Nones are those who profess, when asked by marketers and other such people, no religion. Since this is scarcely possible—even atheists believe in scientism—we can blame the non-specificity of the definition. Nones are those who have given up, or were only mildly exposed, to Christianity. As such, Nones in the West evince a mixture of the most popular Christian heresies. Which, to be fair, so also do many who profess Christianity. To evangelize Nones, then, would seem to require the same techniques used to talk heretics out of their mistakes.
Now many Nones are Millennials, kids unused to hearing they have made mistakes and are either appalled or indifferent to being told they hold false beliefs. How to get to them? Barron has five ideas.
First, begin evangelization by commencing with the beautiful. Before arguing about the Good and the True, show Beauty. In an era of ugly clothing (“designer” ripped jeans), ugly architecture (glass boxes with unopenable windows), ugly music (primitive unnatural sounds), ugly art (giants asses for giants asses), ugly movies (Bad Teachers “will ‘F’ you up”), ugly television (willed ungraceful sodomy), ugly language (heard everywhere) any exposure to Beauty will come as a relief.
So much in art, music, and the rest seems designed to attack the soul. It is as if the art, and not only the artist, hates us. It’s almost as if it’s all intentional, that it’s planned. That couldn’t be, could it?
The Catholic Church has an enormous repository of Beauty. In every instance when confronted by the Ugly, respond with Beauty. Show what happens when man directs his energy to something greater than himself.
Second, stop dumbing down the faith. Barron told the story of a woman who brought her eight-year-old daughter to work. The little girl proceeded to launch into an intricate description of the Star Wars universe, displaying full knowledge of minute details of the timeline and familiarity with all the minor characters. If she can memorize who Obi Wan Kenobi was, she can memorize Methuselah.
This does not mean Thomistic theology need be preached on street corners (we’ll save it for blogs), but it does mean not fearing to be misunderstood. Barron points to Vatican II and the wave of anti-intellectualism it created and ushered in what he called the “banners and balloons” era.
We should (and we do not here) not fear confrontation with, what are at least thought to be, our strongest intellectual enemies. Since one of the biggest errors going is scientism, it’s best to begin by cutting away at its shallow roots. (Scientism is, as has been pointed about endless times, self-defeating: there is no scientific proof it is true.)
Third, learn again to tell a good story about Israel. There were reasons our Lord showed up where he did, and when he did, and under the circumstances he did. Somebody page Cecil B DeMille!
When I was a boy a young atheist asked me “What if Jesus was killed with a shotgun? Would Christians wear little shotguns around their neck?” I thought that argument convincing during my days away from the Church. The answer is, of course, that Jesus chose to appear before shotguns. If you can understand that, you have gone a great distance.
Barron says that if we do not see Jesus as the culmination of the Jewish story, then “Jesus devolves in short order into a sage…a teacher of eternal truths”, a man of no more importance than Socrates, certainly no deity. And the man most people now see.
Fourth, emphasize the god of the new atheists. Nobody believes in the god constructed by new atheists. If the new atheists had any victory it was in convincing people that their fairy story was the God. God is not “one being among many”, as the NAs have it. He is not a fairly but-not-too intelligent scientist magician who lives on the other side of the universe pressing buttons on some sophisticated machine. God is the ground of all being. Not only does He exist, it is necessary that He does so, for if He did not, noting else could.
Fifth, engage in radical witness, by which Barron meant a “recovery of a radical form of Christian life.” Act like we’re here only for a little while. Act like we mean it when we say we believe Jesus. Act like all that stuff in the Bible is true, and better than (say) politics.