I find myself praying a lot. In hard times, it manifests as a deep sadness and a deep desire to serve the people who are hurting. On a more daily basis, it manifests as wonder and gratitude for the incredible works of people I don’t even know. I see wonderful displays of love and beauty and perseverance, and I thank God and recommit to my efforts to meet those examples.
The priest who baptized me taught me that faith is not passive. Rather, faith demands commitment and active engagement. Faith is not to make wishes, handing over the reigns to a higher power, and hope for divine intervention. Rather, faith is supposed to be what sustains us as we fight for what we believe.
Moreover, we do not demonstrate our faith when we refuse to ask questions or engage in discussion. In fact, faith is only faith which can survive any challenge. For example, when people ask me whether I believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, or was capable of performing miracles, or even whether he was a real person, my response is always that, to me, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter to me whether the Gospel narrative of Jesus is factually accurate, and it doesn’t matter to me if he was divine. Equally, the fact that there are teachings in the Bible with which I take great exception does not shake my belief in either the sacredness of the Bible or in a Truth beyond, and greater than, the Bible.
After all, faith wouldn’t require faith if there were facts to support it. And requiring that certain things be true for my faith to be warranted is less faith than it is a conditional belief. And so I have tested my faith in the fires of the academic study of religion, vocal opposition to the biblical interpretation espoused by my parish priest, the study and celebration of different faiths, debates with people of my own faith and different faiths and non-religious faiths. I have studied the discrepancies in the texts I hold sacred, and I have studied the harm that those texts have inspired throughout history. And in the process, I have found that my faith gives me the strength to ask questions and confront truths that scare me. I have found that as my faith becomes better informed, that my faith is strengthened. And as my faith is strengthened, so too is my resolve to do the work to change reality so that reality might more closely conform to the beautiful world that my faith tells me is possible.
And so, having set it up, here is the core of my faith: the Jesus of the gospels taught me that the subject of my faith should not be God. Rather, the subject of my faith should be my potential and the potential of my fellow man to be better than we are. Jesus to me represents the divine struggle to bring more of God into the world through love, particularly as love is manifested in selflessness, kindness, and compassion. And so, I don’t need God to reward the good and punish the wicked. I don’t need anyone to conform to my guidelines for living. I just have to believe that the world can be a more loving place, and to do what I can to work toward that. I often look to the bible for inspiration and guidance, but irrefutable proof that it was written by a guy named Ted who did it as a class project wouldn’t shake my faith. And because my faith is unconditional, it will always be stronger than that of the fundamentalists who must deny reality in order to maintain their faith.
Posted in: Faith