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Faith is not a crutch – it’s a burden

It is much easier not to be a Christian

By on Monday, 17 December 2012

ROYAL Investitures

A blogger who goes under the name of “chalcedon451” and who I always enjoy reading, has posted a comment entitled “Being a Christian?” on the blog All Along the Watchtower about the Radio 4 religious affairs programme on Sunday morning, in which the newly appointed President of the British Humanist Association, Professor Jim Al-Khalili, was interviewed. I heard the interview as well, and like chalecedon, I noted that the professor repeated an old cliché by calling religion a “crutch”. I am generally irritated by such remarks; chalcedon, more charitably, finds them illuminating.

As chalcedon remarked, this notion is shallow. He points out that “There is no point to Christianity other than that it is true. If you want comfort, watch the TV, eat chocolate, take to sex, drugs and rock and roll (many do); but don’t go near Christianity. If you want to look after the poor and neglected, do so. It is a good thing to do so and many Christians do; but that is not the point of Christianity. If you want to stand in judgement on your fellow men, well, become a Humanist; they have the smug tone once common among certain types in the churches. If you want power, influence and position, go into politics; you won’t find any of these in Christianity any more. The point of Christianity is that it is true; it points us towards God; it helps us to understand the self-revelation God has made. That should have an effect on us, but that effect depends on our relationship with God.”

I agree with him. Frankly, it would be so much easier not to be a Christian today. The culture is hostile, as is the official stance of the three main political parties, all hell-bent on being “modern”; so are most of the people we meet. Being a Christian is difficult, especially in public: a conversation-stopper and regarded as alien when it isn’t treated with downright hostility. Just to illustrate this mindset with one small example: I have been reading a memoir by journalist Miriam Gross, member of the London literati and former Observer literary editor. An Oxford graduate, cultured and well-read, she remarks in a throw-away sentence in her book, “Although I’ve always been aware of a “God-shaped hole”, religious faith of any kind seems to me to be completely irrational and self-deluding.” In other words, there are large questions about existence which cannot be answered – but which must never be looked at from a supernatural angle.

News that eleven Anglican Sisters from the Community of St Mary the Virgin in Wantage, Oxfordshire, are to become Catholic via the ordinariate bear out the truth of chalcedon’s remark in their own fashion. Some of them very elderly, they are leaving the security of the convent they have lived in for many years, not knowing where they will finally end up and without financial support. Mother Winsome, the mother superior, who is one of those leaving, stated, “We’ve got an uncertain future. But we are doing this because we truly believe this is God’s call. The Bible is full of people called to step out in faith not knowing where they were going or how they will be provided for and that truly is the situation we are following.”

This suggests courage rather than a “crutch”; a quest for truth so urgent that only faith will see one through. In a telling comment in his sermon for the feast of the Immaculate Conception on 8th December, the Holy Father said, “Sin brings with it sadness.” One might add that living a life supported by the “crutches” of human and material comforts alone, also brings sadness.

  • Cestius

    I would agree that Christianity is countercultural and in fact genuine Christianity probably always has been, even in nominally Christian ages such as Victorian times.  But I wouldn’t call it a burden – as Jesus Himself said “My yoke is easy and my burden light” and of course you should always pray for the people that mock and scoff, that is their tragedy. So I give a wry smile to those that say Christianity is a crutch, if anything they’re just likely to be following the mainstream culture and haven’t seriously thought about what they believe themselves let alone anyone else.

  • JessicaHof

    Thank you Francis – I am glad you found his comment helpful.

  • Charles Martel

     Father, I have to disagree. Living the Faith is not easy, but it’s not a burden. We are the ones living in freedom (‘And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ – John 8:32), whereas the Jews, heathens, pagans and heretics are in darkness.

  • Benedict Carter

    Yes, it WOULD be easier not to be a Catholic in today’s neo-pagan world: until the crutches of chocolate, infatuation with the internet, computer games, the cult of youthful beauty, sex, booze, drugs or whatever becomes boring and leaves you with the certainty that you have wasted your life and are empty of the capacity to love. I know this well, I’ve been there. 

    Let’s remember the Lord’s words: “He loves me who follows my commandments”, and St. Paul’s exhortations to run the race to the very end. 

    One nano-second of hell will persuade us of the truth of our Holy Faith: let’s live united to Christ in the Sacraments and in prayer, and avoid mortal sin like the devil himself. 

    Eternal life awaits with the Risen Lord as one of His Saints. 

  • Erin Pascal

    Indeed, it would be much easier to not be a Christian in this materialistic, self-centered society that we are living in. But I choose to follow Christ no matter how difficult the road may be. If Jesus Christ left His Father, His wonderful home and His life of majesty just to save us all from our sins, surely I lowly sinner could do no offer Him nothing but my steadfast faith.

    Earthly joys are temporary. Living a life ruled by Christ brings genuine happiness and contentment. God bless us all in our journey home!

  • paulpriest

    Yes it’s a burden – it’s a cross and an exceedingly heavy one from a certain perspective i.e. in comparison to the ostensible ease, recklessness, thoughtlessness, oblivious relativistic arbitrariness of those who do not believe….

