There are also conceptions which deliberately emphasize the kingdom and which describe themselves as “kingdom-centered.” They stress the image of a Church which is not concerned about herself, but which is totally concerned with bearing witness to and serving the kingdom. It is a “Church for others” just as Christ is the “man for others.”
We are probably seeing a bit more of this under the current papacy. Being “for others,” imitating Christ as John Paul II describes it, is an Ignatian trait.
The Church’s task is described as though it had to proceed in two directions: on the one hand promoting such “values of the kingdom” as peace, justice, freedom, brotherhood, etc,, while on the other hand fostering dialogue between peoples, cultures and religions, so that through a mutual enrichment they might help the world to be renewed and to journey ever closer toward the kingdom.
Will these two vectors tear people apart? It can happen. Usually a sense of mutual trust can prevent the shredding of unity. That is an aspect on which we’ve needed work for many years now. And it continues today.
Together with positive aspects, these conceptions often reveal negative aspects as well. First, they are silent about Christ: the kingdom of which they speak is “theocentrically” based, since, according to them, Christ cannot be understood by those who lack Christian faith, whereas different peoples, cultures and religions are capable of finding common ground in the one divine reality, by whatever name it is called.
One key to this is to notice if people anywhere in the Church speak often and well of Jesus. For people who have made him a friend, it is difficult not to speak favorably of a friend. Do they see Jesus as a companion? If so, they will notice him frequently. Do they strive to imitate him in deed and word? Trust me: people notice. And some who do not give such example can be very deep and very high up in the Church indeed. Not always in liberation-minded Catholicism.
For the same reason they put great stress on the mystery of creation, which is reflected in the diversity of cultures and beliefs, but they keep silent about the mystery of redemption. Furthermore, the kingdom, as they understand it, ends up either leaving very little room for the Church or undervaluing the Church in reaction to a presumed “ecclesiocentrism” of the past, and because they consider the Church herself only a sign, for that matter a sign not without ambiguity.
This so-called “ecclesiocentrism” is indeed a continuing problem. Most people I’ve known who criticize it don’t spend that much time on it. Many are involved in the mission of the Lord deeply enough that a passing comment here and there is enough.
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