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The Christian specificity in the face of the global ethic

The global civilization is called to be that of love. The new global culture is the culture that the Church is now called to evangelize.

We are, as Jesus says it, in the world but not of the world. Yet the reality is that all over the world, Christians are tempted, often out of ignorance, to mistake the paradigms and values of the global ethic for the social doctrine of the Church, “culturally sensitive approaches” for the evangelization of culture, the “equity principle” of the new ethic for the Judeo-Christian concept of justice, “awareness-raising” and “sensitization” for the moral and theological education of conscience, “gender mainstreaming” and “women’s empowerment” for the Judeo-Christian teaching on the equal dignity of man and woman, “positive living” for living with theological hope, the arbitrary “freedom to choose” for freedom in Christ, human dignity for the eternal law written in the heart of man, “reproductive health” for healthy procreation, “safe motherhood” for healthy mothers and children (whether born or unborn), “behaviour change” campaigns (that are geared towards the use of contraception and condoms) for education to abstinence and fidelity, “human rights”, “entitlements” and “non-discrimination” for the goods tidings of God’s merciful love, the agenda of UN conferences and of the Millennium Development Goals for an integral development respectful of people’s values and cultures - and so on.

Christians sometimes fail to distinguish the new, constructed, allegedly “holistic” ethical system from God’s holistic and eternal design of salvation, not realizing that the two logics lead in different directions. They are implied in countless partnerships, the drivers of which are agents of the global ethic. The Church must have self respect and keep her independence from the radical agenda. A vital line separates the post-Christian humanism of the global ethic from a genuine and complete Christian humanism driven by salvation in Christ and promoted by the Church. In practice, this line no longer clearly appears. To recover Christian identity, disentangle it from ambivalent agendas is an urgent task for the Church.

Confusing the Christian kerygma and the global ethic carries a double danger. First, the new concepts tend to occupy the space that should be occupied by evangelization. Christians preach human rights, sustainability and the Millennium Development Goals instead of preaching the gospel. Little by little, they are seduced by secular values and loose their Christian identity. Didn’t John Paul II, in Redemptoris Missio, speak about the “gradual secularization of salvation”?

Secondly, if Christian leaders use the concepts of the new ethic without explicitly clarifying what distinguishes them from the social doctrine of the Church and from the gospel, as is often the case, the faithful will be at a loss and will tend not to discern the difference. The resulting confusion may lead the Christian flock to a gradual erosion of the faith.

In Novo Milenio Ineunte, John-Paul II invited us to start from Christ: such is the new departure to which we are called now.