    …until one discerns the consequences – the nightmare nihilistic existential angst of a cruel vindictive universe that callously inflicts all manner of ills merely to intensify entropy and accelerate its own suicide…

    the universe does not become indifferent – it becomes evil…

    and that terror must be confronted
    we either take Sartre’s approach and say well if it’s a joke we make it a good one and if the cosmos treats us like a cruel child burning ants with a magnifying glass? we ants fight back!

    or we turn to the cross and the truth, wonder, beauty and love in the world and we realise we have hope and that hope is real and true…
    ..and the burden of our cross is truly light…

  • Nesbyth

    I found much in this article to appreciate and to make me think.
    I was particularly struck by the words of the Pope in Rome on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception that Francis quotes: “Sin brings with it sadness”.
     How economical is that short sentence, how profound and how true.

  • JFJ

    Dear Francis, I always look forward to
    reading your articles, but I must say, none more than this one.  I have nothing to add other than to say
    that for me it presented a simple yet profound reminder, and a desire to once
    again commit afresh to the truth of Christ.  Thank you.

  • Rizzo The Bear

    Christians – especially we Roman Catholics – don’t do easy. 

    Never have, never will.

    Ad Majoram Dei Gloriam!

  • NewMeena

    Catholicism is a burden because Catholics believe they must suffer for their faith. We liberals actually enjoy helping Catholics suffers because it helps them fulfill their goals of being masochistic.

  • Charles Laf

     I know I suffer with your childish and inane comments.

  • Kevin

    Well put.

  • Alan

    I agree.  It is sometimes said that we convince ourselves that our faith is true because we want to get to heaven.  But this can be put the other way round: there is always the possibility of damnation, and simple annihilation would be far preferable.  So atheists, we could say, have a vested interest in remaining that way.

  • Paul

    Since the beginning of Jesus’ ministry right up to the present there have been multitudes of the afflicted who were able to throw away their cruthes, open their eyes for the first time, walk free from debilitating illness of body and mind, have demons lifted from their backs …  I am one of them.  To all of us he says, ‘your faith has saved you,’ and ‘your faith has made you well.’  What an everlasting joy to have that faith by the power of the indwelling Spirit!  What a lifegiving gift.  Glory to him forever.
    That same faith is a burden?  Sorry.  Don’t see it like that.

    ‘Not a crutch, a burden’ sounds a little like, ‘I’m not an Epicurean, I’m a Stoic.’
    Contrarianism bounces us into making false choices. 

  • Sweetjae

    Suffering is just an integral part of human existence and just like death, nobody can escape. What we catholics believe is that, since both are inescapable, we just accept it wholeheartedly with our God. Suffering for us is not wasted and has a profound and meaningful purpose while the humanist/atheist/agnostics just wonder why, some curse, others bitter and most are lost in a black void.

  • matt

    Sometimes I think atheism is easy and Christianity is difficult.   But when I spend time with my best friend, who left Christianity for atheism, I’m not so sure.  His soul seems to have shrunk.  His capacity for real hope and joy is nearly gone.  He’s a smart guy who has thought his atheism through, and his belief in the annihilation of death overshadows so much of his conversation.  Christ’s cross is a happy burden indeed.

  • teigitur

    You don t help us suffer. You are a great source of mirth.

  • teigitur

    It can be on a Sunday morning after a little too much sauce the night before, when one has to rise for Mass. But, mostly its a joy.

  • Deodatus

    Paul knew this, especially while in prison, but could write happily and with joy of his faith…

  • Deodatus

    There is an angst and horror of utter ‘aloneness’ at the heart of atheism – the gentle but urgent love of Christ trembles at the edge of this ‘black hole’ but needs to have a hand upon which to grasp.  I found a little book, Les Echos du Silence by Sylvie Germain, a wonderful help in explaining the gracious reticence of God in this and other situations of apparent abandonment. 

  • Charles Martel

     Sorry, Francis, for calling you ‘Father’. I got confused. I was confusing you with the priest, Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith, who argues for legalising drugs (Yes! You couldn’t make it up!).

  • Sweetjae

    Probably what she (Francis) meant was that our Faith is a “burden” in the sense of taking the secular lingo and mentality of “why-bother-with-the-Truth-where-you-can-have-every-pleasure?” Not in the sense that our Faith is indeed truly liberating even in the midst of hardship, trial and self-denial.

  • NewMeena



    PS: This does illustrate that some people really can plumb the depths!

  • NewMeena

     I MEAN THE POSTING ABOVE WHICH BEGINS WITH:  “Catholicism is a burden because Catholics believe they must suffer for their faith”.

  • NewMewena


    NewMeena does not believe this and would never say it.

  • NewMeena

     Dear Charles. The above posting beginning “Catholicism is a burden because Catholics believe they must suffer for their faith” is a forgery.
    Please see above.

  • NewMeena

    The posting below: ” Catholicism is a burden because Catholics believe they must suffer for
    their faith. We liberals actually enjoy helping Catholics suffers
    because it helps them fulfill their goals of being masochistic.” is a forgery – it was NOT posted by myself, i.e. the person who has posted under this name for the last few months or so.

    The fraudulent posting does NOT express my beliefs.

    In future I will never again post under the name of NewMeena, but under a different label. I shall have to think about this.
    I’m disappointed that a few people could think that I would post such disagreeable nonsense.
    I have no wish to make Catholics – or anyone else – suffer. I do not believe that Catholics are necessarily masochistic.

  • Sweetjae

    Do you mean someone else posted it and it’s not you?

  • JabbaPapa

    I do not believe that Catholics are necessarily masochistic

    luuurrrrve your “not necessarily” — is it “optional” or something ?

  • JabbaPapa

    I agree with Charles’ comment regardless,,,

  • NewMeena