GRAPPLING WITH FAITH
It would surprise many, especially the young, to know that large numbers of regular church-goers grapple with their faith. Many of them grew up in an era of honest questioning and in rebellion against hierarchical thinking in all areas of life. Some of us passed through periods of having no religion at all and when the Church scandals unfolded it was difficult to re-engage. We did understand, however, that the scandal doers were not the great bulk of the Church and that great work for the poor, the Third World and those in personal crises was ongoing and positive. After all, the first great wave of concern for marginalised groups including women came from the early simpler Church which also was radical in teaching a universal message.
What upset the 60s generation was not always the strict adherence to a code sometimes found harsh but more the political alliances made by the Churches and it allowing themselves be manipulated by power hungry politicians at home and abroad.
Why did so many return to Church attendance? Children and families produced an impetus to define moral codes and templates that people could live with or indeed debate with. Christianity also produces a universal family with social and ecological concerns. Humanism is not teaching something new but something embedded in the human search for meaning. The first Spanish missionaries in South America challenged the treatment of native peoples and the Canadian health care system came about through the efforts of TC Douglas, a Methodist minister who had experienced healthcare apartheid in his youth.
And why do we still attend despite our doubts? Doubts are part of the human condition and they push us to question and study. In truth many of us would like to face the dusk of our lives with the self-knowledge that we attempted to live our lives to a particular inclusive code however imperfect our lives were.
On November 23rd at his weekly general audience Pope Francis said:
“We do not need to be afraid of questions and doubts because they are the beginning of a path of knowledge and going deeper; one who does not ask questions cannot progress either in knowledge or in faith.”