Writer - Researcher - Speaker

The 'Misunderestimation' of Faith 

We have President George W Bush to thank for a wonderful addition to the English language: 'misunderestimate'

On the eve of the Presidential election in 2000, Bush famously stated that his opponent, John McCain, had ‘misunderestimated’ him.

The meaning was clear – his opponent had both misunderstood him and underestimated his capacity to influence and inspire the electorate.   This neatly encapsulates how many people have perceived faith and faith organisations during much of the past 50 years.

The muting of faith described here has meant that the influence of faith in social change has been both underestimated and misunderstood: Faith had become 'misunderestimated’.


This misunderestimation meant that there wasn't a clear understanding that faith affects the way people and organisations behave and make decisions.  In consequence, FBOs were often perceived as little more than religiously branded Tribute Bands to Oxfam...


This unfortunate framing was reinforced by a view that the 'secular = professional' and

'religious = amateur'.  The implication for many FBOs was a focus on demonstrating their effectiveness in service delivery rather than contributing insights arising from their faith perspective.


With faith 'hidden in plain sight', a generation emerged who only understood faith in terms of doctrines, rites and rituals, unaware that faith significantly shapes how people lived their lives.

The navigational tools of yesteryear are now redundant.  New tools are needed to understand faith in contemporary global society.

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