Tag Archives: faith

Recognizing Faith

From Jeri Rowe's excellent piece about Canterbury School's Father Finnin:

“I hope they come to realize that faith isn’t something you have to create,’’ he says. “It’s something you recognize. Theology and God surrounds us already. So, it’s not a matter of creating it. It’s a matter of stopping and recognizing it and being aware of it. It’s not about introducing the divine in everyday life. It’s about recognizing it and letting everyone be aware of it."

Interesting Times

It sometimes takes living in interesting times to make you realize that boring is vastly underrated. The Great Housing Bubble followed by the Great Recession have caused many of us to live through some interesting times, and the reaction by our elected leaders to the fallout of those interesting times has led to even more interesting times.

Here in North Carolina we're starting to get national attention for the way our state leaders are reacting to the aftermath of the recession. The state is a perfect storm of economic hardship and political sea change that makes it a perfect political story on a national level. Unfortunately at the root of those stories is the suffering of real people, some of whom are our friends and neighbors, and the ideological response of the newly dominant political party to the economic reality that those people represent.

Lots of ink has been spilled about new conservative policies that have been put in place this legislative term and the Moral Monday protests that were prompted by those policies.  Quite frankly it's a complicated issue, and in defense of both sides of the arguments it should be noted that they almost certainly feel their way is the best way to address the whole of the problem, but from the point of view of those of us who are neighbors and friends of the very folks who are directly affected now by these policies it's hard to swallow the big picture economic arguments while they suffer.

Probably the best thing I've read about this issue is something a friend linked to on Facebook that addresses the Moral Monday protesters and why their protests are righteous even if you disagree with some of their specific remedies/arguments:

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:35-36, 40)

God is far bigger than a single political party. There are many paths and policies for addressing poverty, reforming our broken immigration system, responding to climate change, and healing the racial divides that continue in our society. But what we cannot accept, nor allow, is for our own leaders to willfully exacerbate our problems and directly harm people who are already suffering — to sacrifice the common good to their own ideological agendas. In such moments and times, people of faith must speak out — not for the sake of politics, but because the beauty and simplicity of the gospel demands it. (Emphasis mine)

For those of us whose faith compels us to do everything we can to help the unemployed, hungry, homeless, etc. we cannot ignore the long-term economic policies that can lead to those states. We must acknowledge that there are many different ways to address the underlying sociological and economic issues that are the root of those problems. We must be ready to admit that perhaps some conservative ideals might be the way to go, or that perhaps some government-led initiatives truly are the only hammer that will work on that nail.  But, and this the crux of the argument for me, it doesn't matter which path is best if people get seriously hurt during the journey. It is our moral imperative to make sure that the least of us is cared for, and if our journey has to take a little longer or follow a crooked path, i.e. involves ideological comprises in order for us to be able to help carry those who need help, then so be it. 

Two Ears, One Mouth

Kim Williams, a friend I met through the local social networking scene, has written a very thought provoking piece at his blog Wishful Preaching:

One day a religion professor – a educated, kind and openly Christian man – suggested I take the risk and talk with one of the better known atheists on campus. He suggested I NOT talk with him with the intent of changing his mind, but rather seek to listen and understand why and what he believed. I forced myself to listen, to ask questions and allow myself to hear another point of view.  At one point he said, "I don't believe in God." Seeking to be open, I asked him, "Tell me about this God you don't believe in." He talked for an hour or more . When he was done I could honestly say to him, "It is interesting. I don't believe in that god either." When spent many hours together over the following years talking about our personal beliefs and similar hopes and fears. He never came to believe as I did (perhaps he did admit a few times he had grown to be more agnostic than atheist),  and I never lost my faith (although I did learn some difficulties with my beliefs). We would both agree, however that we were better because of the friendship.

Perhaps there is something to fear in the failure to listen to others of different beliefs and traditions – that's scary!

Reading this I had multiple thoughts, the most prominent being a question I first asked in my late teens/early adulthood – how is it that the people I find most personify the positive qualities associated with religion are often atheist or agnostic? If being a "believer" is a prerequisite for being a good person then my eyes and ears were lying to me, because I could see for myself that it wasn't true. Heck, some of the nastiest people I've ever met have never missed a day of church so obviously the reverse could be true as well. Over time my belief system evolved to incorporate this bullet point – The fact that people without faith in a higher being could be among the great people in the world is in itself proof of some kind of higher being. 

I know that last sentence sounds like a pretty lame piece of philosophy that your average 14 year old would come up with, so maybe it would be better to explain it this way. I think it's a mistake to say that an atheist or agnostic is not a believer. They simply don't believe in God or a higher being the way I do; I think they believe in humanity, in the basic goodness of people, in the idea that mankind is a net-positive for the world. If you think about it their faith, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary (war, capable people parking in handicapped spaces, reality TV), is as great or greater than the faith of those of us who believe in a higher being. In the end their faith in humanity affirms my faith in a higher being.

The other thought I had while reading Kim's post related to the old saying "you have two ears and one mouth for a reason, and you should use them accordingly" and with the propensity of some folks to constantly proselytize. What I truly loved about Kim's post was that he engaged in the conversation with his friend without the intent to "convert" him or to convince him of anything. Instead Kim engaged him to listen and to learn and in the end I think they both gained immeasurably from it. By using his ears Kim did more to exhibit his faith than he could have done with a million hours of proselytizing, and I think there are quite a few folks out there who could learn from his example. 

In Sickness and In Health

There is an excellent piece in the Washington Post that I found to be at turns heart warming and heart wrenching.  It's a story about love, the vows of marriage, and at the most basic level, love.  I don't want to provide any excerpts for you here because quite frankly the story is too well written as a whole to be sampled in pieces. I've shared it with a few people and have been fascinated by their varying reactions; people I trust and with whom I almost always agree have disagreed with me and each other on certain aspects of this story. Despite those disagreements I feel safe in stating that after reading it all of us found our own "issues" paled by comparison.

Here's the link to the story – I can't recommend it highly enough.