What can be even more disturbing is their attitude that they are not missing a thing and don’t see this as a problem. This has not stopped good meaning people in the Catholic Church from over 50 years plus years of failed outreach to the “young people who stopped going to Church.” I witnessed the 1970s when I was a teenager and it was embarrassing to watch my parents’ generation and our priests attempt and fail miserably to be cool and relevant. It is equally embarrassing to sit in an Evangelization meeting 40 years later and realize you have morphed into that generation that fails to be relevant and cool.
So what are we to do? I think the Catholic Church could take some cues from the new Peanuts Movie. Yup, you read it correctly. Charlie Brown and the gang can teach us a few things about evangelization – but if you were a Peanuts fan you would already know that.
How does the Peanuts Movie provide us with a model for faith sharing?
The creators’ very premise is that the original message is as valid today as it was seventy years ago. They believed in the substance of the message. The creators, the family of Charles Schulz, believed that his message of survival and triumph was one that could speak powerfully through generations. The personal anguishes of Charlie Brown are universal as well as the challenges he faces in his desire to be liked.
Substance remains but changes occur only when necessary. Yes, you can see the film in 3D, but it is just as enjoyable in the standard form. Both are done well so there should be no disagreement between seeing the Extraordinary Form of Peanuts and its novus ordo version.
The link between past and present is not broken. The music at the dance may be more modern but there is not a smartphone or texting scene to be had. Technology does not stifle the need to connect with other people through “radical” means of talking and listening.
Charlie Brown’s redemption comes out of ordinary life. There is no magical spell, no handsome prince to rescue people in distress, and no one singing out “Let It Go.” Without giving away a spoiler, Charlie Brown must find within himself the courage and strength to right a wrong, even if it means sacrificing his new found popularity. In the end Charlie Brown exercises his free will.
While accessible, the film requires a little history. Depending on the age of a child, some may ask why Marcie always addresses Peppermint Patty as “sir,” what’s up with Lucy and Schroeder, and why is this dog chasing after a guy named Red Baron? Those of us of a certain age know these stories as part of our collective DNA. It is our responsibility to pass on the mythos to a new generation.
Like the television specials, the voices of the children are spoken by children, not adults attempting to part of a world they can no longer inhabit. It is refreshing to hear the pain, excitement, and wonder of childhood expressed by actual children. It shows respect to the intended audience as well as dignifying the message it contains.
And finally there is the Little Red Hair Girl. In the original comic strip she was never seen or even given a name. Although still nameless, in the film she becomes incarnated. She is as real as any other cartoon character so we are able to see the object of Charlie Brown’s pain and longing.
Charlie Brown’s world is one Everyday Catholics can relate to. It is a world ripe for sharing the Good News. It is a world where friends can be fickle, fear can overwhelm us, and kites don’t always fly right. Does Lucy have a conversion experience and let Charlie Brown successfully kick that football? You’ll have to see the movie to find out.
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