Workshop on faith looks doubts in the eye
Faith is a journey and facing doubts is part of the journey, according to Frank Schaeffer, a best-selling New York Times author and popular blogger for the Huffington Post.
Schaeffer will present a workshop “Articulating an Authentic Faith for People Who Don’t Like Religion (or Atheism)” on Saturday, sharing his journey from conservative evangelical beliefs to joining the Eastern Orthodox Church.
“I tell people my own doubts, my own story. People aren’t used to hearing people share doubts,” Schaeffer said Monday in a phone interview.
“I give a relatively short talk and open up for discussion. It gets pretty lively. I enjoy them (discussions) and other people do, too.”
The “Articulating an Authentic Faith” workshop will take place 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 314 N. Division St., Carson City. Cost is $75 (which includes a continental breakfast and lunch). Preregistration is recommended.
A free introductory lecture will be offered 7-8:30 p.m. Friday.
Schaeffer, the author of numerous fiction and nonfiction books including “Patience with God – Faith for People Who Don’t Like Religion (or Atheism),” believes that the vast majority of people inhabits a middle ground between fundamentalist extremes. Many people get tongue-tied when attempting to share their faith in the face of much louder, dogmatic voices.
“Articulating an Authentic Faith” focuses on how to live rather than what to believe.
Schaeffer is the son of influential conservative evangelicals and authors Francis and Edith Schaeffer. He partly grew up in Switzerland where his parents pioneered L’Abri Fellowship, a place for open discussion about what it means to be a Christian in the modern world. As a young adult, Schaeffer and his father (who died in 1984) were pioneers in the fundamentalist movement that birthed the Moral Majority and other conservative groups.
Schaeffer has since changed direction and his writings are often critical of both the evangelical agenda and the “fundamentalist atheism” of writers such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris.
“It’s not really a love-hate relationship with evangelicalism, it’s more the opening of Pandora’s Box and asking questions,” Schaeffer said.
“For those who were taught Truth with a capital T, there’s still a lot to discuss. (Both extreme religion and atheism) are caricatures. Most people are between the extremes and they’re relieved when someone’s not trying to push them.”
As to the notion that he’s rejected his parents’ faith, he says, “Which Francis Schaeffer, which Edith Schaeffer? The 1950s Calvinists; the 1960s gurus at L’Abri? The old Francis, disillusioned, who wrote ‘The Great Evangelical Disaster,’ yet was ensnared by fundamentalism? … I think he wound up with a much wider point of view, himself.”
Changing opinions are part of the spiritual journey Schaeffer said, noting the contradictions of his own early writing compared to now.
“I don’t think my journey is a departure from their journey, it’s a continuation.”
Schaeffer sees his current faith, not as an angry response to his background, but as distancing himself from dogma.
“I’m a writer, not a preacher or a theologian. I take comfort in the journey I’m on,” he said. “My interest in sharing, is that people who come from strict religious background and fiery and passionate homes are rethinking what they were taught when kids. I’m someone who will do my best to honestly discuss the issues.”
For registration information for the workshop “Articulating an Authentic Faith for People Who Don’t Like Religion (or Atheism),” contact St. Peter’s Episcopal Church or call the Rev. Kim Morgan at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church at 775-883-1681 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Registration forms can be found at stpeterscarsoncity.org.