I write this as I fly back to Chicago after spending the weekend in Florida celebrating my mother’s birthday and baptizing my eldest sister into the body of Christ. Whether it was coincidence, my own heightened awareness, or the movement of the Holy Spirit, I noticed that, like Love Actually, faith is actually everywhere. Much has been made of the decreased role of religion in public life and the gradual drop in church attendance. Research studies have unequivocally documented the overall decline in membership among Christian denominations and organized religion, generally, and the emergence of a generation of people who consider themselves “spiritual, but not religious.” I don’t deny any of this, but I do believe that we are making too much of these trends. I don’t think God is dead; and I don’t think Christianity’s best days are behind us. The problem with religion—especially Christianity—these days is that we expect it look like it did in the 1950s in order to regard it as vibrant. We hold on stubbornly to metrics of success that fit a world that no longer exists.
During my trip home this weekend, faith has been everywhere. Sitting at the gate in Tampa was a priest in a black suit and clerical collar working on his iPad. Walking through the terminal were several Orthodox Jews in traditional dress. Sitting next to me on the flight to Cleveland was a man reading a book on Catholic spirituality. In the nearly barren Cleveland airport, there was a Muslim man kneeling for evening prayers near a water fountain. If religion really didn't matter anymore, it is unlikely that any of us would see as many signs of faith as we do. I think it far more likely that people have gotten used to just shutting off their awareness of religious and spiritual life, and many of us have cooperated in playing down our faith and making it less visible. Are we not paying attention? Faith is all around us. If religion has become discredited among many, then it is our job as people of faith to redeem it in the eyes of those who think it has nothing to offer. So, I charge all of us, in this Resurrection season, to work to become better apologists and answer the tough questions. In a postmodern, post-Christian society, the default position is no longer fides quaerens intellectum--faith in search of understanding--but understanding in search of faith. Let us help those bereft of faith find it.
Easter Joy and Blessings,