Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What Evangelization REALLY Looks Like

My friend and I purchased tickets to a local event in which our Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron was engaging in a dialogue with Rabbi Joseph Krakoff from the Shaarey Zedek congregation in Southfield, Michigan on the topic of Genesis.

The event—which was co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of Detroit and the Jewish Federation—took place at the Maple Theatres in Bloomfield, Michigan on a humid Sunday afternoon. Fortunately, seating at the Maple Theatres is awesome: it is roomy and comfortable and really ideal for just such an occasion.

Sherry and I made an outing out of the whole thing and had a late lunch at a local deli before heading over to the venue. We were greeted by surprisingly long lines that immediately created a sense of excitement and anticipation. Everyone just knew this was going to be “something.” The damp, muggy afternoon air didn’t hinder anyone’s mood.

It felt rather exhilarating and, well, sort of heavenly.

The theatre holds a few hundred people and it was sold out—or if not sold out, just about sold out. Archbishop Vigneron and Rabbi Krakoff were on the stage when we arrived with a few minutes to spare before starting time. The lighting was low with a perfectly placed focus on the table at which both men sat. As the crowd meandered in, the men were clearly engaged in a quiet conversation that seemed respectful, comfortable, and amiable. The microphones were not yet on but at one point we heard laughter erupt and somehow knew that this was going to be a blessed event.

And anointed it was.

Rabbi Krakoff guided the format which included, for the most part, a bit of reading from Genesis, a Jewish perspective on particular passages and then an opportunity for Archbishop Vigneron to speak to the same verses from a Catholic perspective.

The men discussed the fall of Adam and Eve, the duplicity of the snake in the garden, marriage, the soul, and life after death—among other things.

It was thrilling to see the connections between the Jewish and Catholic faiths and interesting to see where they diverged. Both men are to be credited for the ways in which they handled the differences. For instance, Archbishop Vigneron perfectly articulated original sin while Rabbi Krakoff explained that Jews believe a child is born “neutral.” Archbishop Vigneron explained that Catholics believe in one life and that a soul and body are created together and ultimately join together after the resurrection while Rabbi Krakoff explained the Jewish understanding of life after death that included possible reincarnation but no Hell.

I was incredibly proud of my Archbishop when he kindly and with great sincerity mentioned gratitude for the ways in which our Catholic faith arises from the Jewish faith—particularly the mention of us being “grafted” in and the ways in which the New Testament invokes the Old Testament.

It was love incarnate.

After about an hour of discussion, both men took questions via note cards given to the audience members. For the most part, it seems like the questions were directed to Archbishop Vigneron. Ultimately, Vigneron fielded questions about divorce, baptism, angels, and Satan with ease and intelligence.

I’ve heard and read a lot about the “new evangelization” and yet have seen tremendous hate on the internet (and intolerance in all forms of media) under the guise of this “new evangelization” as people of faith verbally accost unbelievers and even one another. In some sad ways this new evangelization looks like e-Crusades. (Have we learned nothing from history?) It has left such an ugly taste in my mouth that I’ve begun to see “evangelization” as a dirty word.

This event changed all that.

Archbishop Vigneron and Rabbi Krakoff sat on stage and represented the very best of men of God. They were kind, charitable, tolerant, and knowledgeable as they opened their hearts to one another and to us, their audience. As Rabbi Krakoff offered in his closing remarks (I’m paraphrasing here): It isn’t about needing to agree on all things but needing to talk together. I couldn’t help but feel what real evangelization is all about: love.

It is clear that so much more is accomplished through loving dialogue than through the venom that is spewed as one person tries to convince another of what is “right.”Whatever knowledge we each took home that night, my prayer is that—more than anything—we each experienced an increase of love and tolerance in our hearts for our fellow man based upon the examples witnessed to us by Vigneron and Krakoff.

Cheryl Dickow

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