I think about this alot too, and I think more and more people do, since we are more likely to be rubbing elbows with people with different religions and cultures now more than ever. What makes this an "existential crisis" for me is the value I put on 'knowing' a truth as a saving grace. I know we're all familiar with the basic attitude of "living the faith is more than knowing the faith" but...I think I betray myself about what I really think about this when I, for example, criticize life-long practitioners (of any religion) for "not knowing" their religion. It's the same here. This Hindu may not be saved because he does not "know" Jesus is God...but what does 'knowing' mean? What does it mean to say I 'know'? Like what was said, that desperate business man doesn't 'know' Ganesh in the same way we 'know' how Ganesh is supposed to be one aspect of the divine. Maybe his 'knowing' of Christ might be different than our 'knowing' of Him. Maybe it has to be.
I may be reading too much ochlophobist blog, but something I read a while ago discussed how even salvation within our own faith does not follow a rhyme or reason. "The works save you, except when they don't."--or something like that. I'm sure we can all come up with one legend told to us about someone getting into heaven by the skin of their teeth, while others who were diligent completely fail. I can only imagine the leaps and bounds God makes to seek out those outside the Church.
This is why I try not to despair though--I believe that the Shepherd works hard to gather His sheep, and we may not truly see the fullness of the flock (humans, angels, and everything in between) until the end of this world. I do believe that their objective beliefs are wrong, but the spiritual impacts of their (and our) beliefs are yet to be completely revealed.
As far as practical evangelizing, I don't think we should just adopt a "I'm OK, you're OK" attitude and remain completely impotent in the face of pluralism. The Church's witness to the truth isn't completely useless--She has to be the truest means for human encounter with God. For me, it's just means more patience than what I've been taught is necessary (As a black woman, I am used to the rhetoric of "making the decision right NOW before you die!"), and less of an 'agenda' -- call me a snob, but methods like "friendship evangelism" are below us. Being genuinely human seems to speak volumes IMHO, especially in a world of lock-step fad conformity. Maybe finding common values--such as charity, devotion, or family--can be as 'uniting' as it's going to get in this life. It's hard to knock reasons to not join the Church such as for family, culture or ancestry, because I know first-hand that the Church does not automatically provide these things to most American converts, and yet these things are so vital to human existence. Of course there's prayer, but that goes without saying.
I agree with what most of you said, and often times just try to satisfy my brain with "it's in God's hands" and the best way to bring people to the faith is to live the faith.
But at some point I think if we're going to be intellectually honest with ourselves and others, we have to have some sort of apologetics to explain our faith in contrast and in context to theirs.
I'm not talking about going off into mission fields or banging on people's doors like the Jehovah's Witnesses.
I'm talking about conversations at work amongst co-workers. I ask because I've had conversations such as this, and I don't always have the answers.
Not everyone has the gift of evangelism, either. If everyone were an evangelist, the Church would be a rather empty place. We are one Body, and it contains many organs.
But if you can evangelize, by all means go for it!
I disagree with you. We are all told by Christ that “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-17 (New King James Version)
We are all called to fulfill the Great Commission as set forth in Matthew 28:19. If we all followed the Great Commission, our parishes would not be empty. Nay, they would be full!
While I agree that not all are called to leave their homes in the manner that Paul and Timothy did, we are all called to be witnesses to Christ. St. Monica didn't have to leave her home to bring two people to the Church. How much more can we do in our daily interactions with our friends, co-workers, and family members?
Francis of Assisi is famously quoted as saying something along the lines of "Spread the Gospel, if necassary, use words." St. Seraphim of Sarov is quoted as saying, "Acquire a spirit of peace, and thousands around you will be saved."
While I am working on acquiring that spirit, I would also like to know how to address these questions.
To speak to a Christian from one type of faith background about another is easy. How do you explain the Holy Spirit to someone who has never heard of the Holy Spirit? How do you explain to a Bhuddist that we are not cannibals when we partake of the body and blood of our Lord? (A question that a seminarian friend of mine was confronted with by some Japanese students who had decided their first encounter with Christianity should be at an Orthodox Church.)
I want to know.