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Flannelgraph Faith

Have you ever…

  • Been the only one to come hold the hand of a dying person forgotten by family and friends, knowing in a few hours they will be in a body bag in a morgue?

  • Tried to help two “believers” hell bent on divorce, no matter what damage they may cause?

  • Seen a family member scream, cry, and lash out in disbelief that their loved one died, then in the next breath, when they realize you are a chaplain, switch gears to tell you about their church?

  • Watched friends and co-workers struggle with life but actively reject faith that can carry them through their tough times?

As a chaplain, I have seen crises bring out what people truly believe. And at times I have wondered about the disconnect between what people say about their faith and how they really live. Do they not realize that their faith offers answers? At times I just want to shake them and tell them to grow up.

Being in crisis chaplaincy has also brought out what I truly believe. What I do not believe in anymore is a flannelgraph Christianity and a two-dimensional felt Jesus. Granted, simple faith was great for me as a kid back in Sunday School at Bethesda Lutheran Church. It gave me a great foundation. But that was only a foundation. But because of what I have seen and experienced, that simple faith is no longer adequate… and it shouldn't be. Flannelgraph Christianity does not address the horrors our first responders and chaplains deal with.

The author of the book of Hebrews encourages believers to move beyond the basics and become mature in their faith.

Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment (Hebrews 6:1-2).

The coronavirus pandemic has given us one blessing: time to evaluate and move beyond our flannelgraph faith. Let us take this time to reflect and grow up in our faith, so when the next tough time comes (and it will come), we will have a faith that sustains us like a rock (See Matthew 7:24-27).

In Him,

Chaplain Chris Wade


South Carolina Public Safety Chaplains Association

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