Growing up in Seattle and doing undergraduate studies in Portland, I spent the majority of my life in two of the top three most secular cities in the entire country, Portland coming in first with 42% unaffiliated and Seattle in third with 33%. At the same time, though, Oregon is at times referred to as the Welfare Utopia, having the most benefits for homeless and other people in need. Why is that?
This was a question that I was constantly asking myself. It wasn’t until I had a discussion with a friend of mine who is native to Nigeria about the differences between the United States and Nigeria that I understood why. He told me that even though the United States is very secular comparatively, he said he could feel God moving in the people here. I first thought, what in God’s name is he talking about? But after more discussion with him and some reflection of my own experiences, I finally got it: God’s love is incredibly active in the people who don’t go to church, sometimes even more so than those of us that go.
From my time in Portland and Seattle, the people who fought most against systemic sexism, racism, and other social problems were my secular friends (I’m not saying that my religious friends weren’t fighting too, they very much were). These people had the fire for social justice that the liturgy should be giving us. The secular world doesn’t have to be told about the love of God, it is already present and freely flowing. Instead, we, as the Church of Christ, need to show through our actions and through our liturgies that we share this fire for social justice because of our love for God and God’s creation.
The future of the Catholic Church doesn’t only lie within the walls of the church, we must also learn from our secular society how to love God outside the chapel. And with that, we must show secular society that the passion and fire they feel for justice is the love of God moving within us.
Evangelization should no longer be solely focused on learning doctrine and just talking about the grace of God. It is time to show this love that we share comes from our inherent relationship with God. Secular society is already experiencing that love, we just have to show that we do too and put God’s name to it.