When Maria Shriver asked Pastor Judah Smith this week "Why should I believe in God?" he revealed that he doesn't like convincing people to worship God.
Smith, who sat down with Shriver in an Architects of Change Live conversation about the new children's book he wrote along with his wife, Chelsea, titled I Will Follow Jesus Bible Storybook, was engaging with his host about faith when she asked him the question that he introduced himself.
"I think this idea that believing in God is something that you concoct, it is something that you conjure up. It is something that over a succession of emotional discussions or sermons you develop this habit of now it's happened. I think, I believe that there is a God space in every human soul," he said.
"I believe we were designed inherently to be worshipers, and I think you see it in culture. We end up worshiping great athletes or entertainers. So I actually think it's not far-fetched when they say 'how do I possibly do it?' Actually, its way more possible than you think. I believe that it's there," he said.
"I also believe that if there is a God and He's big and He's real, then He'll actually meet you in a genuine and authentic way. That it won't just be this blind faith as it's said. … I think that God is real. I've talked to friends that still don't believe as I believe that say 'hey, no big deal,'" he continued in a suppositional tone.
"If you want to believe, let's just pray and I believe that God will meet you in a real way. And I believe there's a space inside you for God. The awesome thing is you don't have to defend God because He is God; and you don't have to talk people into God because He is God. And I don't want to get into that habit anyways of convincing people to worship God and believe in God, because if you can convince them then they can be unconvinced just as easily," he ended.
Shriver then told the couple that she went to an all-girl Catholic school all her life and wanted to become a nun but decided against it when she found out "you had to be poor and celibate."
"It's like well, that's not gonna work for me," she said.
She then got into a discussion about spiritual crises and asked them if they had ever faced any like the saints she read about in school that had an impact on why they believe.
"In Catholic school I used to read all the autobiographies of the saints, right, and they would be thrown up against the cross and their lives were like, oh my God! They were just horrendous right. But I thought you had to do that to actually be a saint," said Shriver.
"And when you read, whether it's about Mother Theresa and others that I've read about, they often talk about the dark night of the soul, you know. Their own spiritual crisis and having to kind of work through that and find their way back to God. Does that happen to you or are you too young?" she asked.
Smith turned to his wife with a searching almost quizzical look before Chelsea chimed in with an uneasy laugh "way too young. Definitely."
"No doubt in God? No spiritual crisis? No having to find your way back? No giving up on Jesus?" asked Shriver.
Smith then talked about the challenges of being a parent and explained that watching his father — who was also a pastor — being destroyed by cancer was a dark hour for him. He felt the suffering of his father didn't make any sense considering how he served God, but he said he found refuge in the Bible.
"I found that in my darkest night I found God to be nearer than I imagined."
When Shriver asked him how, Judah said: "I think His presence, His nearness."
Shriver then talked about the appearance of Jesus in the book, noting that she grew up with a lot of books about Jesus and He was always white, but in the couple's new book Jesus looked "more authentic."
She then asked Judah if that was deliberate and he said it was.
"It was important to me as a dad to be honest and we showed those depictions to our kids and my 11-year-old acknowledged that Jesus is brown. And I said, 'that's right'" added Smith, noting that it was a very meaningful moment for him.
"I could get really emotional because I think Jesus is for everyone, but I think where Jesus came from and I think the diversity of this book. I wanted my babies to see who Jesus really was and I know it's just a cartoon character but the color of his skin mattered to me," he continued.
"It really did and the fact that my 11-year-old acknowledged that and the fact that I had an African-American friend text me in tears. He said 'I'm ordering them right now.' I said, 'don't order them,' I'll send them to you.' He said because it's the first Bible I've seen Jesus depicted with brown skin. He says, 'I want to thank you.' And I cried. I secretly cried," Smith added.