One of the definitions of faith, according to Dictionary.com, is, “belief that is not based on proof”. Another definition would be,” belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the pilgrims.”
I have often reflected on the meaning of faith…why do people attend synagogue, church, or mosque. Is it the hope of an afterlife, a rapture, rewards in heaven that seem somewhat earthly in their descriptions?
Is religious affiliation much like a club to many people? You pay your dues and show up for the main events…and you have got your bases covered with the big man upstairs?
The popular author Tom Perrotta has written a compelling book titled, the leftovers, which has been made into a series on HBO. The basic premise is that a rapture like event has occurred taking one hundred and forty-thousand people away from the earth and their families and friends to somewhere yet to be determined. One of the most interesting components of this yarn is that that people were apparently from all walks of life, faithful and faithless,…moral and immoral. After this unexplained departure it appears that a slow chaos is building among the leftovers…including an appreciable decline in church attendance. Nihilism is taking over the town in which the story is set.
Many people are members of a belief system by virtue of their birth. Judaism, Muslim, Catholic, or Protestant, while many more are members of a denomination by the same random circumstance, Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran and others.
I had a good friend disclose to me many years ago that the only reason he attended church was to avoid a burning hell.
As Mary Jane and I have traveled throughout Europe we have toured many exquisite cathedrals. I must tell you that I find them inspiring. The people that built these magnificent edifices had to be inspired. Did they come up in the same faith system that I have? No, I think not as the catholic church would be the primary religious influence throughout Europe. Nevertheless the physical manifestation of their belief in the unknown is palpable.
When I was working at university I was acquainted with many wonderful students from all over the world. Their backgrounds and belief or faith systems were as the old testament patriarch Josephs’ coat of many colors. One of these, an African American young man, worked in the office with me for some time and was a muslim. He was a delightful person and caring person and dedicated to his faith.
I have several friends who are Jewish by birth and Christian by faith.
Many voices in the United States, and some with appreciable political influence, would have our government follow their narrow interpretation of the Bible and their belief system. You see that’s the rub as we used to say. Prayer is powerful…but do I have to recite your… or the politically correct prayer?
Having begun my faith walk in a non-denominational church forty-five years ago and now having been a member of First Presbyterian Church for the past sixteen years I have experienced quite a view of my protestant faith. Faith is extremely personal and many times private.
One manifestation that I enjoy seeing in the Presbyterian Church is people living their faith with practical actions of helping others and the less fortunate.
In the new testament (NIV) Jesus said in John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”