Tuesday, 2 April 2019
I sincerely empathize with Jared, the author of the Washington Post article, who says “I’m not passing my parents’ religion on to my kids, but I am teaching their values.” He is expressing some of the disappointments he has experienced with the church and his father especially, who he said lived a lie. He lists some of the reasons why he lost faith in his faith to include too many unanswered questions, too many problematic absolutes, too much fearmongering, too much hypocrisy and the priest sex-abuse scandal, “a scandal the scope of which we’re still learning about” he adds.
My aim is not to castigate the author or join issues with him. However, knowing fully well that there are many people who may be on the fence who have not “lost faith in their faith” yet but may already be in troubled waters because of their peculiar experiences, I intend to respond to the issues Jared raised.
First, let us deal with his reasons for losing faith in his faith and see how inadequate they are.
“Too many unanswered questions” – life and earthly existence pose many difficult questions and you cannot disappear from the earth because of them. Does losing faith in your faith answer the unanswered questions? By the way, having many unanswered questions does not mean that there are no meaningful answers out there.
“Problematic absolutes” –this is an ambiguous phrase as it is subjective. We need some specificity in order to deal with this very well. However, even the materialistic worldview forms its own absolutes and exclusivity. When you give a ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answer to anything, you tend to exclude something. What if I consider your ‘yes’ or ‘no’ problematic? The author tends to desire his children to have some moral values, but the question is how can you have moral value without a moral law? And how can you have moral law without a Moral Law Giver? Without moral absolutes of some sort, how can you or your children differentiate between right and wrong?
“Too much fearmongering” – faith by its nature tends to confront fear and it’s difficult to understand how ‘fearmongering’ will make you lose faith in your faith if what you actually had was faith. Anyway, that is Jared’s experience.
“Way too much hypocrisy” – the author said that “for a religion that placed such a premium on loving thy neighbor, it sure had a lot of restrictions on whom you were allowed to love.” I agree that we often have this challenge even in the church, which is really quite unfortunate. We have to repent in every area we are found wanting because discrimination is not part of Christianity. Having said that, the mistake we often make, and is evident in this case, is not being able to separate the teachings of Christ from the failings of humans that profess Christianity. For example, when a Christian or a religious leader for that matter, place restrictions on whom you are to love, it does not mean that Christianity, or the teachings of Christ has placed such restrictions. In the Christian worldview, we believe in the total depravity of the human heart until it is surrendered to Christ. We equally believe in the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification in the heart of the believer as he progresses until its consummation. Anytime a man steps outside Christ, there is no measure of wickedness he cannot perpetrate despite his profession. But in Christ also, there is the wonderful experience of forgiveness and restoration when we come to God like the ‘prodigal son’. If the author’s accusation against Christianity comes from his father’s experience who died a gay, even though he lived in denial throughout his life, then that is understandable even though unfortunate because Christianity teaches love for a sinner but disapproval for his sins. If we preach that people should repent, then there must be something to repent from.
These are not enough to lose faith in your faith if what you had originally was faith at all. The Christian worldview is the only worldview that answers the four basic questions of life, where do I come from? What is the meaning of life? How do I choose between right and wrong? And where do I go when I die? I refer the author to RZIM where there are a lot of resources that will help him answer some of his unanswered and difficult questions.
As I conclude this response, I submit that Jared sounds like someone who does not adequately understand Christianity even though he was raised in the Catholic church. Like so many, he seems to believe that being baptized with water makes you a Christian. But that is not what the Bible teaches. God sent Jesus Christ, not so that we can keep some sets of laws or rituals, but for us to be able to enter into a living relationship with Him whereby we can personally call Him ‘father’.
When Jared said “we want our kids to have a solid understanding of all religions. Just as importantly, we want them to have respect for what others believe. After all, the Golden Rule is something that should be instilled in all children, regardless of their religion or lack thereof”. Where does this value come from? It is like wanting to eat your cake and still have it at the same time. The moral values he intends for his children, and all children as a matter of fact, comes out of the moral framework of the Christian worldview which he claims to have lost faith in.
I consider his closing line as what most journalists do just for popularity sake when he said “in the end, actions will always speak louder than words, even the words of the Bible”. Yes, actions speak louder than words but it becomes a contradiction of all he has argued for value, when he says that the actions that are propelled by biblical values are separate and stronger than the biblical values themselves. Reaction cannot be separated from the action that caused it.
What I see conspicuously missing from Jared’s discourse is that he is not able to take responsibility for the condition of his own heart. He seems to blame his father for hypocrisy, blame the priests and some Christians for their hypocrisy, but has not seen the hypocrisy of his own heart. Like the prodigal son, (Luke 15), we ought to come to Jesus with all humility and seek for the transformation of our own hearts. This is because, “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Matt.5:2. Only with such poverty of spirit can our restless hearts will find rest in Him.