I wish I could remember where I read about the Muslim converts to Christianity who, when asked what inspired them to convert, said that they had fallen in love with the person of Jesus. His gentleness and patience, His erudition and intelligence, His love -- Jesus Himself was the force that led them to break with Islam and take the dangerous step of converting. In Great Books, David Denby (who describes himself as a not that observant Jew) reads the Gospels and is struck by his first real encounter with Jesus. He is amazed at His vivid personality, His quick wit and self-possession, and how easy it is to love Him. Although he encounters other Christian thought in his re-reading of the Great Books of western civilization, they don't strike him with the same force as a direct encounter with Jesus.
A few months ago a dear friend observed to me, about the Catholic blogsphere, that she rarely saw any mention of Jesus. Plenty of internal doctrinal baseball; plenty of liturgical spats; some devotional stuff; some Marian reflections; but not much meditation on Jesus Himself. I don't know if anyone reading my writing would feel that he'd just had an encounter with Jesus. I feel certain that Joe Citizen, surfing the 'net, stumbling across Catholics arguing amongst themselves about politics or economics or liturgy, would not recognize that Jesus was there in their midst. Where is the "renewal of your minds"? Where is the sharp wit without cruelty or self-absorption? Where is Jesus?
I think there is a place for snark: writing without wit is thick porridge, and Jesus himself showed up the Pharisees on more than one occasion. Too often, though, snark devolves into fisking and point-scoring and one-upsmanship that ceases to serve any purpose than to salve the ego of the snarker. Without underlying charity, snark is no more than a "resounding gong or a clashing cymbal" (1 Cor. 13:1), pure noise.
I particularly enjoyed the recent exchange between Pentimento, responding to a post about single mothers with charity and mercy, and Embrethelil, who illuminates her original posting without defensiveness or rancor. This kind of discussion, in which the principals enlarge and examine their positions with neither biting personal jabs nor mutual saccharine soppiness, is refreshing.
Another post I can't stop thinking about is Eric Brown's wrenching conversion story, in which he is drawn into the Church by Jesus Himself: "My focal interest was with the figure of our Lord, with Christology and soteriology—ecclesiology became an interest much later. I was obsessed with the Lord and I wanted to know everything about Him." Although he comes to accept the Church's authority to rule on matters of sexual morality and women's ordination, he writes that:
Strikingly, my comfort with dissent and the choice of others to dissent from church teaching not only assisted my conversion, it helped me to convert and ultimately become orthodox. If I had an inkling of suspicion that such matters were more than mere prevalent Christian opinions in a slowly evolving human world, but rather unchangeable teachings, I would not have been so content to focus my energies on other teachings—the ones that drew me in, which basically allowed me to come across everything I would need to know, so that when the time came, the teachings I did not want to accept, were acceptable because I would be able to see the relevance and the deep harmony of all the teachings with one another.What drew him in was Love -- not the sharp, self-satisfied apologetics practiced on the internet.