Highlights from Structures of Grace: Catholic Organizations Serving the Global Common Good, by Kevin Ahern

Christianity can in many ways be understood as a movement or, more precisely, as a movement of movements…Christian social movements shape people in ways that traditional educational and official church structures generally do not.

Movements arise when individuals or preexisting groups come together for a common cause.29 They may coalesce around charismatic individuals or arise organically among people and groups in different contexts.  In some cases members of this core group dedicate their entire lives to the cause of the movement. p. 24

As organized collectives distinct from the institutional structures of the church, Christian social movements are more free to play the role of innovators, laboratories, and prophetic voices within the church. p. 28

At their best, one of the ways that Christian social movements transform the ways in which people think is by helping them to overcome the destructive forces of individualism and indifference. Long critiqued by leading Christian social thinkers, the notion of individualism, which is at the center of the dominant culture of consumerism, stands in contrast to the Christian values of solidarity, communion, reciprocity, and social responsibility. p. 4

Almost from the very beginning of the church, dynamic groups of socially engaged Christians took shape among the community of believers to witness to the word of God (martyria), celebrate their faith in sacraments (leitourgia), and respond to the gospel through acts of service (diakonia). Christianity is at its core a communal religion. Today, however, Christian social movements are taking on innovative roles in the church and in the world. The dynamic forces of globalization are creating new problems that call for concerted responses on the part of Christian collectives. At the same time, the increased interconnectedness of the world is offering fresh and exciting opportunities for Christians to gather beyond the local level. 

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