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A Faith For Grown-ups wants baby boomers to look at Catholicism with “adult eyes”
Author Bob Lockwood to appear at Mitchell Books
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
“Basically, I like to call this my ‘cocktail-party book,’” says Bob Lockwood, referring to Faith For Grown-ups: A Midlife Conversation About What Really Matters, recently published by Loyola Press. Not that he necessarily goes to a lot of cocktail parties, but Lockwood says the book was inspired by countless conversations he has had with Catholic baby boomers who had “drifted away” from the faith.
Lockwood, a former Fort Wayne resident, is currently the Director for Communications in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh and general manager of the Pittsburgh Catholic. Before that, he was at Our Sunday Visitor magazine in Huntington, Indiana for 28 years, doing “a little bit of everything” — editor-in-chief, publisher, then president.
Invariably, when people find out that he does “that Catholic stuff,” as he puts it, they start telling him about why they no longer practice their faith. What Lockwood found was that many of these people were professional and well-educated, but their knowledge of the faith stopped at the last time they went to any kind of religious education classes, usually about 8th grade.
What he wanted to do with A Faith for Grown-ups is, as he puts it, “have a midlife conversation with them on the faith. A lot of these people, when they were saying they were rejecting the faith, what they were rejecting was the faith as it was presented to a child, so that a child could understand it. They had never had an adult look at the faith.”
Lockwood’s description of his book as a “conversation” is an apt one. A Faith for Grown-ups isn’t a theological argument or tract. It reads almost as a memoir at times; Lockwood’s engaging tone comfortably mixes humor with more serious subjects. “It’s more just as if we were two people sitting down and having a beer.”
Lockwood’s book is specifically directed towards baby boomers, the 40 – 60 post-World War II generation, about 30% of whom were Catholic. Lockwood describes a Catholic education in the 1950s and 1960s as an overwhelming experience, and the people who had a Catholic education identified their experiences as a kid with the Catholic faith itself. “If they had a lousy experience with a lousy nun or a grouchy priest, 30 years later, they’re looking back at that and saying ‘that’s Catholicism’” Lockwood says. “No, all that was was a point in time, a point in cultural and social history.”
“If you went to public school in 1955, you got slugged just as hard as you got slugged if you went to Catholic grammar school in 1955. The only difference is that the public school kid doesn’t identify that with religious faith. A Catholic school kid will say ‘that’s what Catholicism stands for — a nun who slugged me in fourth grade.’ Well, that ain’t it.”
According to Lockwood, most of the baby-boomers who “drifted away” aren’t people who have flat-out rejected the basic teachings of the church. They aren’t aggressive atheists, or agnostics, or aggressive anti-Catholics, he says. “A lot of times, the intellectual reasons they give for leaving the faith are after the fact. It’s kind of an argument you develop later to rationalize why you wanted to stay in bed on Sunday,” he laughs.
Lockwood acknowledges that there are plenty of people who think they can’t come back to the faith, but he says that’s not true. “You may have developed a lifestyle which makes it a little harder to simply just come back, whether it be broken marriages, things like that, that you, at least, will look at and think ‘that means I just can’t come back.’ Now, that’s nonsense, of course. You can always come back.”
Most of the criticism Lockwood receives comes from people who want to argue about the church, who claim he’s sugar-coating a negative and oppressive institution. “They say, ‘well, you paint a rosy picture of the church, you’re not realizing how traumatic elements of the church are,’” he says. But that’s part of the theme of A Faith For Grown-ups. “I’m telling them to come back and take a look at the faith as an adult,” he says. “What is it that the Catholic Church teaches? What is it that Catholics believe? But look at it as an adult, don’t look back and say ‘I rejected this because the nun in third grade told me…’ because she was telling this to an eight-year-old kid, to try to get that kid to understand something about the faith. She never intended that to be your understanding of the faith when you were 45 or 50.”
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