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Archived Online Discussion
Topic: What's So Great About Christianity
Date: 5-6 pm (ET)
on Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Carl Anderson
Supreme Knight
Carl Anderson:
Merry Christmas. Thank you for joining us this afternoon as we discuss Dinesh D'Souza's book "What's So Great About Christianity."

michael b.alba
weston, florida usa st Katharine Drexel council 14212
How can atheists, non-believers justify the fundamental human rights of man without God who created him in his image and likeness?
Carl Anderson:
Historically, we have not seen an enduring defense of human rights without a solid grounding in the belief in divine power from whom those rights derive. Our common law tradition has its roots in canon law and the work of the medieval Catholic legal scholar Gratian. The Magna Carta and Declaration make it clear that they are based on a belief in a higher power, and as D'Souza points out, the founding fathers saw the Constitution as only sensible in a society that believed in God. In other words, it's not clear that human rights can be defended over time without such a belief.

David S.
Topeka, Kansas
As the old saying goes, "actions speak louder than words". Mr. D'Souza notes that Christians that are not vocal about defending their beliefs are living a divided lifestyle which is opposed to what the Bible teaches. While the author has the gift for vocal debate (a necessary element), would you speak to the concept of balancing the vocal aspects proposed by Mr. D'Souza with demostration of one's belief in Christianity by "quietly" engaging in the principles of faith as a doer and by example?
Carl Anderson:
It really depends upon the situation. Some situations require us to speak out, others require us - like St. Francis - to demonstrate our faith by an act of witness. Thomas More is a very good example of someone who first led by example, but when necessary was willing to stand up and defend his faith vocally as well.

Topeka, Kansas
What would you say is the greatest message of Christianity to our current culture?
Carl Anderson:
The theme of Pope Benedict's visit to the United States was "Christ Our Hope," and his latest encyclical letter was entitled "Saved by Hope." It is clear that hope figures prominently for the Christian, and offers something that transcends this world. D'Souza makes the same point about believing Christians, pointing out that it is their hope and belief in something greater than themselves that allows them to thrive, have children, create beautiful art, protect human rights and generally work for a better world.

Tucson, AZ
If D'Souza is right and Christianity has done so much good and is responsible for so many advancements, why does the Church have such the reputation of being backwards and old fashioned?
Carl Anderson:
Generally the Church has that reputation among its critics, who view the contemporary as the secular, and look at the age of faith as a thing of the past. To the contrary, Christianity is contemporary, because the event of encountering Jesus is a present encounter. So we have to be careful not to confuse the reality of Christianity, which is an every present now, with the institutions of Christianity which reach back two thousand years. That having been said, as D'Souza points out, the institution Church has been a monumental force for good, and it is up to us to be informed and to spread that message.

New Haven, CT
D'Souza discusses the future of the Christianity as not being tied to Europe. What future do you think Christianity has in this country?
Carl Anderson:
D'Souza makes this point eloquently, and it is also a point that I made in my book, A Civilization of Love. The future of Christianity now appears to be in Western Hemisphere, Africa and Asia, rather than Europe. Certainly that is where the majority of Christians today are living. Globalization means that the world is not going to become European. Therefore, the real challenge before us is how to more thouroughly enculturate Christianity in Africa, the Western Hemisphere and Asia, understanding that these cultures have a promise of becoming Christian, but that does not mean a European form of Christianity. Regarding the United States, no country has the same number of affluent, educated, practicing Catholics as does the United States, and therefore they have a great responsibility in the years ahead.

Austin, TX
What does this past election tell us about Christianity and the way theology is understood by the American people.
Carl Anderson:
First, we shouldn't read too much into any one event. The trend line would seem to be more important in looking at the cultural significance of religion. What we can see over the past 50 years is that religious values and sensibility plays an important role in American government and American politics. Anyone who doubts this might take a few minutes and read John F. Kennedy's inaugural address. If there is a surprise in this election, it is how little McCain discussed religious values, which seem to be a very important part of the American public's decision making process. And at a time when candidate Obama was targeting "religious voters" in his campaign.

Montrose, CA
This book lists many of the fine things that Christianity has brought. What do you think is the greatest contribution of Christianity to the world?
Carl Anderson:
Salvation. But without the real thing, the world keeps inventing its own form of salvation, which leads us either to dead ends, or tragically, in the opposite direction.

michael b. alba
weston fl
In reference to the question just made by Charles and your reply when do you foresee that a Pope would be a native of Latin America or Africa. What impact would such an event have on the Catholic church ?
Carl Anderson:
Yes I think it is possible and the impact would be huge, and I think it could well happen within our lifetime. If one considers the last several popes: John XXIII and Paul VI opening the Church to the "modern world;" John Paul II opening the Chruch to those countries behind the iron curtain, Benedict XVI re-opening the Church to Europe, one can easily imagine in this chain of leadership, a pope who opens the Church to what we used to call "the third world."

Washington, DC
What do you think the Christianity of the future will look like?
Carl Anderson:
D'Souza makes the point that Christianity will be the global religion in the midst of several regional religions. So it is important for Christians to make certain that they provide an uplifting witness that inspires people, and that we remain congnizent of this global reality of Christianity. Therefore, we have to find a way to be in greater solidarity with Christians in other parts of the world who are experiencing difficulty or persecution.

Susan C.
Spokane, WA
Participants in this discussion that enjoyed this book might also enjoy a relevant article that appeared in Saturday's Times Online. The article is a real life demonstration of the book's premise. It's all about how the author, an atheist, came to see Christianity in Africa and how it changes people's hearts. "It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real.The change is good."
Carl Anderson:
Thank you very much for pointing this out. This really makes the point that Christianity is not about books but about lived experience, and we certainly see that positive Christian example in places like Africa.

Michael b. alba
weston fl
Is Western civilization on a collision course to Islam. Europe is becoming Godless; Islam is filling a spiritual vacuum. What's ahead for the Europeans? Will they need missionaries from Latin America, Africa to bring them back to the fold ??
Carl Anderson:
The question of what happens to Europe separated from Christianity, is really not the most important question. The most important question is bringing the saving message of Christianity to Europe. And how that can be done in such a way that it makes a compelling presentation of the gospel that will result in a change of heart and mind among Europeans. Our responsibility is to present the gospel reality of the Christian experience. Of course, I think its clear that we have such foreign missionaries in Europe and in the United States already.

Boise, Idaho
Why do you suppose people like Hitchens and Dawkins have such a platform today?
Carl Anderson:
The fundamental problem is that while a light has come into the world, there are people who still choose the darkness. As Nietzsche said, it is not our reason that decides against Christianity but our will. Though they are popular with a certain intellectual elite, their arguments are not borne out by the facts.

michael b. alba
weston fl
Would you agree that the financial debacle we're experiencing is largely due to the failure to live up to Christian moral values ?
Carl Anderson:
Yes. It's also more complicated than that. Many of the people responsible are not Christians, and so we should not see the issue simply as one of Christian morality, but as an issue where everyone, regardless of their belief or lack of belief, is obligated to follow certain moral principles. I think we have the right to demand that people in these situations do have a strong ethical sense, and that that ethical sense not be limited to a Sunday morning. If anyone was wondering what the type of people Pope Benedict was concerned about when he spoke so profoundly about moral relativism, here is good example. Morals are not just a matter of taste, moral relativism has profound real world consequences.

Carl Anderson:
Thank you all for joining us this evening. I hope you all have a wonderful new year! And for those still wondering when human life begins, next month we'll consider Robert George's excellent book, "Embryo."

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