Learning to grow into one’s faith can be a tricky journey. Growing up as a Catholic, I knew that I was in the “right” religion. As Catholics, we always understood that we were “number 1” in God’s book. We had beautiful Bibles, which were large and ornate, and we polished them every week to keep a shining glow on them. Yet, we never really opened them, as we didn’t want to ruin their pristine appearance. We attended church every Sunday without miss and were extra faithful during Lent, always making sure we gave up our choice candies and sodas to show our love for God and each other(?) in a special way. We faithfully said the Rosary and repeated our organized prayers faithfully. I remember attending church numerous times after a day of partying at my Saturday afternoon college football games “three sheets to the wind” but not wanting to miss evening mass!
Then, about 15 years ago, I was serving on the Planning Board for the city of Portage when a church group presented their desire to build a new building in the area. I immediately felt called to this church and made the change from Catholicism to non-denominational – and I fell in love with a Christ I had never known. The power of learning about walking in faith, claiming your gifts, and learning the Bible were so powerful to me – and I jumped into this new-found faith with my whole being.
I learned, loved, and grew in my new beliefs, but I also found myself on a short-lived, judgmental journey. As I became bold in my faith, I expressed at times to friends and family how they were not living their life correctly and, although I truly hate admitting it, I began to find myself extra critical of others and judgmental of their lifestyles. Of course, it was only a short-lived journey, because my kids quickly and honestly pointed out to me that, “Mom, you are being a jerk!”
Yet, I found myself straddling a belief system I didn’t know how to handle. I was powerfully integrated in my faith, but I was forsaking my world outside of my Christian walk, and worse than that, I was judging it! But, in the end, I realized there is room for both worlds: I can be a loving Christian and still be able to walk with those who may not be on the same journey as me. I quickly understood (with the not-so-understanding encouragement of my kids) that there truly are two worlds that can live together – and I can grow within both worlds without sacrificing one for the other.
I think that’s a part of what Noll was trying to say in his book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. I realized that, after his in-depth history lesson, he was just enforcing the fact that people need to be “well-rounded” and educated in many areas of their life, so their life can be viewed by others as a life worth embracing. Noll expressed that Christians have failed notably in sustaining a serious intellectual life. Noll notes that “the evangelical ethos is atavistic, populist, pragmatic, and utilitarian. It allows little space for broader or deeper intellectual effort because it is dominated by the urgencies of the moment.”
I think that sometimes religious peeps don’t allow themselves to grow, because they live their life in self-righteous boxes and often jump into a “better than others” attitude with judgement and condemnation. Often, we don’t understand that just because others live differently, they don’t need our condemnation, but instead need us to meet them where they are at and help them find their way to a better place.
Voltaire, who was a philosopher famous for his criticism of Catholicism, once said that “we should judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” Although I don’t agree with Voltaire’s philosophy about religion, I do appreciate this quote from him. It is through the questions of others that we can truly learn and grow – and it allows us to walk with others on their journey. Because, as motivation speaker Wayne Dyer once quoted: “when you judge another, you do not define them…you define yourself.” Touche’!
 Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994), 3.
 Ibid, 54.