A very thoughtful column by David Brooks in the New York Times today (“Alone, Yet Not Alone”) caught our eyes this morning. Its thematic is in the second paragraph:
There is a gap between the way many believers experience faith and the way that faith is presented to the world.
The first paragraph presents the problem:
There is a vein of hostility against orthodox religious believers in America today, especially among the young. When secular or mostly secular people are asked to give their impression of the devoutly faithful, the words that come up commonly include “judgmental,” “hypocritical,” “old fashioned” and “out of touch.”
The column is well worth reading in full—and should be relatively easy to get on-line even by those who are not subscribers to the paper. It illustrates a general problem reaching far beyond its contrast between religious and secularist behavior. Prejudices arise when people misinterpret what they do not understand and have never experienced. Every human avocation will have its behavioral counterparts; if only the behavior is seen, and the motivation behind it is hidden from view—as internal experiences will inevitably be—superficial appearances will be misread by the uninformed.
Misreading behavior, of course, can also be found among believers—who fail to cut the secularists slack. Pope Francis has been pointing that out in recent times. The story also reminded me of a Sufi snippet I read somewhere in the work of Idries Shah. It concerns a Sufi teacher called Abdul Qasim Gurgani. Eager want-to-be disciples surrounded him and once pestered him about his humility. He said: “My humility which you mention is not there for you to be impressed by it. It is there for its own reason.”