One should not assume that the irrational hatred seen so much these days against Christians comes from an ignorance of God, but rather knowledge of him. Europe and North America are not new mission fields but more resemble burned-over districts to which Christ has been presented in nearly every way imaginable to people who in increasing numbers are turning against him.  This does not mean there are not many to whom the good news in its purity still needs to be presented, for whom there is always a call to evangelistic work, but it would be a mistake to think that our culture has not been thoroughly evangelized, or that our main problem is ignorance of God rather than a rejected knowledge of him.  In the first chapter of Romans, St. Paul cites homosexuality as symptomatic of a culture that knows the truth and has suppressed it in unrighteousness.  The Christian reaction to this culture should include the understanding that what is needed in the approach to it is not ever-deepening clarification and penetration with Christian faith and teaching alone, but that wherever this is done, it must be done advisedly because we are commanded not to throw pearls before swine or give what is holy to dogs, that is, to those who have consciously and deliberately “exchanged the truth about God for a lie,” and whom God has in consequence “given over to dishonorable passions.”

 

I have met those who feel that much of the fault here lies in the church not doing well enough–that only if we were more faithful witnesses, our society would turn to God.  How can one deny that we are as individuals and churches called to ever-greater faithfulness?  But this includes listening to the whole counsel of the Lord and not just confecting new crusades to evangelize the evangelized.  It is time to emphasize two points of another side to all this–first, that the world is full of great and unmistakable signs of the faithful witness of the church and its members, to be seized upon, cherished, and entered into, if not in one form, then in another, in ways resonant to every personality and taste, among those who desire to believe. The Church has done extraordinarily well, but will only surrender its fruits to those who desire them.

 

Second, the success of the witness to God in Christ will not win–in fact, can only be expected to inflame–those who have set themselves against the truth, who seek to deny Christians life in any way they can, to those for whom the confession of Christ alone is enough to make their very existence intolerable to the rejected, for by admitting that association they bear witness to the judgment of God against his enemies. All the imprecatory howling, the baseless accusations of hatred and ignorance, the frothing contempt for the holy, the leering disdain of the pseudo-enlightened, the bald lies propagated by their media upon the weak-minded and uninformed, the identification of Christians with the sins they are themselves committing, are not things to be answered with the gospel. In the midst of all this, to be sure, are Christ’s lambs, to be rescued and nourished by the good news, but we must remember that wolves and sheep are not to get the same treatment, and we are culpably naïve if we fail to acknowledge the differences between them.