For those who follow subversivepreacher sermons,
this newspaper column is an echo of the Sunday sermon, but with a slant toward the civic arena.
This may sound like it is about religion but it is not, at least not only about religion. It is about the difference between faith and belief and even though these two words are most often associated with religion or spirituality, they are elements of the human experience in all areas of life.
For example, your faith may be in science or it may be a fierce holding onto what you can actually see and touch verses what remains unproven. Or it could be rooted in your experience of the sacred. Faith, in whatever, is embedded in our core. Ancient Hebrew, as it so often did, had an apt word for faith, “Emunah.”
Faith is beyond belief. We often confuse these two words.
We have scads of beliefs, thousands if not millions. Our minds are plastered with beliefs about everything from family to the rights of citizenship, to how to rear a child and which religion holds the the most sacred wisdom. We have beliefs about who and what God is, or beliefs about there being no God. We have beliefs about the proper silverware to use for which foods, the best sneaker, and what makes for the best education. In short, there are tons of beliefs from which we operate on a daily basis, sometimes even when a belief has been proven false we will still operate as if it is true. The so called “Big Lie” comes to mind.
But faith is far beyond belief. It is a level of bedrock knowledge from which we can dig no deeper. It is experiential. Emunah (faith) is our bedrock experience that forms an innate knowing we hold onto no matter what.
Rather than a feeling, faith is more like a verb: an action connecting body, mind, and spirit. Literally, Emunah means to hold onto. The act of fiercely holding onto and not letting go is a better description of faith than the word belief. Beliefs bloom then crumble like autumn leaves. But faith is an internal, innate knowledge born of personal experience that we hold onto.
Subsequently, I do not have faith in Democracy, the nation, or any particular institution, such as the Supreme Court. They are all ideas built upon beliefs which can change, crumble, and transform. Likewise, to invest faith in a person, especially someone we only know via the media, is potentially self-destructive. Better to remain only a believer in ideas and people.
As a population we seem to have wrongly invested ourselves in celebrities and beliefs as if they are more than they are. Beliefs and ideas are meant to be argued and debated, and be vulnerable to change and modification. Our city councilors, for example, should engage in intimate debate and, if they are good councilors, be personally open to having their ideas and beliefs changed. Same thing in Congress. Engage the ideas and beliefs, try them on and wiggle through them to see how they could fit or fail. Objection and rejection without engagement lacks both wisdom and maturity.
No one can take away true faith, Emunah — bedrock experience we hold onto through any storm. But everything else — all ideas, doctrines, opinions, and beliefs — should be up for grabs to explore, modify, or let go. At least that’s what I believe, though you may be able to change my mind.