Some, fearing what they perceive as the modern demands of politeness, are afraid of confrontation, and some shout people down. Being too genteel, the former talk and say nothing; being too brash, the latter also talk and say nothing.
Since I assume we know about those who carry signs on Telegraph Avenue denouncing others for their sins, it’s the former group that I’ll try to address. There’s nothing unique about our own age that makes it more unacceptable now to be as frank about society’s sins – yes, sins – as John Chrysostom was; nor is the most important thing simply to get people in, or you’d have just a Church of tares (and if you wish to avoid the heresy of Donatism, you must instead call all the people to a holy life). No longer, it’s true, are we speaking to a society that professes on the whole to be bound to Christ, but neither were the Church fathers in their own time. Paul T. McCain says this about John Chrysostom:
In our day, when church-going Christians are in the minority, we are told the church should resemble the world in order to get non-Christians in the door. Chrysostom knew better. Christianity in his time was also the minority, lived among a majority of pagans in Antioch. Crowds of pagans would gather to hear good oratory, and so Chrysostom’s sermons were well-attended by non-Christians. This did not stop him from taking the cultural sins and idols head-on. And he encouraged his people to live differently [from] the culture around them, to evangelize their neighbors by their actions before evangelizing with words. Chrysostom encourages us to evangelize our culture by being radically different.
They in the early Church, even in the midst of pagan culture, were not timid word-mincers.
Then, too, the Apostle Peter spoke directly to the Church of his time: Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead – by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
We’re shooting for being confrontational without being antipathique, right?