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Faith and Knowledge

01/30/2012

In my view, an interesting topic for young adults trying to serve God through a Christian Ministry is why other young adults, including their own friends and relatives, are not interested in faith or don’t believe. Even those who used to be Christians, sometimes much better Christians that what we were/are now, have lost their faith.

 

The problem is complex and has many dimensions grounded in different levels of social and personal life. One of the dimensions, in my opinion, has to do with what we know about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Scriptures and their relationship with our lives.

 

The Catholic Church, at least as far as I have seen and read, provides general religious education in preparation of the different sacraments. With the exception of marriage, most of this formation is experienced when we are very young. If somebody attended a religious school or was part of a Parish group they may have received further formation, but even this ends when schooling ends. The consequence of this situation is that most of what we know about God was learnt while we were children, explained to us in terms we could understand at that point. And sometimes we have even misunderstood some points, with no opportunity to be corrected.

 

What people call “our Image of God” is in many cases grounded in concepts acquired in childhood. In addition, it is not very common to learn about God on our own and the demand and supply of serious religious formation courses, besides formal programs in universities, seems to be lower than the demand and supply of learning about yoga, dances or martial arts.

 

Young adulthood is a complex period in life. For many of us it is a period of intellectual development through our higher education. It is also a period of emotional development thanks to our first serious love relationships, break ups, disappointments and the experience of new relationships. For many of us, demographically speaking is also the moment of life in which we lose our first beloved people. It is also a moment of important decisions that define what is going to happen in our future. And for many of us, is also the moment of life in which we meet and become close to people from very different background and beliefs from ours.

So the question is obvious: How can a childish concept of God, Faith and their relationship with our lives survive through all these changes of our age? In my opinion, the childish concept will hardly survive, it has to grow up and mature with us. This probably did not occur for our current non religious but former Christian friends.

 

Faith is a gift, but it is a gift that we have to take care of. This care has many dimensions as well, but one of them has to do with learning more about God, Christ and Their message.

 

For example, pain is probably one of the hardest challenges to Faith. Many people ask “Why does God allow this to happen?” A person, who believes that the love of God consists of protecting him or her from every problem if he or she prays for it, can easily lose his or her faith if the problem persists. Actually, many of the criticism to Faith by atheists are grounded in the same concept: “He prayed and nothing happened”.

 

This “problem solver if I behave and pray” image of God is a very common case of a non mature and not well understood relationship with God, just like the “punisher God”, the “God who limits our freedom”, and many other ideas that create a false distance between people and God.

 

Thus, it is important to understand, not only know, in a deeper way the meaning of our Faith and how it is related to our lives. By reading the Holy Scriptures, talking to people, going to talks, reading outreach or spiritual books among other ways, we are making our Faith stronger. We need to put in our own effort, which is always better with the help of others. As Christ told us, we have to build our Faith over solid rock. If it is built over rock, is going to resist all the storms of our lives, and we will keep on being his witnesses in the world.

 

In addition, lack of knowledge is usually one of the dimensions involved in lack of lay people participation in the Church. An incomplete understanding of our Sacraments, our beliefs and our history creates the danger of a purely formalistic and/or passive Christian life, which may not be very strong. A deeper understanding may allow us to live our Sacraments in a different way, to explain and make sense of our beliefs, and better understand our role as Christians. It may also help us to awake in some of our friends and relatives some of the emotions and ideas about God that they believed at some time of their life.

 

Note: Probably none of these ideas are mine. They are based on lectures, readings and conversations with current and future priests and sisters and other “spiritual people”, as St Ignatius would say.

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