Hiding a light or setting it on a hill?
A recent post at Dancing on the Head of a Pin showed the plans for the town of Ave Maria, Florida, being built around the new Ave Maria University. The $200 million plans are being funded by Domino's founder Thomas Monaghan as what the Ave Maria website describes as "the first modern town to be developed in conjunction with a University."
The idea of a "a new dynamic Catholic and educational community" is perhaps not so troubling in and of itself. But it does seem to be of a piece with churches that create such an array of services under one roof (I've visited one mega church with a large restaurant and bookstore as well as an actual Starbucks in the lobby) that the faithful never need venture away from church. It also seems similar to the marketing efforts of the Christian book, movie and music industries which would have the faithful reading, watching and listening to things that would leave them no points of contact with non-Christians they do meet.
Jesus said that his followers are to be the "salt of the Earth" and "The Light of the world." Jesus went on to say
A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:13-16).It brings to mind a conversation I had with a friend in Rome, Georgia. He was an attorney and a member of his church's board and was sharing with me his concerns when his church was building recreation facilities for its own league play. He wondered why the church should replicate services available elsewhere as it was in playing basketball or softball in a league that Christians could naturally hang out with non-Christians, and therefore be that salt or light, or whatever metaphor you want to use.
In fairness to the mega church referenced above, that church does encourage their members to be involved in non-church activities in the community as a way of sharing the Gospel not through some forced way, but through genuine networks of friendship. So perhaps I am seeing Ave Maria, Florida all wrong as well.
What do you think? By retreating to an almost entirely Roman Catholic enclave, are they hiding the Light of Christ or setting it on a hill (metaphorically speaking as this is Florida we are considering here)? How cut off from the rest of the world should Christians be?
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor + King of Peace Episcopal Church