Thinking Anew – Unwrapping the gift of faith
Faith is the thing that underpins all of our inventiveness and efforts to make a life good
‘Your faith has made you well,” said Jesus to the blind beggar and downplayed his miraculous cure. Faith is not a synonym of belief. Ideally they should be indistinguishable but they are not. Beliefs are the way we appropriate facts; faith the way we approach them. Faith can be defined in a few lines of a dictionary but are also the subject of lengthy descriptions in theses and books. Faith is the gift we write about. We are free to say what we want about love. We can sing about it, write poems about it, discuss it and appreciate its many forms. Faith is as equally beautiful and elusive as love is. Love can be scary but faith seems far scarier. When love kills, it is a crime of passion; when faith kills, it is just a crime. That is a vocabulary problem. Faith has never killed anybody. Beliefs have killed people and religious beliefs are often described as faith. Ideally they should be indistinguishable, ideal does not mean it is true. Unwise to the difference we are shy of discussing faith. Humanity is no richer for that shyness.
Faith is the human desire to attach itself closely to things that are good. Faith can get this wrong but so can love. If love did not go wrong there would be far fewer songs, poetry and strength in the world. When faith goes wrong we go silent. Faith is an optimism and is prone to disappointment. It survives best when it intertwines with hope. Hope is the virtuous pessimism that comes from being open to being wrong. Working together they are a powerful dynamism for good and a make a person truly holy. All religious belief should be compatible with faith. In an ideal world the two terms should be interchangeable
We live in a world fully focussed on facts although facts are very few. Beliefs present as facts to make themselves credible. Dentists, in their spare time, research the results of using toothpaste brands. Aqueous material cleans better than water. We have great tolerance of nonsense spoken firmly. Facts suit trade but do not explore the inner dynamisms of a living person. Facts don’t make dynamisms dream again. Dreams are not real. Faith doesn’t actually move mountains. Allegory struggles in Factland. Faith is the spark that inspires us to move from a bad situation to a better one. It is the thing that underpins all of our inventiveness and efforts to make a life good. It is a huge part of being a person and we probably even could move mountains if we weren’t too shamed to speak faith.
There is one area where this does not hold true. We are free to speak of black holes, time warps, incomprehensible distances, limitless space and a host of other beliefs as facts. This is the only interpretation of our world that has not lost its voice. We are allowed to describe a waterfall here on Earth but we should not share its inspiration. It has no meaning other than the ones we attach to it. That is a fact. It is also a fact that you were inspired, faith stirred you. An unstirred life is as unreal as an unloving one. Some faith becomes religious, some faith becomes superstitious, some faith is cultural and the rest is simply living. It hasn’t many songs or poems to tell its tale. It has been banished to the argumentative corner where it can never share its beauty with the world. Can you say that to a Christian? Do humanists get offended by that? Will mentioning that offend Muslims? How did we allow ourselves to create this ignorance between us? Ignorance is a blindness.