This Washington Post article caught my eye: “I’m not passing my parents’ religion on to my kids, but I am teaching their values.”
The author is Jared Bilski, a writer and comedian based in Pennsylvania. He tells of growing up in the Catholic church, attending Catholic school from kindergarten through high school, and serving as an altar boy and a church reader. He says he “even strongly considered going into the priesthood.”
However, Bilski writes, “I lost faith in my faith. There were too many unanswered questions, too many problematic absolutes, too much fearmongering and way too much hypocrisy. For a religion that placed such a premium on loving thy neighbor, it sure had a lot of restrictions on whom you were allowed to love.”
The clergy-abuse scandal was the last straw. When it broke, Bilski says, “I knew I’d never return.”
However, he wants his two children to have “a solid understanding of all religions” and “respect for what others believe.” He explains: “After all, the Golden Rule is something that should be instilled in all children, regardless of their religion or lack thereof.”
As a result, Bilski and his wife intend to “expose our children to everything, spiritually speaking, to honestly answer any questions they may have about God and religion, and to let them choose for themselves.”
Most of all, he wants to pass along to his children the morality he learned from his mother. Bilski concludes: “That type of foundation matters far more than what church you belong to or whether you’re baptized because, in the end, actions will always speak louder than words, even the words of the Bible.”
Jared Bilski speaks for many Americans
I am devoting today’s article to Bilski’s commentary for two reasons. One: He clearly intends to be an evangelist for his position, as does the Post in publishing it (apparently without seeking a response from the other side). Two: His argument is becoming more popular each day.
As I noted last Thursday, the number of Americans who say they have “no religion” (23.1 percent) now exceeds the number of Catholics (23 percent) and evangelicals (22.5 percent). This equates to fifty-eight million “nones.”
Why are so many people deciding against religious engagement?
When Pew Research Center asked a representative sample of more than 1,300 religiously unaffiliated people that question, their first answer was, “I question a lot of religious teachings” (60 percent). In second place was “I don’t like the positions churches take on social/political issues” (49 percent).
Other issues included: “I don’t like religious organizations” (41 percent); “I don’t believe in God” (37 percent); “Religion is irrelevant to me” (36 percent); and “I don’t like religious leaders” (34 percent).
Clearly, Jared Bilski speaks for many Americans. Let’s respond to four issues he raises.
One: “Unanswered questions”
Bilski’s “unanswered questions” were the first reason he “lost faith in my faith.” Like many in the Pew survey, he seems to assume that if he doesn’t know the answers, they don’t exist. Since he doesn’t understand some dimensions of the Christian faith, he has chosen to abandon it.
Imagine applying this standard of intellectual comprehension to other areas of life. For instance, I hope Bilski doesn’t limit his family’s health care to the medical options he understands personally.
Two: “Hypocrisy” in the church
Bilski rejects the “hypocrisy” in the church and is troubled by its clergy abuse scandal. Hypocrisy in the church is indeed tragic, and a single clergy abuse victim is too many. We should hold ourselves to a higher standard than others in the culture and respond more quickly to failures in our midst.
However, isn’t rejecting the church because of the failings of some Christians akin to rejecting education because of the failures of some teachers or medical care because of the abuses of some doctors?
Three: “Restrictions on whom you were allowed to love”
Bilski is especially upset with the church’s “restrictions on whom you were allowed to love.” Since his father was gay (the subject of an earlier Washington Post article), his frustrations are understandable.
Four: Morality without God
Bilski believes that he can pass along the morality he learned from his mother without attending her church. This is the “we can be good without God” claim. It is such a significant issue that I’ll devote tomorrow’s article to it.
For today, let’s note that the source of the morality Bilski admires is not his mother but the “words of the Bible” she obeys but he discounts. A car without fuel won’t run very far.
“He it is that bears much fruit”
Christians can be more like Jared Bilski than we may know. It’s tempting to do life in our strength and even to serve God without depending on God.
But human words cannot save human souls. We need to be yielded to the Spirit to be used fully by the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). He will then work through us to draw the Jared Bilskis we know to himself.
Have you asked the Spirit to empower you yet today?