I Donít Believe It!
by Ronni Lamont (revised, originally published in 2007)
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider that it is natural to doubt and to encourage respect for each other’s beliefs.
Preparation and materials
- Have available the YouTube video ‘One Foot in the Grave “I Don’t Believe it!” Compilation’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 2.04 minutes long and is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTgT1eENbIs
- The feast day of St Thomas is celebrated on 3 July by several Christian denominations.
- Explain that One Foot in the Grave was a popular TV sitcom that ran for six series during the 1990s. The programme featured the exploits of Victor Meldrew, who had retired from work early after involuntary redundancy, and his long-suffering wife, Margaret. Victor Meldrew became famous for the phrase, ‘I don’t believe it!’, which he uttered many times during the series.
Show the YouTube video ‘One Foot in the Grave “I Don’t Believe it!” Compilation’.
- Ask the students whether they have ever heard the expression ‘doubting Thomas’.
You may wish to ask for a show of hands.
Explain that Thomas was one of Jesus’ disciples. On the day when Jesus came back from the dead, Thomas was not there to witness it, so he proclaimed that he didn’t believe that it had happened. A week later, Jesus appeared again. This time, Thomas was present and he realized that he had been wrong. This is why Thomas has become synonymous with doubting.
- In John 14.5, it is Thomas who says to Jesus, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ This was the question to which Jesus famously replied, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life,’ a statement that is key to the Christian understanding of Jesus.
It is sad that most people judge Thomas harshly for doubting. The reality is that he was sensible to doubt; after all, how many people do we know who’ve come back from the dead?
- In many faiths, having doubts can be regarded as a bad thing. But why? Faith in God means that we are being asked to believe in something for which we have no proof. Faith is the leap in the dark, the hope that we hold on to. It is sensible, and a basic human trait, to have doubts. As we gain more and more scientific knowledge, we come to rely on it, so we like to have evidence to help us make decisions. Faith in an unseen God is always going to be difficult for many people.
- However, through the ages, people have held on to their faith for deep-seated reasons. More people go to church on a Sunday than go to Premier League stadiums on a Saturday, and that’s not just in the summer when there are no matches! Faith also continues to be important for many who don’t attend organized worship, but want the important times in their lives marked by a religious ceremony.
- We might have a faith or we might not. We might have doubts about our faith from time to time. If we claim that we belong to no faith, have we considered how much faith we need to believe that?!
What is important is that we respect people’s beliefs because they are a personal and important part of each of our lives.
- In his book, The Transforming Moment, James Loder gives a great explanation of how faith and doubt intersect: ‘Faith is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. As you go through life, you slowly assembly the puzzle, until you get a lovely picture, with no gaps. At that point, life (i.e. doubt) takes the puzzle and throws it up in the air, and you have to start again, reassembling the puzzle. Every time that happens, the puzzle comes out with a slightly different picture. Your faith will grow as a result of working with doubt.’
- Thomas travelled to India and worked there, telling people the Christian story. As he looked back, his doubts helped him to have a firmer faith. In the same way, our doubts can help each of us to a faith that is real and genuine.
Time for reflection
Think about the various problems that you face in your life at the moment. Think about the situations that you are facing and the things that you are finding tough.
Sometimes, talking about our doubts and fears can help. Reflect on any actions that you might need to take. If you have faith in God, ask him to help you whenever doubts arise.
Help me to live with doubts and niggling insecurity.
Help me to hold on to what I believe to be true, to let it grow and change.
Help me always to respect another person’s faith, as I want them to respect mine.
May we live in harmony with one another.