"But perhaps it is true after all..."
Joseph Razinger on Uncertainty and Doubt from An Introduction to Christianity
Writing the "Introduction to Christianity"the then, Joseph Cardinal Ratzing, now Pope Benedict XVI, cited a famous story by Kierkegaard, about "the clown and the burning village" - to best sum up the difficulty faced by any Christian attempting to communicate theology to young people.
"According to the story," he wrote, "a travelling circus in Denmark had caught fire. The manager sent the clown, who was already dressed and made-up for the performance, into the neighboring village to fetch help, especially as there was a danger that the fire would spread across the fields of dry stubble and engulf the village itself. So, the clown hurried into the village and requested the inhabitants `come as quickly as possible' and help put the fire out.
"But the villagers took the clown's shouts simply for an excellent piece of advertising, meant to attract as many people as possible to the performance; they applauded the clown and laughed till they cried. The clown felt more like weeping than laughing; he tried in vain to get people to be serious, to make clear to them he was speaking in bitter earnest, that there really WAS a fire! His supplications only increased the laughter; people thought he was playing his part splendidly -- until finally the fire DID engulf the village, and both circus and village were burned to the ground."
And that, said Father Ratzinger, almost 40 years ago, is the "theologian's position today . . . the appearance of a clown trying in vain to make people listen to his message!