Marie Boston

Fear is the faith-killer

By  Marie Boston, Youth Speak News
  • February 1, 2013

This semester, I am enrolled in a course on the History of the Reformation, the 16th-century movement led by Martin Luther which caused a break in the Catholic Church and resulted in Protestantism.

At first, I was hesitant to sign up for such a course in case the professor decided to take an anti-Catholic view on the topic, as is often the case on a secular campus. Fearful questions started to pop up in my mind. Would my faith be challenged and broken? Would I have to speak up if he taught false Catholic teachings? Would I realize some horrible truth about our Catholic heritage and leave the Church?

The course appeared to be the most interesting one available at the time, and I could have always dropped it if the subject matter became too hard to handle. So I decided to sign up.

On the first day, my professor explained that the course would look at all the causes and effects of the Reformation, without posturing Luther as a hero and the Catholic Church as the villain. What a surprising relief! In secular institutions, you don’t always know what you’re going to get.

I have grown up Catholic and had been pretty firm in my staunchly conservative religious beliefs, but there has recently been a point in my faith where I no longer felt sure of it any more. Because of this lack of certainty, my faith has wavered to the point of failing. So what if a class like this were to reveal something to me that would push me over the edge? Would I abandon God all together?

Hebrews 13:5-6 says, “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’ ” It is so easy to read these verses, but not easy to carry them out, since reason can sometimes be thwarted when I don’t feel very bold and fearless.

In his fictional novel, The Screwtape Letters, Christian apologist C.S. Lewis writes about the demon Screwtape who tells his nephew Wormwood, “There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against the Enemy (God). He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.”

Fear is the opposite of action. Fear is dwelling on “what ifs” and going over and over again in our heads all of the awful possibilities the future holds, like my fear of abandoning Catholicism and God because of what I learn in class.

I read that psychologists suggest that exposure is a primary way to overcome fear. Exposure involves directly confronting the fear and capitalizing on familiarity. If I am afraid of learning about secular views on the Church, I should take a class that will do just that.

We are called to love our neighbour, and what better way to love them than to understand where they’re coming from, even if it is in contradiction to our way. And who knows, we just might end up learning more about our faith in a positive way, as I am in my Reformation class.

(Boston, 25, is a third-year fine arts student at the University of Calgary.)


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