Friday, April 10, 2015


Taking a much needed break from my amazing wonderful children and annoying little puppy to spend a few days in Savannah resting, running, thinking and studying. I have been thinking about faith and what it means for me and I was reminded of this little gem:
"Have faith."
When he said it, the words pressed into my palms, like coins.  Since then I've measured all virtuous currency.  I've checked it against a balance sheet.  I know how much it costs to cross the line.  I know how much I earn for grieving.  Annuities paid out for never questioning.  Nose to the grindstone, I'll have enough by the end of next year.

When I have enough, I will cross the Rubicon.  All my rabid sins will find me.

I wrote this little fiction sometime in 2009. I don't think it means anything to anyone else. For me it defines a shift in my understanding of what faith actually is.

What I was trying to get across was that there is this false idea that faith is like religious currency. And so doubt is like some kind of spiritual debt. In this paradigm, faith is something you accumulate and amass. If your faith account is big enough, you can buy favor from God. If you have enough of it, you can use the earned-interest to make a transaction with God where you make known your will and in exchange for faith, God will remove obstacles in your path, heal, bless or give you what you need or want. However, if you give away too much of it, if you go bankrupt in faith by accumulating too much doubt, you can lose your account with God and without the currency of faith, give way to the barren emptiness of Godlessness and Faithlessness. In this way, faith is evidence of personal righteousness. And doubt is evidence of unrighteousness.

I don't think this thought was fully developed in my mind when I wrote that fiction in 2009. It is very hard to even find the words to describe what it meant for me today. I think I thought the flash was about gambling your faith on an absolute idea. Or accumulating enough currency to be a good enough person and then finding out when you are at the point of no return that it wasn't enough. 

For me right now, faith is something broader and more transformative than a positive spiritual currency. I don't believe it can not be had without doubt. I don't think you can gain a deep, abiding faith without fully recognizing, categorizing, acknowledging and getting to the bedrock of your doubts. After all, faith is defined as believing even though there is evidence not to believe. 

According to Pew Research on the global religious landscape most people in the world have faith in the divine. According to Pew, Christianity is the largest piece of the pie with 31.5% of the population ascribing to the teachings of Jesus Christ. After Christianity, Islam has 23.2% of the world's population, followed by 16.3% of the population that is "unaffiliated". The study categorizes the third largest group this way, but for my purposes I think this is a little misleading. This segment of the world population is not necessarily atheist, many may believe in a higher power or have spiritual beliefs, they just don't affiliate themselves with any particular religion. Even still, if you don't count the unaffiliated group, the vast majority of the world believes in a higher power. In the world, 84% of the population labels themselves as a believer in some established religious tradition. That is a huge statistic. It means that most people in the world have faith. Something compels humans to believe in something. And we believe even though there is no rational reason to believe. We have faith even when there is very little to no historical, scientific, or measurable reason to have faith. 

In fact, our faith has the power to link us to the divine even when the historical evidence shows us that the religions we ascribe to do not always behave in benevolent ways. There are embarrassing failures of doctrine, catastrophic misunderstandings that lead people to feel they are enacting "God's will" in violent, irreverent, racist,discriminatory and even hateful ways. But our faith can overcome any and all of these things no matter how troubling or how strong the evidence. 


In my opinion it is very simple and exquisitely beautiful. God gave us the power to choose. Freedom, having the power to choose has been so important throughout the history of the world that men will fight and die and kill to protect it. It is so innate in us, this gift God gave us to decide for ourselves what is true enough to exercise our faith in that it becomes a wellspring for all the good humanity produces. Where freedom of religion is allowed, intellectual study and ideas flourish. The arts flourish. Scientific discovery flourishes. Freedom to choose doesn't mean that bad things don't happen because they always will. Humanity produces ugliness and horror as much as it produces good and beauty. But I think it is always when choice is limited or perverted or taken away completely that the ugliness is most potent. And ironically, trying to legislate goodness into society by limiting freedoms has the opposite effect. 

Limiting faith to one state church was and is and will always be a disaster. I think there is evidence for that historically. I think there is evidence for that now. Church and state can not effectively govern together. 

I think I'm biting off more than I meant to chew on here. My point is that faith is powerful enough to withstand all doubt. Truth and faith align in the power to choose. I have spent this awesome time off from responsibilities listening to and reading a lot of lectures on faith. One point from a Mormon intellectual that I went to church with in California (when she was likely in her college-doubting phase) said something that I found very profound that was told to her in her doubts about her faith:

“There are a lot of stories in the world, but Mormonism is the story that I want to be true. To the extent that it is not, I will make it true.”
I think this is a powerful idea and it extends outside of Mormonism. Because you can certainly find evidence against a religion or sect if you go looking for it. But the beautiful thing about faith is that we get to choose where we fit. We get to make true what we want to be true. And most people in the world are doing just that.

What I have found important as my faith has ebbed and flowed and as I've become restless is that you have to choose something with innate goodness that excites you and connects you to the Almighty. You have to connect in a way that you are excited and willing to contribute to the good of the world. This zeal and excitement for people, this reservoir of faith has to happen on an individual and organic way. You have to choose it. 

Faith to me is not the power to bend God to our will, but the acceptance that once we choose God, we can accept the journey whatever comes along. Once we choose to connect to the goodness of God we can walk or climb or crawl or be carried at times through any challenge of doubt or pain or grief because our faith is not anchored in our own ability to achieve, but in God's ability to refine and change us. 

I am thankful for the freedom to exercise my faith. I am energized and excited in the story of Jesus Christ. The simplicity of His message to Love God and Love you Neighbor is what I find the most goodness in. :)

Thanks for listening

No comments:

Post a Comment