Brad Pitt made a personal belief statement this week at the Cannes Film Festival. At a press conference prompting his new film, The Tree of Life, a Terrence Malick film about creation, Pitt said:
“Many people find religion to be very inspiring. Myself, I found it very stifling. I grew up with Christianity and I remember questioning it greatly. Some things didn't work for me. Some things did.
“I grew up being told God is going to take care of everything and it doesn't always work out that way. And then you're told ‘Well, it’s God’s will.’ I got my issues. Man, you don't want to get me started.” (USA Today)
“Religion works. I know there’s comfort there, a crash pad. It’s something to explain the world and tell you there is something bigger than you, and it is going to be all right in the end.”
The Oscar-nominated actor said he doesn’t believe in God in an interview with Bild.com back in 2009.
“I’m probably 20 percent atheist and 80 percent agnostic. I don’t think anyone really knows. You’ll either find out or not when you get there, until then there’s no point thinking about it.”
Rather than making a reactive defense of Christianity, this blog is meant to just be my personal experience responding to Pitt’s revelation.
Since time began, humanity has waged wars over ideals—breaking men on battlefields and engaging in intellectually-minded debates. Beliefs are arguable; but one thing we cannot disregard is a person’s experience. No one can refute Pitt’s personal experience with religion, just as no one can refute mine.
Let me explain… Like Pitt, my childhood years were spent at my parents’ church on Sunday morning. Yet, I couldn’t disagree with his statement at Cannes more. The difference seems lies in our encounters with God and subsequent perceptions of how faith looks.
Stifling: (adj.) suffocating; oppressively close
That word cannot be shaken from my conscience. On the one hand, I’m taken aback. On the other, I am not so surprised.
Freedom – not restriction – is all I’ve ever felt. Free to live a full life full under God’s grace and forgiveness, not His judgment. My faith growing up in the Church was filled with personal healing and restoration far beyond what is humanly possible.
Which makes me question, what could have lead to a “stifling” experience? One could guess it was – as Pitt said – “religion”, man’s attempt at putting God in understandable terms.
I’ve always viewed the concept with discontent. Faith in Christ is simple. It’s the revelation that God is more real than I am, that His Holy Word (a book thousands of years old, yet still inspirational today) is proven true, and that His love outshines the depth of man’s rejection of Him.
Pitt’s comments cause one to reflect—not just about those who don’t believe, but also regarding the religious who misrepresent faith. Included in that group is myself.
What John 13 says convicts at the deepest level.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. John 13:35
We are His disciples, and instead of showing faith to the world, somehow we've established religion. It's sobering to realize that some non-believers only know we are His because we tell them we are. A sad reality is that some who grew up in the Church, like Pitt, turn away from their religious roots when they get out on their own. They leave their childhood faith in the past. Part of the problem may be that they didn't truly experience a personal faith in Christ. It was just church—a set of rules to live by, something to do on Sunday morning, and nothing more.
To those who reject Christ because of how you view the Church, give faith—instead of religion—a chance. Look to the ancient text of the Bible for God's Truth. Hope and life is found in Christ. It is not a false hope that eases fear about an unknown future. It’s a genuine hope experienced in every moment. Unexplainable, as it may be, my reaction to God's grace is faith. I’m not blindly convinced of God’s existence. With eyes wide open, I recognize that He does – and I’m free because of it.
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” - C.S. Lewis, a British literary genius and atheist who glimpsed the Truth and in turn followed Christ.