(Blog post written by Jim DeKorne, Vice President of School Services @ CSI)
Faith appears to be going mainstream. Politically, US presidential candidates have been publicly trumpeting their faith experiences (here and here and here), while in Canada, the upcoming Ontario elections are turning into a referendum on funding faith-based schools (see here and here) —and for a story that includes comments on that topic from a student at OACS and CSI-member Redeemer Christian School in Ottawa, click here.)
Of course, the cynic’s reply to this public touting of personal faith is that faith is simply a cheap ploy to win votes or buy elections.
And that’s what makes the most recent public foray into the topic of faith quite interesting. Mother Teresa has been regarded as an icon of long-suffering love for the poorest of the poor, and certainly a woman of great faith. However, a new book (Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light) reveals Mother Teresa’s own deep crisis of faith. According to her own correspondence, her doubt did not just surface occasionally, but was a constant companion throughout her entire ministry. (The review of the book in the August 23 Time magazine is worth reading. You can find it here.)
To Christopher Hitchens—society’s most vocal atheist du jour—these revelations only confirm that the whole business of faith itself is a fraud. He muses that her admitted mental and spiritual anguish “…is the inevitable result of a dogma that asks people to believe impossible things and then makes them feel abject and guilty when their innate reason rebels.” (You can find his complete statements here.)
But to a believer, doubt is simply the other side of the faith coin. In a world where God is not yet fully King for all to see, the experience of God’s silence is universally shared—by David (Ps 35:13ff et.al), by Jesus himself (Mt 27:46), and surely by you and me. Indeed, what is more instructive about the news of Mother Teresa—that she had deep struggles, or that she continued to minister in spite of those struggles?
We’ve started another year in our “faith-based” schools. What, exactly, is the nature of that faith? Or to put it another way, what is it that we believe but can’t yet see? Start with this: It is a faith that sees not just the external created world around us, but the Creator behind it; it is a faith big enough to see what our students might become in the Lord’s hands; it is a faith broad enough to encompass all students in our Christian community, and bold enough to trust God with our future.
And it is also a faith that can be modeled, celebrated, and nurtured in our schools. What doubts do your students have? Is your school a place where those questions can be expressed appropriately? Some schools need to become much freer with speaking about one’s walk with Christ, and a place where Scripture is routinely woven throughout discussions. Other schools need to eliminate their pious-sounding blather and simply get real.
The world is asking lots of questions about faith. What a privilege to live out and nurture that faith daily in the hallways and classrooms of our schools!
For further reading:
Douglas Wilson debated Christopher Hitchens online a few months ago around the topic “Is Christianity Good for the World?” You can find the text here. The ideas presented are quite accessible to upper level students, and you may find it instructive to wrap some research and dialogue around the debate.