Taking the Risk of Faith

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Taking the Risk of Faith

One of the big problems with catechesis in the past is that our church leaders, teachers, and catechists have been content for the pew sitters to be polite conformists. They have schooled children in their religious duties and proper moral behavior and never expected anything more. In The Book of Revelation, the Lord has a few choice words for the polite conformists: “Because you are lukewarm I will spit you out of my mouth.”

The second type of response to Christ’s call is “outright rebellion.” This is when the teen says, “Fugeddaboudit. This religion thing is dumb and all the grown-ups who say they believe are a load of hypocrites. I’m outta here.” It’s an understandable adolescent response. Too often the same response carries on into adulthood. In “outright rebellion” the individual is actively opposed to Christ and his church and believes he has good reason to be.

When I talk on this subject I ask teenagers, “Which is better, ‘polite conformity’ or ‘outright rebellion.’?” They always get it right and reply, “Outright rebellion.” This shocking answer is correct because at least the person who is in outright rebellion has taken the claims of the faith seriously and although he has rejected it, he is thinking it through. The polite conformist never thinks it through and may mistake his polite conformity for real faith for his whole life. Cocooned in a secure world with other polite conformists he never once gives the reality of his faith a second thought.

The third response is “intelligent enquiry”. The person who responds to the challenge of faith most authentically does so with intelligence, wit, and grace. He questions in a spirit of honest enquiry and curiosity. In other words, he takes the risk of faith. He steps out to discover for himself and learn about the faith through his own experience. He doesn’t mind challenging his religious teachers, but he does so with a genuine desire to learn and grow.

To really explore the faith demands not only an intellectual quest to understand, but the risk of commitment, self-discipline, study, and self-sacrifice. Through intelligent enquiry one embarks on a heroic adventure. We call it a risk because to go on that adventure requires one to leave his old world behind and launch out into the unknown.

St Paul says, “We walk by faith and not by sight.” What he means is that the life of faith is a great adventure or it is nothing at all.  Outright rebellion is a sad and immature rejection of the faith, and polite conformity is no faith at all. Intelligent enquiry launches us out of our comfort zone to take the risk of faith.

That risk is the risk of everything, so at the end of our exploring, we will have reached the omega point where all is harvest—where we gain all things, know all things, and are known and welcomed home.

Reprinted with permission from Those Catholic Men. Check out more articles like this one in Sword&Spade.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most of his life living and working in England.

Fr Longenecker was brought up in an Evangelical home in Pennsylvania. After graduating from the fundamentalist Bob Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, he went to study theology at Oxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and served as a curate, a school chaplain in Cambridge and a country parson on the Isle of Wight.

Realizing that he and the Anglican Church were on divergent paths, in 1995 Fr. Dwight and his family were received into the Catholic Church. Fr Dwight spent the next ten years working as a freelance Catholic writer, contributing to over twenty-five magazines, papers and journals in Britain, Ireland and the USA. In addition he has written sixteen books on Catholic spirituality, apologetics and culture and he has one of America’s top rated religious blogs—Standing on My Head.

In 2006 Dwight returned with his family to the United States and was ordained as a Catholic priest under the Pastoral Provision—a system through which married former Protestant ministers may receive a dispensation from the vow of celibacy in order to be ordained as Catholic priests. He is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary church in Greenville, South Carolina. Visit his website and browse his books at dwightlongenecker.com.

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