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Insights: What do we feel about Faith?

What do we feel about Faith? This month’s theme is all about faith and we are beginning the sermon series with “Faith – The other “F” Word.” I am purposely being irreverent here to gain your attention and to challenge straight-on the concept of Faith. Many religious communities consider the trinity of faith, hope and love, written about poetically by the apostle Paul, as the keys to any healthy flourishing community and relationship. I do not necessarily disagree with Paul. What I disagree with is that there is any certainty to be found within the practice of Faith. Faith is the first in the list and, in many ways, based on my experience, I believe that it is the hardest, as Unitarian Universalists, to embrace. Why is this the case? What is it about Faith, and Hope for that matter, that cause us to pause in our search for solace and spiritual connection?

Maybe it is the connection with the idea of “blind faith” that is the hardest for us to get behind. Blind faith requiring that we do not question or challenge a set of tenets and beliefs. Without the ability to question we lose the ability to evolve and attain deeper wisdom. Some religious adherents are expected to have faith in something that has not been substantiated. In the Torah, Hebrews 11 it is explained that:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.3By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

What is seen was made from things that are not visible. I can get behind this understanding, but many needed more from their leaders in order to feel safe or to be productive with a story that fills in the details and keeps humanity accountable. This concept of the word of God or the creator producing everything in the known and/or unknown universe, galaxy out beyond our wildest imaginations seems so far-fetched that it has been relegated to stuff of myth. Anything manmade we can hold in our hands and have certainty about their origins… such as a piece of paper that comes from pulp which comes from trees which comes from seed which comes from trees which ultimately has evolved from a single cell organism that came from the stars which came from the big bang that came from where? What created matter, what impetus inspired the big bang how can we comprehend dark matter or an infinity that continues to expand? When I contemplate these aspects of our reality that we cannot now know I think about the scientists, astronomers, explorers, and futurists I think about their theories and imaginings. There is questioning and yet there is also a sense of faith in the work and methodology that they undertake. They have faith in their call to know more and their cause of furthering the understanding and wisdom, they have faith in humanities collective wisdom and our ability to embrace proven empirical data with full knowledge that at some point a new revelation will unhinge all that we know.

What is it that we fear the most about faith? I would offer that it is our fear that faith, and hope in some way, will stop progress. That humankind will accept a story whether it be myth and/or science and we will be content with what we have conceived and just stop our push for understanding and wisdom. This is where faith turns back on itself. We have to have faith in humanity that having a sense of faith will not stall us from our quest to seek. Just because we have a hypothesis and mythology does not mean that we will grow too comfortable and decide not to continue on towards the knowledge,  towards seeking further out or further into this elusive petri dish of life.

Here are some quotes for you to ponder as we enter into this all elusive month of Faith.

  • To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true wisdom. (Socrates)
  • Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith. (Paul Tillich)
  • Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance. (Confucius)
  • The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination. (Einstein)
  • Faith is spiritualized imagination. (Henry Ward Beecher)
  • Faith is a passionate intuition. (William Wordsworth)

With Love and Light,

Rev. Marjorie