Pauw, Amy Plantinga. “Attending to the Gaps between Beliefs and Practices.” Practicing Theology: Beliefs and Practices in Christian Life. eds. Miroslav Volf and Dorothy C. Bass. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 2002.
Amy Plantinga Pauw argues for a significant affective element in the life of believers that strongly influences the relationship between beliefs and practices. She examines the epistemological and moral implications of discrepancies between belief and practice, both for the faithful individual (epitomized by Jonah) and the faith community. She argues that belief and practice cannot be properly understood except in light of desire.
Faith communities are generally understood as constituted by belief, but religious practices, too, are communal in nature. Some practices are obviously and inherently communal, performed communally when the community is gathered for religious activity. Others, such as the discipline of fasting or the corporal works of mercy, are generally perceived as individual activities to which all individual members of the community are individually called. Pauw, however, argues convincingly that these practices too have “breadth” as well as depth, and must be understood in communal context: this context provides a supportive and formational framework for its members’ attempts to faithfully carry out these practices. It transforms acts of religious practice from individual piety to communal faithfulness, from an individual striving to live rightly to a people striving to live faithfully. 
Christians who act in ways that are at odds with their proclaimed beliefs are frequently criticized or even dismissed as hypocrites. Likewise, persons who engage in religious practices in the absence of an active desire are frequently accused of merely going through the motions, engaging in rote rituals, or succumbing to social expectations. In our society, it is generally assumed that authentic religious activity is defined by a spontaneous, wholehearted (autonomous/unprompted) desire to perform every instance of the activity, and that anything “less” is inherently hypocritical. Pauw deconstructs these critiques by, among other things, appealing to the lived experience of motherhood. A mother may sincerely love and delight in her infant; but when she is repeatedly awakened in the middle of the night for days on end to nurse or otherwise care for her child, only a person whose romantic notions of Motherhood have entirely lost touch with reality could imagine that she spontaneously, wholeheartedly desires to perform every act of tending her child, and experiences that love and delight with every soiled diaper.
Mothers and fathers who tend their children through their own distaste, exhaustion, and boredom are valorized for putting their relationship with and duty to the child who depends on them ahead of their own personal inclinations in the moment. Why, then, are believers who persist in their spiritual practices even in the absence of desire not likewise valorized?