Christian Identity in a Globalized and Pluralist World

Joseph Joblin, SJ

 Joseph Joblin, SJ / Church Life / 14 May 2018

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Today there are many who question the role of the Church: for some it belongs to the past and can only hinder the development of civilization; according to others its influence drives the moral forces that ensure the orientation of progress; still others uphold it as the key to justice and peace in a world dominated by globalization.

Such a position actually concerns all religious forces and cultural traditions because each one has woven links with the conceptions that are at the origin of civilization. Moreover, international institutions have been created to overcome differences and oppositions. The aim assigned to them is to allow peoples who come from different horizons and follow opposing philosophical beliefs or theories to gradually build the foundations of their unity, leading to the discovery of what they have in common.

The ethics of the future universal society require that we give these values a common meaning that cannot belong to just one civilization or a single religion present in that society. The reconciliation to be made between loyalty to tradition and the universalization of values is a challenge to all societies today. It is a particularly strong challenge for the Church who proclaims herself universal despite appearing to be linked to Western culture.

In what sense can we speak of preserving Christian identity as it was transmitted by previous generations? We also ask if the Church is still able to contribute to the universalization of values while safeguarding its own identity? How can it contribute to forging unity among cultural universes that must base their common life on values which have the same meaning for everyone?

The conflict between identity and universality

All individuals are aware of their own identity. They become aware of what is unique about themselves in their involvement in, among other things, their family and professional ties, and in the meaning they give to existence. This results in a coherence in their behavior. But recognition of one’s own identity separates each human group from others who also recognize themselves as different. The risk is therefore that each group is induced to defend its own specificity at all costs.[1]

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