The Name Of Your God

Ezra, who is seven, was riding in the back seat of our car with a friend a few weeks back, and their discussion turned to God. He wanted to clarify things a bit, I guess, because he suggested the following:  “I have a good idea.  On the count of three, we’ll both shout out the name of our God.  Okay?”

His friend nodded, and Ezra began to count.  “One….two….three!”

The other boy shouted, “Je-,” but stopped short when he realized that Ezra wasn’t participating.  His version of you-show-me-yours-I’ll-show-you-mine was all a ruse.

“Aha!  I thought so,” announced Ezra triumphantly.  “But I wanted to make sure.”

Talking to friends about faith can be tough.

Having “come to Jesus” late in life, though, I seem to have a relatively easier time of it. Perhaps being raised by a new-agy mom and a secular Jewish dad, and spending most of my life as an agnostic, helps me feel comfortable in all kinds of circles. Whatever it is, I find that most people seem to enjoy the discussion.

Despite living in the academic vortex of the universe, I’ve almost never encountered negative reactions when talking about my faith.  My professors respected my decision not to work on the Sabbath, encouraged me to integrate faith into classroom discussions, and worked hard to provide helpful feedback when I wrote about Jesus. My kids’ teachers were at first surprised when I didn’t want the boys to make altars to their ancestors; but when I explained my perspective, they respected it, even if they didn’t quite get it. Honestly, talking about faith just hasn’t been tough.

The truth is, though, that while I’m comfortable talking about Jesus in any context, I don’t usually feel the need to.  But a recent comment by Christie on my last post got me thinking. Responding to Fightin’ Words, she wrote:

I guess also I wasn’t quite sure what the post had to do with faith at all, and (as a religious studies academic on temporary hiatus) was surprised to find it hosted by Patheos, which encourages balanced views of spirit and faith.

Which is a good point.  But I’m not sure what to do with it.  I assume that one’s worldview is at the root of all behavior, including mine, but I don’t always think to make it explicit.  Should I?

In my post, I could have talked about how important it is for me to respect the dignity of each person as created by God, which is why I find off-putting language less funny over the years. I could have talked about the prayer that went into our decision to homeschool – it wasn’t simply a matter of educational and lifestyle choices. But should I always do that?  Even on a site dedicated to religious dialogue, is it always necessary to spell out the religious undergirding of our thinking?

I work hard to be prayerful, in line with Scripture, and in community with thoughtful believers.  I fail often, to be sure, but faith informs my every thought, deed, and word. Certainly, I don’t want people to have to devise covert schemes to get me to blurt out, “Jesus.” If it’s not apparent after a short while that I love Jesus, I’m not being clear about who I really am.

But maybe the blog can be like my actual conversations with people, yes?  Is it possible to build relationships via a blog, so that we come to know, by and by, the names of each other’s gods?  If not, we can always resort to Ezra’s plan.  Come on everybody, on the count of three…

  • http://www.nancyfrench.com Nancy French

    Great post, Tara!

  • Timothy Dalrymple

    I’m with you, Tara. Patheos is big enough to include conversations that are not explicitly religious, but oriented toward values and thoughtful ways of living in the world. At the Evangelical Portal, which I manage, sometimes I want to feature an author reflecting on evangelicalism, but sometimes I just want to feature a thoughtful evangelical reflecting on music or art or gardening or etc. We sometimes have to clarify that Patheos is not intended solely for intra- or inter-religious issues, but can have people working out the practical matters of life and society, trusting that those are inevitably informed by their faiths and values.


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