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Now, here’s a thing, do you know what Wittertainment is? And if you do, are you an LTL or an STL and have you ever been an FTE? Would you know what to say to Jason Isaacs if you met him (but not Jeremy Irons?) Lastly, do you love the show, Steve?

Well, enough, I hear you cry.  ‘Wittertainment’ is the unofficial title of (Mark) Kermode and (Simon) Mayo’s film show on BBC Radio 5 Live on Friday afternoon’s and the accompanying podcast. It’s been running in one form or another for nearly 20 years and hence the plethora of in-jokes etc as above. They review films, interview film-makers and actors and generally witter on entertainingly if you’re a fan or irritatingly if you’re not.

Listeners emails play a big part of the programme and whilst these can be frivolous they can be serious and relate how the programme, or a particular film has helped somebody through difficult or even tragic times. Last week they were reviewing a horror film called ‘Saint Maud’ (film critic Kermode is a big horror film fan) which has, apparently religious overtones. In doing so they read out an email from that related to his experience. Now here is the thing, because his (I think it was a he) experience, over a twenty year period was one of being in a Christian family and fellowship and desperately wanting to have the Christian experience those around him had – desperately wanting to believe, and to pray and to have assurance in his salvation and the rest in Jesus that I wrote about last week.

Now, in the end he did not give enough information for us to know why that was the case and perhaps if he could have done that wouldn’t have been the case. But it struck me as desperately sad, for him and for those around him. And yet, I suspect it is a common experience amongst some of those who grow up as part of a Christian family and it made me wonder how is it that some people who yearn to find and know Jesus (at least at some point in their lives) fail to do so.

I think the truth is that whilst we may be able to offer advice and guidance to a person in this position that relates specifically to them and their circumstances, it is hard to offer general advice and perhaps even to give a general explanation of this phenomenon. I read an interesting Lutheran Church article[1] that identified nine reasons why people ‘abandon Christianity’, ranging from dissatisfaction with the Church or its leaders to going to college to relationships with non-believers.  But that only answers the question from the viewpoint of those who believe, not that of those who feel they have wanted to believe, tried to believe and found it impossible. They will simply say, ‘I tried, but in the end found nothing there.

The only thing I can come up with at this point is the man in Mark Ch 9 whose son was possessed and who doubted that he could be healed.

If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” – Mark 9. 23-24

Jesus healed the boy and, no doubt brought the man to full faith. I suspect we can only continue to point people to Jesus and encourage them to persevere, praying ourselves that God will give them the assurance they cannot find themselves.

[1] Nine Reasons Why Some People Abandon Christianity (And How to Talk to Them about God), Hannah Hansen, https://blog.cph.org/read/nine-reasons-why-some-people-abandon-christianity-and-how-to-talk-to-them-about-god