“Faith” in unprecedented times (?) by Bill Dahl
In these unprecedented economic times , what might faith mean? Theologian Brian McLaren suggests:
“Faith involves admitting with humility and boldness that we need to change, to go against the flow, to be different, to face and shine the light on our cherished illusions and prejudices, and to discover new truths that can be liberating even though they may be difficult for the ego, painful to the pride.” (1)
From the above, we can see that the faith required to reimagine creating tomorrow today involves a multi-dimensional approach. Let me explain:
(1) It requires admission – a confession, if you will.
(2) The nature of this admission is twofold: it must be humble and bold.
In terms of the humility dimension of this matter, the following from Rabbi Harold Kushner speaks to the heart of the matter:
“being human is such a complicated challenge that all of us will make mistakes in the process of learning how to do it right, then we can come to see our mistakes not as emblems of our unworthiness but as experiences we can learn from. We will be brave enough to try something new without being afraid of getting it wrong. Our sense of shame will be the result of our humility, our learning our limits, rather than our wanting to hide from scrutiny because we have done badly.” (2)
The boldness dimension of the admission is characterized concisely by Senator John McCain. He refers to it as courage:
“Courage (emphasis is mine) is that rare moment of unity between conscience, fear, and action, when something deep within us strikes the flint of love, of honor, of duty, to make the spark that fires our resolve.” (3)
3) In terms of speaking about illuminating our illusions, most folks can get pretty riled up. Why? Because it causes us to truly examine and evaluate the truthfulness and practical application of what we have been assuming, thinking and doing. Consider the following from Daniel Levinson:
“As he attempts to reappraise his life, a man discovers how much it has been based on illusions, and he is faced with the task of de-illusionment. By this expression I mean a reduction of illusions, a recognition that long held assumptions and beliefs about self and world are not true. This process merits special attention because illusions play so vital a role in our lives throughout the life cycle.”(4)
(4) Residing comfortably within many of our illusions rest our prejudices. As Dr. King once said:
“There is little hope for us until we become tough-minded enough to break loose from the shackles of prejudice, half-truths and downright ignorance.” (5)
Finally, there’s that issue about what to do with faith. As McLaren defines it, faith is certainly not something the human species is imbued with whose sole purpose is some form of peace of mind, resting comfortably on a couch. No, faith is designed to move us from spectating to participation. The following from Paul Rogat-Loeb sums it up quite nicely:
“Whatever our passions and commitments may be, we all face similar questions about how to cross the threshold from passivity to participation, to make our voices heard and make our actions count, and reawaken and sustain our faith in the future.” (6)
So, what’s your response? Once again, the words of Dr. King echo a truth with a poignant, present day application:
“To be honest is to confront the truth. However unpleasant and inconvenient the truth may be, I believe we must expose and face it if we are to achieve a better quality of American life.” (7)
May this writing be one element of inspiration that provides you with the courage to act on your faith to improve the community/nation/world you reside in….it begins with each of us….today.
Reflect on this.
(1) McLaren, Brian Finding Faith, Copyright © 1999 by Brian McLaren, Zondervan Grand Rapids, MI pp.13-14.
(2) Kushner, Harold S. How Good Do We Have To Be – A New Understanding of Guilt and Forgiveness, Little, Brown and Company Boston, MA Copyright © 1996 by Harold S. Kushner, p. 39.
(3) McCain, John In Search of Courage, Fast Company Magazine, Issue Number 86, September 2004, Copyright © 2004 by Gruner + Jahr USA Publishing p.54-56.
(4) Levinson, Daniel J., The Seasons Of A Man’s Life, New York: Ballantine Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Copyright © 1978, p.192
(5) Scott King, Coretta The Words of Martin Luther King Jr., Newmarket Press, NY, NY Copyright © 1983 by Coretta Scott King and Newmarket Press, p. 30.
(6) Rogat Loeb, Paul. Soul of a Citizen-Living with Conviction in a Cynical Time, St. Martin’s Griffin, NY Copyright © 1999 by Paul Rogat Loeb, p.11.
(7) Scott King, Coretta The Words of Martin Luther King Jr., Newmarket Press, NY, NY Copyright © 1983 by Coretta Scott King and Newmarket Press, p. 89.