How Public is Your Life of Faith?

There is a new movie called “The Two Popes.” Several weeks ago, I saw an interview with the two stars of the movie. One of them looks so much like the current pope that, apparently, his own son kidded him about being the pope. Because it is a movie about religious people, the interviewer asked each of the stars about their religious backgrounds. One was a Roman Catholic as a child. The other came to faith when he became associated with a 12-Step Program. Kind of interesting information to know about these two people portraying religious leaders.

I was disturbed, though, by the way the interviewer asked them about their faith/religious lives. She asked, “Did you go to church as a child?” The assumption was, I think, that no self-respecting, intelligent adult would still go to church. Some might have it as a childhood practice along with jumping rope or playing with dolls or believing in Santa Claus. The implication was that adults leave all of those things behind.

This is not only an assumption by this particular interviewer. Many people in the 21st Century in the United States view faith as a quaint, old-fashioned and childish attribute at best and as something sinister at worst.

When I meet with sessions about the future of their congregations, I sometimes ask them what they brag about with regard to their churches when they are talking to their friends. Or, I ask them how they answer the question “What did you do this weekend?” When a co-worker or acquaintance asks that innocuous question, do they only say, “I saw a movie, I went to the grocery store, I watched the football game on TV”? Or do they also say, “I went to church.” And, are they prepared to respond if their inquisitor says, “Why?”

Even those of us who are very active in congregations have adopted the attitude that it might be embarrassing to admit that we are part of a faith community and that it is an important part of our lives. People might think we are unsophisticated, or naïve or stupid. Maybe we should just keep it to ourselves.

Scripture, of course, does not treat faith as something we grow out of as we grow up. Instead, we are encouraged to mature into our faith as we grow older. “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult I put an end to childish ways.”

How has your faith matured as you have grown into it? What is different now about your understanding of God’s grace in your life than when you first came to awareness of it? How do you act on your faith in a more mature way than you once did? How does your faith inform our call to bring hope in the name of Jesus Christ wherever we may be?

The Rev. Susan (Sue) Krummel
Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of Chicago