‘Faith’ is today’s most controversial F-word. Few words provoke such a variety of reactions as the word ‘faith’. In my own experiences of discussing faith with others, some react favourably, some react critically, and some react with silence, preferring to not touch faith even with a ten-foot pole! Though the jury may still be out, one thing is for certain: faith is controversial. But we shouldn’t let controversy stop us, because controversial or not, faith affects us all. So what do you imagine when you think about faith?
Perhaps conflict comes to mind. In current times, cities around the world are becoming more and more religiously diverse. Long gone are the times of mono-faith communities; we live in multi-faith communities. In the wake of our developing diversity, many people of faith have ghettoized themselves—whether physically or spiritually—from people of other faiths. In extreme scenarios, conflict erupts. If we look backwards down the corridor of our history, we can see plenty of devastation that’s been caused when faith was armed with weapons. Religiously based conflict is something that has come up many times in my own conversations about faith—and for good reasons! So for many, whether in view of present or past issues, faith = conflict.
Maybe the first thing that enters your thoughts is that faith is irrational. In other words, we accept things through faith when there’s no reasonable basis to do so. Faith and reason are at odds, then, and to have faith in anything is to simultaneously suspend or suppress one’s rationality. Often coupled with this notion is the idea that the sensibilities of faith and the sensibilities of science are fundamentally incompatible. So for a number of people, faith = irrationality.
Escaping life’s hardships may enter your mind when you think about faith. I mean, let’s be real: life can suck, life can be painful, and life can be confusing. In these moments we long for comfort and hope, and sometimes believing that there will be relief in the future may seem like our only consolation in the present. And this is what faith boils down to for some: evacuating from this hellhole at some point in the future. Or, in other words, faith = escape.
But is this really what faith is all about?
I think there’s more to it than the above equations suggest. As a person of faith and a follower of Jesus, I think there are transforming and beautiful and deeply-human dimensions of faith that are often taken for granted and overlooked. Perhaps you think so too. Perhaps you don’t. Either way, it’s hugely important for us to stare straight into its face together since faith affects us all. Over time, I hope to expand the conversation.