The Paradox of Faith?

(Following an article by Cors Visser, director Forum C)

From the article:

It were the non-Christian sociologists who opened my eyes to what the Church really is. And thus gave a better idea of who God is and what faith is.


To understand that, I'll take you back to the Brazil of the 80s.

In the land of soccer, carnival and corrupt politicians nominally almost everyone was Roman Catholic. Large parts of the population lived in poverty. That was also noticed by the church. In Latin America, liberation theology was popular at that time. Many priests focused on reaching and helping the poor and opposed regimes that the rich-poor gap perpetuated.

But while the Roman Church opted for the poor, the poor opted en masse for Pentecostal churches. This while Pentecostal churches kept aloof and said they did not want to engage with society. They did not want to interfere with politics and did not wish to get dirty hands. For them it was about Heaven, the earth left them cold. If they did anything in politics, it was the support to reactionary regimes. Roman Catholics rolled up their sleeves, Pentecostals held their hands neatly in the air.

How is that possible? Sociologists give two reasons. The first is that they say that the best way to escape from poverty (in Latin America) is conversion to a Pentecostal church. Because, when people repented, they were less addicted to drugs or alcohol, men abused their wives less and men had less women anyway. Furthermore, people were more disciplined, worked harder and saved more money. And if things still went wrong, they had a social safety net in their faith community.

A second reason is that exclusive communities are more attractive. Research around the world shows that there must be something special, otherwise people do not convert to your group and people will not assist you. Why would you want to work for or convert into a church while the difference with a leftist political party or a neighbourhood initiative is zero? Quite logical really.

Those are two beautiful paradoxes.

My question:

What can you do best if you, as an individual Christian, wish to mean something for society, from this study and this conclusion?

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