Christians in Austria

Austria is a Christian country! That’s what a lot of people say, but is it still true?

The grey menu bar above this text gives access to the websites of most of the Christian churches in Austria — i.e. churches which affirm the ancient creeds, primarily the Nicene creed.

But are all members of these churches really Christians?

Sometimes when I talk with people they get upset when one makes a distinction between nominal Christians and real Christians, between “normal Catholics” and “renewed Catholics”, etc., but this is a pretty important distinction, a pretty important question one should think about and face up to.

Alejandro Rodriguez, national director of evangelical mission movement YWAM in Argentina, a few years ago conducted an interview with Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, then archbishop of Buenos Aires, and now Pope Francis, and the Cardinal had some interesting things to say:

Rodriguez: How can we describe the difference between a nominal Christian and a committed Christian? Because a little while ago they did a survey here in Argentina and 98% of those asked said they believe in God, or they would identify as Christians, in their own way. So how can we distinguish between nominal Christians and committed Christians?

Bergoglio: Well, you can dress like a Christian, wear make-up like a Christian, you can talk Christian jargon, but without an encounter with a Person you’re not a Christian; without an encouter with Jesus Christ you are not a Christian. That’s the point: a Christian, a real Christian, not just a nominal one, is someone who has found Jesus Christ, and who has let Jesus find him. That is one of the most beautiful experiences in life.

Rodriguez: So it’s not tradition or –

Bergoglio: Oh, with tradition comes a certain upbringing, certain values, and that can help a lot, but there comes a moment in your life when you encounter Jesus Christ, and that’s it. You saw him, and you said, “Yes, Lord!” So that would be my question for a Christian: have you encountered Jesus Christ? Have you allowed your heart to be found by him, because he is searching for you? Or did you just go on, and didn’t care …

Rodriguez: And practically, in everyday life, how does one recognize this encounter with Jesus Christ? What is the evidence? What is the fruit of this encounter?

Bergoglio: First of all, because everyone is different, and this is very personal, it will be different for everyone. But what evidence does one see? Well, the evidence is a changed life, you change your attitudes in life, there is the fruit of the Spirit, peace, meekness, goodness, justice — all these things which Scripture tells us are the fruit of the Spirit –

Rodriguez: And against these things there is no law, right? They are higher than the law –

Bergoglio: It’s the Spirit of God in you. But you must let yourself be found.

Source: YouTube Video

How many people in Austria, how many people in all these different churches, how many priests and pastors, even, would say of themselves that they have encountered Jesus Christ, and that they let themselves be found by him? That they said, “Yes, Lord!” to him?

Wouldn’t our society, wouldn’t our churches, our congregations, look very different?