Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Long Loneliness (89-109)

This section, "A Time of Searching," concludes Part I, also called "Searching."

There is something endearing about the way in which Day glosses over worldly events, indicating that they are of little or no importance. She will write for a page or two about a friend, thoughts about the mass, whatever, then let go in a sentence about how she got $5,000 for her first book or had been in love with a man for several years.

It is no doubt the cynical times that we know live in (or, perhaps, my own cynical nature) that makes it hard not to read these passages as an affected modesty. But I don't. There is a spiritual lesson here about what is of greater importance.

Then again, part of the nature of spiritual disciplines may be to learn not to despise the affected. Perhaps we know a feeling or emotion should be true, learning to act on that knowledge can sometimes bring about the state of feeling it to a greater degree than can simply waiting to feel, naturally, that which is unnatural.

In this section, Day speaks of some Roman Catholic friends and says, "I wondered why they never made any attempts to interest me in their faith" (106). The past tense is important here, suggesting that she wondered at the time, not merely in retrospect. I'm not sure what this meant. She states she went with them to mission but felt "outside." I thought while reading this of so many speeches through high school, many sermons...about evangelism, about friendship. It is a hopelessly muddled topic in our age, and it seems the advice or instruction we get is always at a polar end of the spectrum: only the Holy Spirit can win people, our job is to stay out of the way; or, we are responsible for taking every opportunity to mention the gospel--speaking of "the" have you heard of "the" four spiritual laws?

I guess I don't find it strange that her friends did not try to interest her in their faith or that she did not perceive them as doing such. How many times have we tried to interest others only to be rebuffed, silenced, criticized, and told that religion is private? But that's a different time and so perhaps not fair to apply to her story. Yet I find it hard to believe that times are all that different of the polite (and less polite) ways of saying "keep your faith to yourself; I couldn't care less about it or you in areas where you are not who I want you to be or where you make me feel uncomfortable" have changed all that much.

I guess, then, what this chapter is making me contemplate is that for all those sermons, I'm unsatisfied with what I've heard or learned about evangelism. I'm still waiting to hear a theology of evangelism that makes sense to me, that is solidly Biblical (and not just reactionary), that I believe is timeless, like the gospels, and not just a justification of one's (or one's generation's) current practice, that frees people (Christian and non) to accept one another's decisions without making it a constant battle to force another's consent, logically or emotionally, or to shut another up.

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