Adolescent and Adult Faith

The following quotation comes from a newspaper clipping that I got from a friend who got it from a friend who got it from a friend… the best I could find out is that the article originally appeared in the Catholic Times of Montreal. The author, Daniel Cere, is writing about a recent appearance by Franciscan author/speaker Richard Rohr at a local Jesuit spirituality center.

"In his presentation, Rohr paints a sharp contrast between two forms or stages of faith.  One form he characterizes as an ‘adolescent’ faith, which is dominated by the intellect, will, dogmatism and moralism. This type of Catholicism demands certainty, manipulation and control and produces paranoid, fearful personalities.

"The other type of Catholicism generates an ‘adult’ faith, which highlights inclusion, relationality, equality, mysticism, the authority of inner experience and a willingness to let go. This form revels in fluidity, paradox and mystery." 

Three comments in response to this. First, these distinctions are hardly unique to Catholicism. Any faith tradition, from Anglicanism to Zen, can have its structure-dominated adolescents or its mystically flexible adults. Second, I think it’s important to note that it is not so much a line as a continuum that separates the two forms, meaning that anybody can flow back and forth between adolescent and adult expressions of faith, depending on the context, circumstances, sense of comfort and safety, and other factors that shape the faith experience at any given moment in time. And finally, I think it is critical that if one’s personal faith style tends toward the "adult" expression, to strive to express compassion rather than judgment toward those whose faith is more "adolescent" in character. And vice versa.

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