Trust and the Open Profession of Faith

How many people do you trust, how many institutions? And by ‘trust’ I mean what the word always used to mean, to have confidence in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something. It is a searching question, because when it comes down to it, most of us tend to qualify our answers. Absolute trust is placed in very few, usually only someone very  close to us and never, in my experience, in an institution. Yet today’s first reading from Isaiah (Is 26. 1-6) urges us to ‘trust in the Lord for ever, for the Lord is an everlasting rock’ while the gospel (Matthew 7.21, 24-27) insists that doing the will of the Lord will mean that our house, our life, is founded on rock. That suggests both strength and reliability should characterize our lives as Christians, but the plain fact is that Christianity and its adherents have never had a worse press than they do today; and despite the fact that our beliefs prompt us to many acts of charity and service, it is not unusual to encounter hostility and suspicion. Even our festivals are mocked or circumvented with neologisms like ‘Winterval’ though no-one, I think (hope?), would dream of re-naming Eid al-Fitr or Rosh Hashanah or any of the great celebrations of other religions.

Sometimes it can be instructive to listen to what our detractors say about us. The most common charges against Christians seem to be that we are

  • obscurantist and anti-sciencee
  • hypocrites
  • intolerant (homophobic, misogynistic, racist, right-wing, left-wing, etc)
  • child abusers
  • out for personal gain
  • worldly

It is true that some of us are guilty of one or more of these charges, but by no means all. In fact, I’d dare to say the majority of Christians are guiltless of all these things. Personal sin and failure affect the whole body, of course, but so too does the faithful living out of our Christian vocation.Why should the negative outweigh the positive?

I think we are beginning to have a real problem with the public perception of Christians as trustworthy people whose beliefs should command respect, even if they are not shared. Time was when a very British reticence would have made me prefer to die on the spot rather than even hint at my beliefs in public. Not so now. It’s time we all came out of that particular closet. I habitually say a cheerful ‘Bless you!’ as often as I say ‘thank you’. I mean what I say, and if I get a snarl in response, as I sometimes do, I simply smile. I have no hesitation in saying grace when I have to eat in public or using the ritual gestures when I have to say the Office away from the monastery. I’m not forcing my beliefs on anyone, but I’m not hiding them, either. Scio cui credidi, as we sing on our profession day. I know in whom I have believed, in whom I have placed my trust.

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11 thoughts on “Trust and the Open Profession of Faith”

  1. The saddest part of the criticisms which I hear levelled at Christians is that they do not come from other religions/faiths but from people who have turned away from a “traditional” Christian background and now view all other Christians with some venom.

    I am lucky, teaching in a Catholic school – my pubilc grace before meals is encouraged (expected of course) along with many other external signs – I worry that if I worked in another environment that I would be challenged (or too shy/scared) or sneered at. Even my Catholic friends/family smile when I say grace at home with my close family. It is a smile that says how quaint it looks but also suggests it is something wrong. I suppose being out of step is inevitable now. Thanks for the encouragement Sister.

  2. The sad truth is that it tends to be the negative aspects of behaviour by proclaimed Christians that make the news.
    No medium is going to use space reporting that ‘today a million Christians were kind to their neighbours, helped out in emergencies and didn’t swear or fight’.
    And, sadly, however hard one tries, it can be very hard to forgive and forget the behaviour of some of those who loudly proclaim their belief while acting in most un-Christian ways.
    One can only keep on trying……

  3. I have shared this on my Facebook page, because it made me think about the issues of commitment to our faith in a secular world. Thank you. God bless you!

  4. I don’t think we should hide our light under a bushel,to coin a phrase , and we should be bold in making a good confession of our faith. If, as Christians, we stumble from time to time we should accept any rebuke in good heart but resolve to do better.
    The world is a dark and meaningless place . It’s only in Christ that there is true light, meaning and purpose. Let’s try and follow him.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts sister I always feel blessed by what you write. 🙂

    • Are they? I imagine you are referring to ‘They would have to sing better songs for me to believe in their Saviour: his disciples would have to look more redeemed!’ Thus Spoke Zarathustra, The Priests. But I would not take my opinion of Christians or Christianity from Nietschke as I think there is rather more to the matter than he did.

  5. When I was studying German many moons ago, one of my lecturers took the view that Nietzsche “protested too much” and would have (re)turned to Christianity in a big way had he lived longer. I mention that mainly to illustrate what I find to be quite a common phenomenon, namely the hidden motives which lie behind attacks on Christianity and Christians. Often, when one engages kindly but unapologetically in debate with non-Christian critics of the church, one gets to a position where they are prepared to acknowledge – however grudgingly in some cases – the good that it does and teaches, the real problem being that they then refuse to take on the obligations which assenting to faith will entail. At the last census something like three quarters of respondents identified themselves as Christian, though only a tiny proportion will be at church next Sunday. I’d lay a sizeable sum that the main stumbling-block in many cases is actually more laziness than outright unbelief – which in some ways is sadder still.

  6. Many young Muslim women who are here at University of Arizona wear hijab with pride and conviction and I admire their open and outward declaration of faith ( and bravery) in this way. While I refrain from wearing any religious symbols (i.e. a cross or crucifix) my prayer is that I can act out and declare my faith outwardly on a daily basis.

  7. Great post.
    As long as we are not hurting another, it seems reasonable and appropriate that everyone should feel both free and safe to wear clothes and symbols that reflect their religious and/or cultural heritage/beliefs.

  8. Thank you for the encouragement Sister. What started my journey back to Christianity 15 years ago was being at work in a place where showing any Christian symbols was forbidden. It bothered me, so what had possibly started as some management move towards secularising their organisation, set a spark off for me in what does being a Christian mean in a constantly challenging world of faith and not faith.God slipped in during those moments of reflection. Bless you.

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