Merriam Webster Dictionary defines faith as a firm belief in something for which there is no proof; something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially: a system of religious beliefs. I believe faith steps in where logic creates a chasm. By default I am a thinker and prefer things to be logical, or at least appear so. When I can find no further logical explanation I take that leap with faith. Admittedly, my struggles with the concept of faith started at a very young age; I recognized that my family practiced religion but was hard pressed to find examples of our faith in action. By the age of twelve I had come to the decision that religion, at least that of my family of origin, was not for me and began my quest for something deeper. This did not bode well with those around me at all. I was raised in a parochial school in a family that had close-knit ties to the congregation and my questioning was seen as the highest form of disrespect, a tough pill to swallow at the tender age of twelve.
My journey would eventually lead me through many -isms- religious and worldly, forge a deep and true relationship with the Creator, and have me settled in wholeheartedly in my relationship with Christ; it has also at times put me at odds with my family, my friends, and even my fellow Christians. These struggles have at time shaken me to the core but it is through these quakes that I am able to see which of my core beliefs are left standing, and take my next steps.
I believe in a Creator. I believe the universe and everything in it are created to work in harmony for the ultimate purpose of that Creator. I believe that humankind in its struggle to logically define creation in a way that satisfies the thirst for knowledge has posited a myriad of explanations for the universe and how it came to be. From a Bang to Seven Days, none of these explanations can comprehensively explain the universe and all its workings - a chasm that requires a leap of faith. For me, it is through my faith that I am able to come to a more intimate understanding of the world around me. I personally find that scientific reasoning and religious explanation are not mutually exclusive and see God telling us His story through both perspectives. People firmly planted on either side of the creation spectrum disagree with me vehemently, I suppose this makes me an equal opportunity offender, but this is a belief that has stood up to many mini-quakes and survived and one that my Creator continually validates.
The Creation conversation is not the only one that plants me firmly in the middle of heated debate. I wrestle with the Doctrine of Original Sin and the condition of man. The semantics surrounding my daughter’s ceremonial entrance into the church nearly tore my family apart and years later I learned that my mother had her “baptized” because she did not believe the Dedication ceremony was sufficient to guarantee my daughter’s entrance into Heaven if she passed. I know that as a mother, in dedicating my daughter Bryana to God I promised to raise her in the bosom of the church and its beliefs. Then when Bryana is old enough to make those assertions for herself personally, she will make that choice. I do not believe that had she died before she could profess her faith that she would be denied access to Heaven. My religion tells me we are born inherently bad, I believe we live in a world that is bad and that bad is a stronger influence than good. I believe that we have a glowing of the Divine Creator within us and that ember has the power to overcome the evil we are faced with but we have to choose to fan the flames of the Divine. The ember will never go out, but without our attention, it can never grow. Unfortunately, we humans have a short attention span and are easily caught up in the trappings of this world.
I believe the problems we face as a species stem from our need to have a logical explanation for every thing. I do not mean to say that questioning is a negative character trait as I also believe that blindly accepting information as fact is as detrimental as an incessant thirst for proof. Rather, I think we fall short and therefore fall from grace when we feel as though we can find no reconciliation for the conflict in our hearts and minds that we simply stop trying and follow the established routines of our population. While it is true that there are things that we simply do not know, it is also true that as we learn better we should do better -- that requires a choice. Making no choice at all is still in fact a choice and is a behavior that can hurt the believer and non-believer equally. By this I mean that no matter where we stand on the belief fence, we all need to continue growing. To me, the idea that God created the world in seven days, Monday through Sunday, period, is a rather naive view. Archaeological and scientific research has proven that the Earth is billions of years old and was formed over an equally expansive period of time. This is where I apply my leap of faith philosophy; The Bible says God created Heaven and Earth in seven days, science says it took eons, my faith imparts that my concept of a day may not be anything like God’s concept of a day and there is room for both ideas and my heart is at peace with that.
This philosophy, my finding peace over internal conflict through faith has allowed some what could be deemed radical ideas to settle in my bones. My ideas surrounding Creation and Salvation are merely the bookends to my belief system. At this point in my life I know that I have beliefs that do not fit in line with other Christian beliefs. I believe in the “sanctity of all life” which to me is defined as complete inclusivity. I struggle with religions that exclude subsets of humankind. But, as I’ve said, I believe that as we learn better, we can choose to do better and as a species, we are. In Jesus’ time he challenged the Jews to do the unthinkable, to welcome a Gentile, to be inclusive. In the 1960’s Dr. Martin Luther King followed that example and dared to suggest the unthinkable, that we could live harmonious as the human race, regardless of race, and be inclusive. My heart resonates with that teaching of Jesus, that we are called to elevate those we see as the lowest of society and that today that means including and accepting many of those we shun and exclude do to race, sexual orientation and belief system. I believe the solution to our problems is to evolve. Jesus’ teachings and the Word of God is deeper and wider than we will ever completely comprehend while on earth; If we think we have it mastered, we are missing an opportunity to fan the flames of the Divine ember entrusted to us. There are those in my life who call me naive, or accuse me of shaping my faith to match my personal desires; I will continue to press in, to rest in the bosom of my Creator during the quakes that shake up my life and consciously choose to do better as I learn better.