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In the variety of interviews I’ve done for the new book, in print and radio, the interviewer and I always seem to agree on a few things:
1) Everyone has spiritual doubts, though many of us hide them.
2) It’s better to be honest and open about our doubts rather than to ignore, suppress, or disguise them…
3) …except we live in a church culture where doubts may be feared, misunderstood, and not entirely welcome. Which leads us back to #1.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
But eventually we conclude with #4, which is something we always agree on, too:
4) Doubt shouldn’t keep us from continuing to pursue a life of faith, regardless of what language you use to describe it (“following Jesus,” “living as a Christian,” etc.)
For most believers, #4 involves going to church. The same churches from #3, that are not always comfortable with doubters. This poses a problem.
I’ve heard churches ask doubters to leave prior to a prayer service, fearing that the presence of spiritual doubt will diminish the power of that community’s prayer (James 1:6 gets cited in these occasions).
I’ve heard people say that they’d sooner admit to a porn addiction in church than to admit they aren’t entirely sure God exists.
I once got an email from a reader who said she was embarrassed to be seen reading O Me of Little Faith by her church friends and family members because she didn’t know what they might think of her.
Last week I interviewed author Nick Fiedler, who left organized Christianity a few years back while trying to come to terms with his beliefs. In response to a recent post, he commented with a question that I’ve been thinking about ever since:
After establishing that we are almost all doubters, my follow up question would be, ‘Is the church really the best place for doubters?’ In my experience, no.
Now there is always the exception, but when the doubt gets heavy or something substantial is doubted, the church gets antsy. Do you guys have a church that is good for doubters?
I want to open that question up to you. Earlier we discussed clergy who don’t believe. What about churchgoers who doubt?
Is the church the best place for them during periods of doubt — particularly if that church might be judgmental or negative toward them? Are you aware of churches who seem to do well with doubters? What can/should these churches look like?
This blog is read by pastors and parishioners. I welcome the comments of both.