about being Christian is. I can hardily blame them. The divorce rate among Christians is no better than that among non-Christians. Affiliation with Christianity doesn’t—in my experience—always correlate to generosity, kindness, or even basic etiquette. What difference does it make?
Sure it’s obvious that Christianity on the whole is a good thing. No other cause has educated, fed, and nursed anywhere near as many people as Christian people and organizations have. For example, when the earthquake hit Haiti not too long ago a group of atheists got the great idea to raise money for victims proving that they were “just as caring as Christians”. That’s kind of funny when you ask where these caring atheists were before the earthquake. Catholic and other Christian organizations were serving the poor and needy there long before it became in vogue to be generous there.
But on the individual level, what difference does belonging to a Christian church or group make? I’m pretty sure the answer is none. No difference at all. The difference comes in those who allow themselves to be changed, who actually live the Christian principles. These individuals—though rare—make it obvious that Christianity does matter in daily life.
For example, the divorce rate in America is roughly 50% for Christian and non-Christian couples. Those couples who practice natural family planning (NFP) have a divorce rate below 2%. Yes, below two percent! In other words, people who belong to Christian churches but live the same lifestyles as non-Christians are little or no different from non-Christians. This is just one of many examples of the difference Christianity can make if we let it.
Consider today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 22:1-14. It’s the story of a king who invites his chosen guests to a wedding feast but they won’t come so the king opens the invitation to everyone. Then at the feast he sees a man not dressed in a wedding garment and orders his servants to throw the man out. Why? The man hadn’t changed. He was at the feast but he was the same person he was before entering.
I’m regularly disappointed with myself at how little my lifestyle and choices have in common with my role models; the saints. I have much more in common with the generous atheists; caring when the media tells me to care. While baptized I regularly refuse to cooperate with the Spirit within me. Clearly the required change is a slow process but I wish I were farther along the path!
Let’s pray for each other that this thing we call Christianity may be more than a club, more than a social identity, but a real way of life.