Are we brave enough for faith?

Martha Woodroof Round 4 Are we brave enough for faith . . . Martha note: This is round four of … Continued

Martha Woodroof

Round 4
Are we brave enough for faith . . .

Martha note: This is round four of Faith Unboxed, an ongoing, unconventional conversation about God. Please participate by sharing your own ideas and experiences (either here or on the website), rather than by denigrating the ideas and experiences of others.

Civility and respect rock!

Underneath the fume and fuss of religious controversy, is it possible that living one’s faith is challengingly simple? That it embodies an openness of heart and mind that humans, on their own, just cannot pull off?

Let me start my case for this with a story.

Back in the mid-1980′s I made most of my living as a freelance radio journalist, driving blue highways in a pick-up with a camper, trolling for sound and story. One early summer day while passing through the Shenandoah Valley, I spotted a bonneted woman shelling peas at a picnic table. On impulse, I pulled over and asked if I could help her with the peas and have a chat.

We sat together for a long time. That lovely woman–all the while making those pea pods fly–talked openly and generously about her life as an Old Order Mennonite. Gradually I came to understand that she didn’t live the way she did–cooking on a wood stove and driving a buggy–because of any fear she’d go to hell if she cooked on a gas stove and drove a car. Rather, it was because she took great joy in keeping close company with God and believed that having a lot of inessential stuff around diluted that closeness.

What really filled me with wonder, however, was that she didn’t seem nearly as judgmental of my lifestyle as I’d been about hers. I was as much God’s creature to her as her Old Order neighbor. Her faith, her relationship with God, was her bridge of openness to others; her lack of need to pass judgment, even on strangers in pick-ups.
I was not then a declared person of faith–or even inching toward such a declaration. But I did sense even then that this woman had something going for her that I did not. In hindsight, I suspect that something was her faith–her working partnership with God, the great Whatever.

Early in The End of Faith, New Atheist Sam Harris makes a glancing reference to our “common humanity.” Later on in his chapter on “Ethics, Moral Identity and Self-interest,” Mr. Harris writes, “For ethics to matter to us, the happiness and suffering of others must matter to us. It does matter to us, but why?” I finished the book, without finding an answer to either Mr. Harris’ question, or his take on the nature and origin of our “common humanity.” Could it be that Mr. Harris simply wished to avoid acknowledging the presence of mystery in human existence?

Ever heedless, I’ll happily rush in where Mr. Harris fails to tread and submit that once we strip our relationship with God of all trappings and get down to what’s left, we are indeed left hand-in-hand with whatever Mystery links us together; whatever makes me give a tinker’s dam about what happens to you, the Iraqis, or my frequently annoying work colleagues. God, in other words, is our common humanity (notice I do not say “the source of”, but simply “is” our common humanity.) When I deny my connection with you, I deny God.

I’d argue further that I can live in partnership with God –have a strong faith–without swaddling the great Whatever in religion. I don’t even have to acknowledge God to form a partnership with It. I simply have to be open to whatever God is; which in everyday practice, means being open to you.

Your (civil and respectful) response?

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  • tojby_2000

    1. Making your case with analogy is fallacy.2. “Brave enough for faith? When we deny our conenction (sic) with others, we deny God.”

  • moalz

    A Christian tenet: God is everyone and in everyone.

  • areyousaying

    What is faith in the first place?Is it someone who demands we all follow their interpretation of God’s intention of what it was to be?Brave enough for it? The questions should be: “Brave enough to question it?”

  • tieege

    Dear Martha,

  • BlaiseP

    As well, MW’s faith would have us worship the act of love (while loving each other) itself. I’m OK with worshipping the love a mother has for her baby but I’m not so sure about how sacred the love a desperate housewife has for her (married) next door neighbor is.It gets confusing: which love to worship?

  • persiflage

    ‘Christianity suddenly stepped in and offered a singular answer, which the world eventually accepted as the answer. It was the answer then, and I think it is the answer now.’Christianity stepped in and offered another version of the ‘Great Whatever’ – that would historically be the more accurate portrayal. The ‘world’ has not accepted this as the answer to the ‘Great Whatever’ conundrum. We can excuse Chesterton for a wee bit of hubris here. And only in the imaginations of 1 out of 6 potential believers does this system of belief ring any bells.

