Redefining “Faith”

Re-imagine faith

I have issues with Faith.

Not the concept, the word.

Let’s face it; there are real gaps in what we can know and prove, and sometimes we all have to make a leap or two so that we can actually make it through the day. If we are being totally honest, we admit that there is no possible way to know, beyond all doubt, that the sun will come up tomorrow. But most of us believe pretty strongly that it will nonetheless; and that is okay. The notion that we can, and sometimes have to, form a belief in the face of incomplete evidence does not trouble me; what I have a problem with is we have named this concept “faith” and made it the ideal.

I take issue with this because I hate that our religious and moral fiber is often determined in direct proportion to how many “leaps of faith” we are willing to make in the name of our religion of choice. Furthermore, it seems that those who maintain a belief, even in the face of a mountain of contrary evidence, are at times even more praise-worthy than those who choose to walk the paths of religious integrity, living their beliefs every day. Why does it seem that in the eyes of religion how little we question is valued more than how intentionally we act?

This means that if you value critical thinking, questioning, and examination, you may feel just a tad alienated by the whole “faith” thing. And it certainly puts us non-creedal, question-loving Unitarian Universalists in an interesting predicament. Are we a people of “faith” or not? If “faith” is defined as the willingness to accept beliefs in the face of lacking or even contrary evidence, then perhaps not. Do we reject “faith” and all that comes with it, or embrace it?

I propose we say “no” to both.

We have been stuck for far too long debating the use of religious language in our congregations (I am looking at you, UUs who refer to “faith” as the “f-word”). If we are going to move forward as a religious community, we need to look “faith” in the eye and re-claim it once and for all.

“We are the church of the open minds, loving hearts, and helping hands.”

If you have spent any time leading UU children in religious exploration, you know that what we teach our children does not involve telling them to accept ideas and entire moral codes on authority alone. We teach our children and youth that it is what we do that matters, and that we ought to try to do our best to live our Principles every day. This approach to “faith development” suddenly changes the simple act of picking up trash into a faithful one.

We work with our kids to help them ask questions and introduce tools as they explore their very own path. We tell them that it is okay to disagree with yourself and others after learning something new, and that old ideas can and should make way for new information. We let them know that wisdom can be found just about anywhere from anyone if you just leave yourself open to the possibility.

In short, for Unitarian Universalists “faith” should not be a noun; it should be a verb.

We develop our faith by learning to be powerful people of intention and integrity. Unitarian Universalism is a religion with a rich history of people who have acted in faith; not on faith. We are a religion that talks about walking a faithful path, not making leaps of blind faith. We become strong congregations when we gather to search for our paths and provide support to one another as we aspire to walk these paths faithfully.

So why is it in our current climate where more and more are rejecting the practice of blind religious faith in favor of scientific discovery and critical examination, that Unitarian Universalism is not growing? Perhaps it is because we are a people of faith who have not yet told the world “faith” is not about the blind trust of authority, but about building the trust of community by acting in line with reasoned beliefs. We have yet to tell the world that we are Unitarian Universalist and that WE Redefine Faith.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The 7 Priorities « An American Point of View
  2. Julia
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 03:03:10

    I am a longtime UU, and I wanted to be convinced by this article that UUs can embrace the word “faith,” but it didn’t ring true for me. Faith in the religious context is a word that means believing in something that has no hard evidence, specifically God. I am an agnostic UU. Calling myself a person of faith feels misleading if not actually dishonest.

    I do see the draw of calling UUism a faith community, because this is a way of describing us that puts us on par with mainstream religions and implies (correctly) that we are an ethical group which acts in the name of compassion for the world and its inhabitants. Calling us a faith community also allows us to fly under the radar a bit, because the general reader wouldn’t assume that a large percentage of a faith community is actually atheist or agnostic (not popular belief systems). But all this still feels like a big misrepresentation, and being honest about ourselves is an important part of being an ethical group.

    I’m still open to persuasion. Are you game to try again?

    Reply

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