With the recent appearance of Pope John Paul II in Toronto for World Youth Day, the city and campus were turned into a venue for the proliferation of Christianity. While World Youth Day was a major event that ushered Christianity into Toronto’s spotlight, it is certainly not its first appearance on campus.
Surely most students are familiar with the aggressive religious recruiting which occurs at U of T. It’s not uncommon for pairs of “students” to sidle up to you on the street and inquire about your faith, or lack of it. If you go through four years of undergrad without being stopped at least once and invited to a Bible discussion, consider yourself an anomaly. But apart from the in-your-face evangelical student encounters, Christianity has also made its way into mainstream media.
Beyonce Knowles, female lead of Destiny’s Child and co-star of the recent smash hit Austin Powers: Goldmember, has publicly professed her dedication to Christ on several occasions. In fact, her band’s name was taken directly from a passage in the Old Testament. Their latest CD, Survivor, ends with a Gospel medley that includes “Now Behold the Lamb,” “Jesus Loves Me,” and “Total Praise.” But Beyonce is not the only celebrity flaunting her belief in a higher power; rap stars like P. Diddy wear flashy diamond crosses around their necks. Unlike Knowles, however, he has no apparent belief in the significance of the expensive object hanging around his neck—it is apparently just a fashion statement. Christianity has gone pop.
Fashion statements aside, the cries of thousands of young people shouting, “John Paul Two, We Love You!” demonstrate how the pope now receives rock-star-like attention. Are these developments authentically Catholic? Would Jesus himself have appreciated such mass hysteria? With all of the hype surrounding Christianity today, it is fair to say that the religion has crossed the barrier from being old-fashioned to modern, even hip. But has it lost some of its integrity along the way and succumbed to the naughty riches of this world?
The Christian faith has maintained its relevance to a new generation of people by trying to make its beliefs more appealing, which is something to be proud of. But certainly the religion has taken on a shiny exterior coat that seems to defy some of its basic principles, such as humility and chastity. Beyonce herself is a perfect example of the paradox: she wears all the trappings of material success, like tight gold chains and revealing tops, but still professes to be a devout and pious Christian.
The future of Christianity is unclear: will it return to more ascetic teachings, or will it entice future generations with the tools of modernity? John Paul II appears to be walking a thin line between the two.