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Why We Won’t Talk About God

Every week after publishing these blogs I post a brief summary of the blog’s contents and its accompanying image on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram and email the same to over 100 friends and family members.

I regularly hear from a couple of email recipients and get an occasional “like” on Facebook. Otherwise, I get little feedback. I’m unsure what to make of that. Blogger, the blog service I use, provides a daily count of “page views,” and I average a couple hundred views a week. But that doesn’t tell you how many people are actually reading the blog and whether or not they find it useful.

It may be that the blog is poorly written or the material boring. I believe it’s also true that many people nowadays have little patience for anything written and not on video. But I think there may be another explanation for the lack of “likes” or shares on Facebook and Instagram, and that is that talking or writing about God or religion is taboo and many would be embarrassed to give it a share or like.

Worth Reporting

That’s why I think what Tish Harrison Warren, an Anglican priest, recently wrote in the New York Times is worth reporting in this blog. The title of her article, which introduces a newsletter by Harrison Warren by the Times, is “Why We Need to Start Talking about God.”

She starts by writing that each Sunday at her church, the priest begins the service by the acclamation, “Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” It’s similar to how we Catholics begin the mass with “In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” The service begins “not with welcoming anyone in the pews but with a direct announcement about God.

“It’s a little jarring, even now that I am a priest,” she writes. “We all made an effort to get to church. We woke up early on a weekend, brushed our teeth, wrestled kids into car seats, masked up and found a place to sit. But the service doesn’t start by acknowledging any of that. No thanking everyone for showing up. Not even a bland mention of the weather or how nice everyone looks this week. Instead, I stand up in front of everyone and proclaim the presence of an invisible God.”

Profoundly Counter-Cultural

Harrison Warren sees this way of beginning a church service as profoundly counter-cultural. Even at church nowadays, many ministers and congregations prefer to focus on what we can “observe and measure without reference to God, mystery or transcendence.” This limits our faith to “solely the stuff of relationships, life hacks, sociology or politics.”

Personally, I count myself among the “Vatican II Catholics.” That is, I am highly influenced by and embrace the documents and teaching of that council of world bishops of the early 1960s in which the church attempted to throw open the windows of faith to allow in the fresh air. The council brought a new understanding and joy to my faith that has never left me.

The council documents emphasized that our faith is not just about “going to heaven” but about how we live our daily lives. But it never de-emphasized that faith is principally about establishing and maintaining a relationship with God.

As a pastor, Harrison Warren sees “in defining moments of people’s lives — the birth of children, struggles in marriage, deep loss and disappointment, moral crossroads, facing death — (that people) talk about God and the spiritual life. In these most tender moments, even those who aren’t sure what exactly they believe cannot avoid big questions of meaning: who we are, what we are here for, why we believe what we believe, why beauty and horror exist.”

Ultimate Questions and Assumptions

While we go to school, sign on to our work space, struggle with our kids, worry about our finances, we may not be “consciously thinking about God or life’s meaning or death — (but) we are still motivated in our depths by ultimate questions and assumptions about what’s right and wrong, what’s true or false and what makes for a good life.”

So why are we embarrassed about those thoughts and so reluctant to talk about them, or about God? I believe it’s a deeply held cultural fear about being seen as weird, uncool  or fanatical. And I acknowledge that religion itself – with its scandals and absurdities – is at least partially to blame.

But I see this reluctance as an obstacle to our acquisition and maintenance of our faith and the faith of others. I don’t fault people for failing to give my blog a “like,” but I would hope for more openness about matters of faith and a willingness to overcome the taboo about talking about God.

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