Sheila-ism and Challenges to Our Faith

August 21, 2021

"submission is a  blessing and a privilege of faith"


How do we react to challenge? When our beliefs are questioned do we entrench ourselves in what we believe or do we take time assess the solidity of the ground on which those beliefs are based? What if that challenge were to change the way we behave?

There is an interesting paradox developing in America, while we are an increasingly religious people we are at the same time seeing a decrease in morality.

In his 1999 book “Against the Night,” Charles Coulson addressed this paradox..

“According to sociologist Robert Bellah, 81 percent of the American people also say they agree that 'an individual should arrive at his or her own religious belief independent of any church or synagogue.' Thus the key to the paradox is the fact that those who claim to be Christians are arriving at faith on their own terms -- terms that make no demands on behavior. A woman named Sheila, interviewed for Bellah's Habits of the Heart, embodies this attitude. "I believe in God," she said. "I can't remember the last time I went to church. But my faith has carried me a long way. It's 'Sheila-ism.' Just my own little voice."

How many of are guilty of “Sheila-ism?”

God's love is infinite and universal. He accepts all of us just as we are. But He accepts us on His terms, not ours.

From the beginning there were those who could not accept the offering of love and family God extends to His people. Many will follow, but only up to the point where they are challenged. To put it another way, people will happily follow God as long as no demands are made on their behavior.

Joshua challenged the Israelites to choose whom they will serve. Jesus challenged His followers with his teaching regarding the Eucharist. In both cases there were those who turned away.

We see this even today. When people are challenged they frequently turn away because they cannot accept what is being taught. The great tragedy of this is that they often do not ask for a fuller teaching they simply make assumptions and walk away.

The letter of Paul to the Ephesians is an example of the challenges that confront us in scripture. Many take a very narrow view of this passage to the detriment of our dignity as Children of God. But the entire passage referring to submission must be read in the context of the very first line, “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Submission is not a right demanded by one person from another, it is a blessing and a privilege of faith, given freely out of love for God.

Marriage and family is undergoing a crisis today. Let us pray for the strength and enlightenment to defend the Christian family as a source of blessings for the whole world. Let us make Joshua’s words a reality in our lives,

“As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

Pax Vobiscum
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time


© Lawrence Klimecki

Saint George © Lawrence Klimecki

Purchase fine art prints by Deacon Lawrence here.

Deacon Lawrence draws on ancient Christian tradition to create new contemporary art that seeks to connect the physical and the spiritual.. For more information on original art, prints and commissions, Please visit 

Lawrence Klimecki, MSA, is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith

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