Each December (and at other times) the air is filled with music and words about faith. Odd thing is, most people have trouble defining faith or agreeing upon what faith entails. So let’s confuse things even more, shall we?
First, some quotations about faith. A couple of hundred years ago a gloomy Danish philosopher named Soren Kierkegaard said, “Faith is the refusal to panic.”
Elton Trueblood said, “Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it by the handle of anxiety, or by the handle of faith.”
From these two quotes, we could deduce that faith is a device for combating various forms of fear.
Must faith be mysterious? Hannah More said, “That’s the thing about faith. If you don’t have it you can’t understand it. And if you do, no explanation is necessary.” Thank you, Hannah.
Louis Armstrong said the same thing about jazz, and look where it got us.
An anonymous quotation says, “Faith is like electricity. You can’t see it, but you can see the light.” Quite so.
How’s about another analogy? “Faith is like an umbrella over your head. You’re not quite sure how strong it will be, or what storms it will have to ward off. But it is better than just standing there with your schnozzle hanging out in the wet and cold.”
It’s a mistake to think that only religious people experience the benefits of faith. I’m certain that atheists and agnostics practice their own forms of faith. Many atheists are humanists; as such, they believe that humankind is capable of large measures of decency, kindness and wisdom, without any prompting or aid from a celestial power. And their faith is often borne out.
I would guess that weather forecasters are persons of great faith. They go to bed each night believing that the sun will rise in the east next morning. And durned if it doesn’t.
Faith usually has hope as a built-in partner. Speaking of partners, can you think of anyone with more faith and hope than two persons about to marry each other, especially in this day and age? And then they double their bet by having a child, or two or more.
Is it insulting to regard gambling as a form of faith? I don’t think so. Granted, the streets of Las Vegas and Monte Carlo are littered with short-lived faith, but at least it was fun while it lasted. Next time you see or read of a successful business venture, you’re witnessing the product of sustained, often hard-won faith.
My cat Ellie is a feline of great faith. Every day of her life she curls up in a circle of serenity. She spends hours in unshakeable repose, confident that her elderly retainer will provide food, water, clean litter and ceaseless endearments. And most days I do.
Finally, try on this idea: faith is a belief that a comforting, enduring presence can inhabit one’s mind and clothe it with an inexplicable peace. This indwelling stillness somehow blunts the pain and fear that life is heir to. It then leads us forward to whatever joys and travail await us.
But what if, in the end, we discover that our faith was a snare and a delusion? Chances are we won’t mind. After all, didn’t the delusion deliver the desired goods?