Culture At Large

Losing faith on the religion beat

Andy Rau

Former LA Times religion writer William Lobdell tells a sad and moving story about how his job as a religion reporter wore down his faith. As a relatively new Christian, he was thrilled at the opportunity to "write about religion for The Times and bring light into the newsroom." But after years spent writing about sex abuse in the Catholic church, predatory televangelists, and countless other examples of evil perpetrated by representatives of Christianity, he found his own faith being slowly eroded.

Lobdell's loss of faith was gradual, not the result of a single experience. Furthermore, he's familiar with the usual Christian responses to sin within the church, but in the end didn't find them sufficient. As he puts it:

I understood that I was witnessing the failure of humans, not God. But in a way, that was the point. I didn't see these institutions drenched in God's spirit. Shouldn't religious organizations, if they were God-inspired and -driven, reflect higher standards than government, corporations and other groups in society?

I found an excuse to skip services that Easter. For the next few months, I attended church only sporadically. Then I stopped going altogether.

I'm sure there are plenty of explanations we could advance for Lobdell's loss of faith--maybe he wasn't mature enough in the faith to leap into a journalistic career that put him in touch with humanity at its worst; maybe his initial conversion to Christianity was based on emotion alone, or on shaky theology. I don't know. But he certainly believed his faith to be genuine; and when he felt his beliefs being threatened, he turned to mentors in the church for counsel. But ultimately he felt he couldn't reconcile his faith with the way he saw the institutional church behaving. (Note that the article strongly suggests that Lobdell has abandoned the Christian faith, but we can't know for sure where he's at spiritually.)

What's your reaction to this? Have you ever been so upset by sinful behavior in the church that you considered simply turning your back on all of Christianity? If you have been in a situation like that, what did you decide to do, and why did you do it? And lastly, if Lobdell had come to you with his growing frustration, how would you have advised him? Would your response have differed from the response Lobdell relates hearing from his own pastor?


Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, Theology, News & Politics, Justice