Saturday, July 21, 2007

Doubt, Fear, and Faith

There was a remarkable article in the Los Angeles Times today about matters of faith. It does not end happily, and that is ok.

But it is a completely honest assessment of things of faith, and a stirring indictment of the failure of both certain Catholics and Protestant Evangelicals to deliver on the real message of the Christ they purport to follow.

William Lobdell is a writer for the Times who found faith in Christ in 1989, and began a journey, first of mission to right the wrongs of the mainstream media in covering the errors of the church, and later a painful season spent reporting on both the sins of evangelicals and Catholics. Mr. Lobdell spent much of the early parts of this decade reporting on the ongoing sexual abuse scandal of the Catholic church, and witnessed up close the pain of the victims, along with the complicity of the leadership of the Catholic church. He also reported on the inner workings of the Trinity Broadcasting network, including the work of
Benny Hinn, a televangelist faith healer.

Over time, the emotional weight of his reporting created a crisis of faith for Mr. Lobdell, as he describes in the article:

"My soul, for lack of a better term, had lost faith long ago - probably around the time I stopped going to church. My brain, which had been in denial, had finally caught up. Clearly, I saw now that belief in God, no matter how grounded, requires at some point a leap of faith. Either you have the gift of faith or you don't. Its not a choice. It can't be willed into existence. And there's no faking it if you're honest about the state of your soul."
As it turns out, all the reporting and interaction with the ugly underbelly of the church resulted in Mr. Lobdell's abandonment of his faith.

I have been thinking about this article all day. Wondering about William Lobdell, about the church he was a part of, but then decided to stop attending. Did anyone call him when he missed a few Sundays? I thought about his family, and how they are doing. I wondered if he was a part of any form of genuine Christian community, a place where he could ask hard questions, and be loved in the midst of his struggle and doubt. And not be judged for his doubt. This might have helped, but also might not have made the difference in his abandonment of faith. Not much is for sure.

And then I thought about the primary moving force in all the dysfunction that Mr. Lobdell witness in Christendom. Fear. Catholic leaderships' fear of exposure, of humiliation, of shame, and admitting that much of the leadership structure of the church suffers from severe problems. I pray that through the unbearable pain, that God is somehow at work in this, cleansing His church. I thought of the fear of the leadership at TBN, and Benny Hinn, again, fear of exposure, fear of failure, fear that not everyone will get healed. Or maybe fear that the whole "healing and miracles" thing will be exposed for the sham that it just might be.

And I have been thinking about Mr. Lobdell's comments about faith. The gift of faith. This is something that has been discussed and debated for centuries, and still, no one really has the final answer. Its a mystery, but one I have chosen, and still choose daily, to participate in. I still believe in Jesus, and try to follow him.

Its the church that makes me nuts, and that I still love so much. Just like a drunk uncle, or father, for that matter.

My guess is this. Its the church that messed up Mr. Lobdell's faith, not Jesus. From the very beginning of his faith journey, he may have been sold a Divine Bill of Goods, if you will excuse me. I hope to say more about this soon, if life does not get in the way.

The article by William Lobdell can be found
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