Interview: Cathleen Falsani, Part Two

Welcome back everyone! For those of you who missed part one of our interview with Cathleen Falsani, here’s a quick summary: Cathleen writes about religion and pop culture, and she has a new book coming out this September about Justin Bieber. Earlier today, she shared with us what she has learned about living out your faith at work...

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4word: What about your own experience integrating your faith and your work life? Since your job is to write about religion, has it been easier or more difficult for you to navigate that boundary between work and faith?

Cathleen: I’ve often been told by other believers, “Oh it must be so hard for you being a Christian in the big, scary world of secular newspapers.” Not at all. I have never been discriminated against because of my faith. If anything, I was occasionally given a pass. People were inclined to think better of me than I sometimes deserved. When I was just a religion reporter, not a regular columnist, I worked very hard not to disclose anything about my own religious predilections. I didn’t want that to color anything that I wrote, so I tried to keep my biases in check. I’m told that, for a time, there was a running bet between the religious leaders in Chicago about what I actually was.

When I became a columnist, it felt disingenuous to be writing about something as intimate as faith without revealing my own beliefs. So, over time, I started revealing more about myself until I finally just threw open the doors. That being said, I am still kind of hard to pin down. One of my life mottos is something I learned from a philosophy professor, Arthur Holmes, at Wheaton: “All truth is God’s truth.” It doesn’t matter where it’s coming from or who’s saying it; if it’s true, it’s from God. So I see God’s fingerprints all over the place, and I hear the voice of the Holy Spirit coming from all sorts of places. My Christian faith has been enlivened by people of other faith traditions and people with no faith traditions.

That goes back to this disposition I was made with. I don’t see boxes or categories. So I can look at Justin Bieber and say, “He might be a prophetic voice for his generation. Why not? He’s not any wackier than some of the guys that God chose in the Hebrew Scriptures.”

4word: During your interview with Wayne Shepherd you discussed the importance of the character of the people that Justin’s mom has surrounded him with to keep him grounded. Do you think the same is true for YPCWs?

Cathleen: Well Justin is a child who is fast becoming a man. As a mother myself, I am tremendously aware of who is around my son. In Justin’s case, I think God has been really gracious to him and his mother, Patty, by bringing his manager, Scooter, into their lives.

Together, they have formed a crew of people to surround Justin who are good, kind-hearted and truthful. I think that’s helped keep him grounded. They hold him in check; Scooter says the fastest way to get fired is to “indulge the pop star.” They are more concerned with Justin being a good man than with him being a superstar.

4word: Since most YPCWs, unlike Justin, don't have the power to choose the people surrounding them in their workplace, what advice can you offer them about staying grounded and growing in their faith?

Cathleen: As far as you are able, make good choices about the kind of people you’re surrounding yourself with. Do you have people speaking truth into your life, who are holding you accountable for being the hands, feet and voice of Jesus in this world? Are you in touch with people who are going to challenge and inspire you?

And not just physically in touch with. It can also be through the influence of a book, of music, of Facebook, of a phone call. That’s the kind of thing you do have control over. Young women today might find themselves on the road a lot or in a solitary work environment. You have to make choices to keep yourself plugged into those things that feed your spirit. If you can’t find a house of worship near you, then find one online and download the sermon. Make sure your soul is being fed. Make sure you are encountering things that, to quote Frederick Buechner, “bring a lump to your throat and a tear to your eye or give you goosebumps.”

Buechner has been that very thing for me for many years when I couldn’t find it in person. He talks about listening to your life and paying attention to those things. They are an early warning system for the Holy Spirit. God uses any and all means to get our attention. We just have to be awake and looking for it. There’s a verse that Patty quotes in the book that is one of my favorites: “If you seek Me, you will find Me.” If you are looking for Him, you will find Him. Even if you think you’re all alone, you aren’t.

4word: Before we go, is there anything else you’d like to add that you think YPCWs need to hear?

Cathleen: I would say that young women in particular would do well to be less concerned about their image and more concerned about whether they’re paying attention to the people around them and being a force of love for them. Because it really doesn’t matter. People aren’t going to remember what you were wearing, but they will remember how you made them feel. That’s my Oprah moment for the day.

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Want to continue the discussion with Cathleen? You can read more on her blog or follow her on Twitter: @godgrrl. And on September 27, be sure to get your hands on a copy of BELIEBER.