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Dear Diary: “The God I believe in … ”


A friend sends this from the Anchoress at Patheos:

Sentimentalism is the force of feel-goodism, the means by which we may cast off the conventions of faith and casually dismiss those institutions that refuse to submit to the trending times and morals. The Sentimentalist trusts his feelings over hallowed authority or the urgings of his reason, frequently answering hard religious questions with some noble-sounding phrase like “The God I believe in wouldn’t . . . ” (fill in the blank). What fits in that blank is typically some tenet of traditional faith that isn’t currently fashionable, some moral demand that pop culture considers impossible—and hence, not worth even trying. Thus the Sentimentalist, while believing he follows the inviolate voice of his conscience, is really sniffing after trends, forming his heart according to the sensus fidelium of middlebrow magazines and public radio.

“The God I believe in,” by definition, does not exist for others. If his only claim on the hearer is that I believe in him, then he is something going on in my head. We are on better ground believing in God if we hear, along with many others, a divine message that challenges us but nonetheless sounds right. Not the God we believe in but the one we had better listen to. Try, for example, the Sermon on the Mount. People of other faiths may wish to offer their own texts.

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