  • BlaiseP

    Well, P, I disagree. Both Judaism (and the first Christian believers–like the Messiah Himself– were Jews) believed in a personal God, a God of Revelation. He was separate from the cosmos, a cosmos He created.About the proportion of believers who actually

  • BlaiseP

    Ms W. eschews the revealed God of the ancients in favor of an universalist mysticism. There have been great Catholic mystics, of course, from St Paul through Pascal to Pope John Paul II, but their experiences were within the context of a religion which worshipped a personal God, the same God who revealed himself to the ancient Jews and later who intervened personally in history in the form of Jesus Christ.

  • persiflage

    ‘About the proportion of believers who actually believe , all I can say is that how can you possibly know the how many of the 1.6 billion Christians– billion!–actually believe in the Creator and Redeemer? (Why would they call themselves Christian if they didn’t believe in Christ?) You’re being a wee bit hubristic here, eh?’No, I was being kind. Without doubt, a significant percentage of folks who identify themselves as Christian, are either ambivilant and/or skeptical with regard to the ‘truth’ of various Christian doctrines, dogma, revelations, and so forth ….. or just plain don’t believe at all. Perhaps we can call them the cafeteria Christians :^) They are the legions of self-identifed nominal Christians who are neither persuaded nor convinced of the supernaturalism upon which Christian theology is founded. Stepping away from religion can have real and life-changing consequences,and many formerly devout believers are ostensibly not willing to make that move. Some posters here seem to believe that it’s very easy to drop one’s religous identity once beliefs and convictions change – I am not in that camp however. So yes, Christianity most likely has numbers of former believers that will never be ‘outed’ as a/theists.

  • persiflage

    ‘Amongst Catholics, a faith widely represented by atheists to be on its knees (not in the religious sense of course), 42% attended Mass weekly or more. Amongst evangelicals the number is an astonishing 58%!……..So I can’t agree with you and as you have posted no numbers, just your opinion, IMHO my contention, not yours, has legs.’Well, of course it’s just my opinion! That’s all any of us really have. Your numbers, on the other hand, seem to fall a wee bit short of the 100 percentile mark…..Where are all of those non-churchgoing hold-outs when you need them most?? I’d say about 89% of all my Catholic relatives DO NOT go to church. Unfortunately, they do vote republican. I happen to know quite a few Ecuador natives here in SC, and the number of times they go to church per annum can be counted on one hand….South Americans are not nearly so devoted as one imagines. We should also take a poll of how many Irish Catholics (both here and in Ireland) go to church regularly. Any numbers??

  • PSolus

    BlaiseP,”Amongst Catholics,… 42% attended Mass weekly or more. Amongst evangelicals the number is an astonishing 58%!”Of those number, how many do you think are true believers?How many are spouses who are dragged there by their SO?How many are children who have no choice?

  • PSolus

    BlaiseP,”Pers. might ignore the constitution of a valid sample but PSolus denies the definition of a survey.”Really, I denied the definition of a survey by asking questions?Ouch, somebody’s sensitive today.”Should read the description in the beginning of the survey.”Is it something I said?”I’m not going to do it for you.”Have I hurt your feelings?”You’re an intelligent, spirited atheist,…”I’m an atheist?How did you come to that conclustion?”…you can do it yourself!”So I guess I’ll be sleeping on the couch tonight?Here’s $10; what say you go out and buy something that makes you feel pretty.

  • PSolus

    BlaiseP,I hear that if you believe really, really, hard, and clap your hands really, really, loud, you can keep Tinkerbell alive!

  • BlaiseP

    Pers & PS:Why don’t we give it a rest and let others comment on Ms W’s article? I would only comment that Pers. felt bad that the Chinese have abandoned

  • PSolus

    BlaiseP,”Why don’t we give it a rest and let others comment on Ms W’s article?”I wasn’t aware that my commenting prevented anyone else from commenting.Other people commenting certainly doesn’t prevent me from commenting.Do these comment sections hold only a finite number of comments?