The assassination of JFK fifty years ago rocked the U.S. The events of 9/11 had a similar impact. When the towers fell that day, it seemed like the whole world was falling apart for so many people. So much of the security and trust that we put into our financial institutions (symbolized clearly by the World Trade Center) and even our military strength (symbolized by the Pentagon), was shattered. For me, it really affected my entire worldview, and it might have taken my whole faith with it. Perhaps an entire generation was affected.
Last year, Pew told us that for the first time in U.S. history, more than twenty percent of U.S. adults consider themselves religiously unaffiliated. The younger the adult? The more likely he/she is to be unaffiliated.
Of those who describe their religion as “nothing in particular,” 88 percent aren’t looking to change that. And finally, if you look at the trend across decades, Protestants are being traded for the “nones.” An eleven percent decrease in Protestants, and an eleven percent increase in nones (obviously this isn’t conclusive nor causal, but just noteworthy).
In part due to my upbringing, I clung to my faith even when it didn’t seem to make sense too. And God was faithful, and Circle of Hope was God’s answer to my prayer. I think Circle of Hope is an antidote to this problem, and quite frankly, we succeed more than most when it comes to the 18 to 29 category, particularly.
Our foundations of faith need to be reinforced when we endure that kind of loss.
It might not be deconstruction from a public university that does the trick. Or even at attack on monuments that symbolize U.S. military and economic security. But it could be any number of things. Your depression could be what causes your world to be turned upside-down. You could lose your job or your business, with which you’ve attached a tremendous amount of meaning. It might be a divorce or the loss of a loved one.
In those seasons, let us turn to Paul who is one of the best comforters to the believer’s who faith is distressed.
Paul knows all the trials and tribulations that one can experience as a result of following Jesus. A prominent Jewish leader then, and now a poor, formerly imprisoned, often persecuted, missionary. He’s telling Timothy how hard it is to keep the faith and to stay on the narrow path.
Preach the Word (that’s Jesus, of course), and do it with patience and care. Paul knows that there are threats to the teaching of Jesus all over the world and he is warning Timothy. A time will come, he tells him, when people will simply believe whatever they want to believe. Truth won’t mean anything to them and they’ll listen to myths.
“Endure hardships,” including attacks on your faith and loss you might experience. Paul says he’s pouring himself out like an offering—he wants Timothy is drink from his teaching and learn from him. Paul’s suffered in the name of Jesus, and his followers, though they may endure the same suffering, need not to do it the same way he did. You can hear the earnestness in Paul’s voice. Learn from me, learn from my mistakes.
Paul declares to Timothy that he’s fought the good fight, he’s finished the race, kept the faith. Keeping the faith. It’s that crucial, and that hard.
Paul is getting his reward in Heaven he says, and he’s getting it because he’s longed to see God. His faith was fierce, remember, but he still articulates that he wants to see God. And not just as a way of making his faith certain, but as a way of fully relating to Him.
It doesn’t always go this way. Just ask David Bazan. He is, like, the definition of a post-Christian artist. He gained popularity as an indie rock artist in the 1990s under the moniker Pedro the Lion. Somewhere in there, Bazan lost his faith and started making records that revolved around his lack of faith and clever social commentary. Eventually, mainly due to Bazan’s alcoholism (and contempt), Pedro the Lion broke up and David Bazan took his opportunism to the solo career (his first record was called “Fewer Moving Parts”) and continued to market himself to post-Christians like himself, meanwhile still singing about his lack of faith mainly. Here is again in “Hard To Be,” making money off of disillusioned Christians.
“Wait just a minute / You expect me to believe / That all this misbehaving / Grew from one enchanted tree? / And helpless to fight it / We should all be satisfied / With this magical explanation / For why the living die. / And why it’s hard to be / Hard to be / Hard to be a decent human being.”
He’s deconstructed the Adam and Eve story and because of that, his whole faith is falling apart. He can’t make the formula make sense. He’s applying rationalistic rules to a story that predates his reasoning by thousands of years.
The rules of the world, as Paul tells Timothy, won’t always fit into our faith. And that’s OK. It might not make sense to us in our finite minds anyway. We’ll have to overcome the fact that everything can be understood, first.
The argument the faith doesn’t make sense kind of puts “sense” at the center of your life.
I’m not sure this is really why David Bazan lost his faith, it sounds like a little revisionism on his part. If you keep listening to the song, you’ll uncover more.
“So I swung my tassel / To the left side of my cap / Knowing after graduation / There would be no going back. / And no congratulations / From my faithful family / Some of whom are already fasting / To intercede for me.”
Bazan declared that he’s lost his faith, there’s no going back. It sounds like he might have had a disillusioning college experience too—and now it is the responsibility of his parents or whomever to love him and accept him for who is he is now. So part of his doubt may actually come from his “experience.”
He knows his family are still faithfully following Jesus—he notes sarcastically, faithful to Jesus, but not to him. And mocks the fact that they are fasting and praying for him.
More than just overcoming the fact that everything needs to make sense, we need to overcome the idea that our experiences are the end-all, be-all of the world. There is something that is greater than you out there. It’s greater than your finite experience, and it’s greater than any notion of rationality.
Paul is having the same talk with the Corinthians and I hope you are comforted by the fact that he says even knowledge will pass away, compared to how evident the Love of Jesus will be when “completeness” comes.
The childish thing that Paul is talking about that he’s put behind him is the notion that you might have everything figured out. Certainty is really the enemy of faith. Be human, you can doubt; trust God, have faith. If you must be certain, well, you’re no different than anyone else.
Paul’s adult faith is realized when he’s telling the Corinthians that it’s not be going to clear to us. Now we only see a reflection, as in a mirror he says. My favorite translation states that “now we see through a glass darkly.” Then we shall see face-to-face.
1. Be loved. The only thing that Paul can cling to is love. Know that through thick and thin, through your doubt and through your faith, through every trial, that you are still loved, and you are still worthy to be loved. Stay self-aware and belief it. Overcome your condemnation and believe that you are loved, when you are open to receiving love; God, and Jesus himself, who is complete embodiment of love, might be made known to you more clearly.
2. Have a relationship. You’ll go through seasons where you might have time trusting God. That’s OK. Just talk about it. Talk about with God. Don’t let the shame of not believing get in the way of actually relating to God. Talk about it with other. If you need to “fake it,” do it, until you “make it.” Ultimately, you decide to follow God and have faith in Him—it’s OK to just decide to believe something, to do something, or to commit to do something, even if doesn’t “feel” right. You’re feelings and thoughts have been wrong before.
3. Stay. The basis of Paul’s expression of God’s love exists in community, in the body of Christ. The Body of Christ is the best place for the Jesus to be revealed. The spirit of God is among us. It is in us individually, and in us collectively. Staying in a community is the best way to keep your faith. Why? Because your process isn’t dominated by your own individualism. You submit to something greater than you—the person of Jesus Christ as represented by his community.
You work out your faith some other faithful people. It’s smart and safe. God is here and known to you more clearly in this context.