(Source: José María Castillo, Spanish theologian; translation: Novena)
One of the things that I am thinking about most with the virus and the pandemic is the lack of interest in religion in itself. Almost everyone is worried about the disease, about remedies to cure it, the vaccine to prevent it, the serious economic consequences that all this entails, the future that awaits us… What do I know!
It is true that we also talk about religion. But why? Quite often, the religious is associated with the festive: Holy Week, Christmas, the feast of the Virgin in parishes and villages, pilgrimages and processions, baptisms, communions, weddings and funerals, etc. All this interests many people. But where and in what exactly is the interest?
It does not take much thought to realise that “popular religiosity” interests many people more for the festive than for the strictly religious, as that is lived and celebrated.
Everyone understands this and it doesn’t need much explanation.
Now, assuming the truth of what I have just indicated, what strikes me, in the context of what is happening to us, is not the rejection of God and religion, but the disinterest in everything that relates (or can relate) to God and, in general, to everything that is transcendent. Today we can see, it seems to me, what Thomas Pröpper [a German theologian – ed.] was right to point out: the Christian message has become an instance of “supply without demand”.
From my point of view as a believer in God, it is bad to deny or reject his existence.
But it is worse to disregard God, and everything in relation to God, to such an extent that there are so many people who don’t give a damn what is thought, said or done in the name of God.
Let me be clear that, in speaking of this matter, I am not referring only to God himself, but, in addition to God, to those who officially represent him: the men of the clergy.
What the clergy think or say is of less and less interest to a large majority of the population.
Unless a clergyman does or says something outlandish.
Why is religion of less and less interest? Why has religious practice plummeted, and why does it continues to plummet uncontrollably? This issue is too complex and complicated. It is not possible to give an adequate and complete answer in a brief reflection.
In any case, there is an unquestionable fact: the problems that threaten and burden us are increasing to the point that the future of humanity, of the earth and of life seems more and more doubtful and daunting every day.
This being the case, what does religion contribute and what do the men of religion contribute in response to the many questions that people feel in their lives and to which they find no solution?
In this brief reflection, I dare to propose a starting point, which can open up horizons of light for us. I want to say this: Christianity, from the third to the eighth centuries, lived and managed the Church in a way that produced unresolved confusion even after so many centuries. The confusion consisted in the fact that it mixed and fused the Gospel of Jesus with religion, which came from Judaism and was lived in the Empire.
However, this fusion of “religion” and “Gospel” has not yet been resolved. Hence, the Church lives, quite naturally, a lot of things, which are very fundamental. But these are things that contradict what Jesus, the Word of God and the Son of God, said and did. Giving those things such importance is what cost Jesus his life.
What things do I mean? “Power” and the concrete way to exercise it. “Money” and the shady way the Church relates to this very important issue. And the “human relationships” that the Church allows and maintains which are not precisely relations of “equality” and “goodness” in mutual love – these are the things which the Church does not resolve.
Before the ecclesiastical decisions there is the Gospel, in which God revealed himself to us.
As long as the Church does not put the Gospel at the centre of its life, Christianity will not be able to provide the solution that this world and this moment need.