The Hoax of Private Faith

by Caroline Ferdinandse

privateParadoxes are so cool these days, they’re hot. We’re reading more these days just as we’re reading less. The underground rock band Gotye is mainstream. Less clothing apparently gives women more power. I demand to know what else is upside down.

Oh, and there’s one more thing: the Christian faith–made up of countless public followers of Jesus Christ working as one body for thousands of years–has also been made the most private.

Since when?

In the past ten years, the growing consensus is that “faith is a highly personal matter.” In  particular, we are told to keep radical Christian beliefs tucked away. Sexual closets have been flung open, and serious followers of Jesus have been asked to get inside instead. University campuses may accept private faith as authentic, but public faith is flogged in the intellectual town square. Faith is good to have around for some things, like yoga or kindness to strangers, but rather worthless when it comes to intellectual vigor.

Of course, some prefer Christianity both ways: highly personal when it comes to self-indulgence and freedom of doctrine, but communal when it comes to social justice. (Americans do cheer for public faith when it takes poor people off the government’s hands, but we’d rather not hear about the real transformation that motivates such love.)

We hear the criticisms all the time. An anonymous commenter on a popular Christian blog writes that “based on my observations so far, religion doesn’t seem that far apart from slavery. Servitude, blind faith . . . these are all blatant characteristics of slavery.”  This, according to him, has disqualified Christianity. He’s right…


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