Thursday, August 17, 2006

Gotta Serve Somebody

It never ceases to amaze me when someone says something like "But you don't seem religious; you're so intelligent."

Why is it that intellectuals -- particularly those who don't wish to have anyone else's faith pressed upon themselves -- are so quick to deny others their faith? It really boggles the mind.

We had this experience on Saturday night when we went out to dinner with some new friends. Wonderful people that we are delighted and excited to know. In so many ways, they are more like us than anyone else we've met in years. We are so excited to be getting to know these folks. But, that said, now I feel a shadow cast over my enthusiasm.

They didn't say this, but my perception is that they think that because I have faith in God, practice a religion, and believe in something bigger than myself, that I am somehow, intellectually inferior.

I didn't want to argue the point, but I was mentally making a list of people of faith and great intellect. Just off the top of my head I can think of: Albert Einstein, Thomas Merton, C.S. Lewis, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Walker Percy, Dorothy Day, John Newman, Graham Greene. Of course, there are a lot of Catholics on that list because, well, I'm Catholic, and they're probably the ones I know the most about.

Clearly, I don't put myself in league with those people. But I'm no idiot. And I certainly don't think that my faith lessens my ability to think. I came to my faith through a great deal of thought. As is true with many Catholic converts, I thought my way into my faith and into the Church. There were a lot of obstacles to overcome, many things I disagree with. But no other faith spoke to both my heart and my mind the way Catholicism did. The belief in the unity of good works and faith drew me to Catholicism perhaps more than any other facet of the faith. And now here I am. Unwilling to accept the notion that intelligence and faith are mutually exclusive ideals.

Thankfully, everyone involved Saturday night was willing to have an open dialogue on the subject and to accept each others' beliefs.

And that alone was enough to maintain my faith in friendship.

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