‘Are you related to the economist?” People sometimes ask when they see my surname. I explain that, yes, John Maynard Keynes is my great-great-uncle – his brother Geoffrey married Margaret Darwin, my great-grandmother. “So you’re related to Darwin too?” Yes, he’s my great-great-great grandfather. Eyes might fall on the cross around my neck: “And you’re a Christian?” Yes, a Catholic. “How does a Darwin end up Catholic?”
My journey back to faith was as much a movement of the heart as a thoroughgoing intellectual inquiry. It had to be both: if my ancestors’ lives trouble faith then as their descendant I couldn’t but confront the issues head on. That I freely chose to be a Catholic after much thought and analysis, and wasn’t brainwashed into it, baffles my friends and family alike. I overheard one comment: “But she seemed like such an intelligent girl.” So when people ask “A Darwin and a Catholic?” what they’re saying is that I confound expectations. They expect an understanding of science and philosophy to be incompatible with religious belief. Inevitably, that makes me a target and people want to argue. It can feel unpleasant and unsought but abdicating responsibility for answering those difficult questions is not an option for a baptised Christian.
“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire,” said St Catherine of Siena. I happen to be a Darwin, a Keynes, and a Catholic – and I can’t pretend not to be any one of those things. I can only embrace my calling in its complexity, and use what I’ve been given apologetically. Partly because apologetics has been thrust upon me by virtue of who I am and whose DNA I carry, and partly because it’s important to develop arguments that convince in a culture dominated by the ethic of autonomy I applied to Catholic Voices, which offers training to Catholics called to defend and explain the Church in the public square. Catholic Voices does vital work in speaking to a culture dominated by secular values, and in resisting attempts by the media to frame Catholic speakers in certain ways.
The journey about how she left the faith and then returned. Well worth a read.