Our faith is under assault every day on many different fronts. Some are outright battles, but others I would consider skirmishes: subtle comments or situations that put down people of faith or the faith itself. It’s up to us to recognize these attacks and counter their effect on our own faith journey.
I attended a webinar for my work about the digital transformation in marketing, how websites, emails and social media have changed the way companies interact with their customers. One would not expect to have faith attacked while listening to such a speaker, but after a rather callous comment from the presenter, I was sorely tempted to hang up. He claimed the Church opposed the printing press because they didn’t want anyone to read the Bible! St. Jerome, way back in the 5th century and well before the printing press, said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” We do need to read, if not the Bible, then passages from it daily in order to keep the Word of God in mind. In some sense the Church was the first printing press, as many monasteries copied books, both religious and classical literature. They kept books from being lost to time during the fall of the Roman empire and the period of unrest that followed it. If I didn’t know these tidbits of history, hearing a derogatory comment like the one mentioned during a business presentation could be a seed planted that would eventually have a negative impact on my relationship with God.
Another example: in a recent crime drama I watched that was set in 1920s Australia, the rich and worldly main character was horrified at the conditions of a laundry service run by a local convent. This was back in the day when the laundry was all done by hand; it was hard labor. The convent sheltered and cared for orphaned and troubled girls; they were the ones who did the actual laundry. The character seemed shocked that the girls were only given very modest housing in exchange for their labor. It’s very easy to look at that scene through modern eyes and be quick to judge the Church. While this is a fictional story, images and situations like this presented in a purely secular way even if they are based on truth seem to scream ‘unfair.’ What is unfair is the one-sided presentation. Many religious take a vow of poverty, when they open their home to share it with others, they open it as it is: simple and modest. I’m sure if the character ever heard the life of St. Francis of Assisi, she would be just as shocked that he gave up all his worldly possessions to become poor so as to be a better servant to God. By delving into the lives of the saints, we can broaden our understanding to our own calling as well as to see life from a different perspective.
When faced with a faith skirmish, let it be unsettling for us; let it cause us to dig deeper and ponder it. Let it be an opportunity to learn about our faith and its history. Let it become part of the armor of God that we wear. “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17)