Dartmouth Weekly Prayers 4/19/2007
by David Gaia Kano
Reading – [1 minute ]
From “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran
And an old priest said, Speak to us of Religion, And he said: Have I spoken this day of aught else? Is not religion all deeds and all reflection, And that which is neither deed nor reflection, but a wonder and a surprise ever springing in the soul, even while the hands hew the stone or tend the loom?
Who can separate his faith from his actions, or his belief from his occupations?
Who can spread his hours before him, saying, “This is for God and this for myself; This for my soul, and this other for my body?”
Here ends the reading.
Message - [7.5 minutes]
What is faith? One definition is, “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” You may know people who claim, by this definition, not to have “faith” in anything. They need scientific proof to believe.
To them, "facts" are fundamental, while "faith" is more ephemeral. For example, they may have faith in a friend, but only until that friend betrays their trust.
But I'd like to offer you another way of defining faith. One that I think is true for everyone: “Faith,” is a foundational belief, upon which all our other beliefs depend. As such, we all depend on our faith. The question is, faith in what?
Lets take science. Most of us, and even those with no religeous faith, still believe in the Newtonian laws of physics, Einsteins E = MC2 and many other scientific facts. What this means to me, is that we have faith, in the scientific method of discovering truth. We believe that the world is ruled by certain laws that we can ascertain, by posing a hypothesis and then designing a scientific means of testing it, to determine if it's true.
But what if this faith turns out to be misplaced? What if it turns out, that reality is not made up of immutable laws of cause and effect? What if the very idea of the hypothesis, the belief that it is true, determines the truth for the experimenter?
Or, more fundamentally, what if it turns out that we humans are not even “real” at all, but that each of us is actually a part of a huge computer simulation, designed by some super intelligent beings for their own experimental reasons? How can we know? After all, every observation, scientifically proved or not, is still experienced through our senses, which could easily be fooled. So how can we know anything at all, for sure? I claim that we can't: we need faith in some kind of foundational beliefs, to enable and support everything else that we believe! Some call this “world view” or “paradigm” but even they rest on our faith.
How would we interpret the world around us, if we did not have faith in gravity pulling down, light displacing darkness, or our taxes needing to be paid? Without our foundational beliefs, we would be hard pressed to learn anything new or make the myriad decisions of daily life.
Once you accept that all beliefs are supported by faith in something, you may want to test your faith, to see if it supports the kind “house” you would want to call your “home.” Since all beliefs, and the actions they inspire, sit on top of your foundations of faith, you would be wise to chose your faith very carefully.
Faith in science helps us navigate the physical world, but what of our relations with each other? What of our personal and spiritual growth? Lets look at some examples of religious faith.
You (may) say you believe in God. But if your God sits on high, inherently separate and greater than we humans, your faith supports beliefs that require a foundation of separateness and hierarchy. This in turn, may support an “us vs. them” mentality, instead of “us and them,” or even “us with them,” or simply just “we,” as inclusive of all.
If your God sits in judgment, then your foundational belief will support you to make judgments against yourself and others. If your God is angry, and seeks justice through punishment, your faith is supporting your anger and vengeance.
You may have accepted Christ as your savior. But what do we need to be saved from? Your faith foundation may support a belief in the inherent evil of mankind, including yourself.
You may have guessed by now that my personal faith can not described well by many traditional Christian religious terms. My primary faith foundation is simple, and yet profound: It is Love.
Not merely the romantic (and often possessive) state of being “in love.” But the love that is foundational to forgiveness, compassion, acceptance, and vision. Love as the feeling of profound joy that we experience as we move closer to God, as we return to our source.
Christ taught love. Christ lived love. To me, God is best described, in this world of words and ideas, as unconditional love. When you have love as your foundational belief, upon which all others must rest, then can you shake off the beliefs that bring you pain and suffering. They will have no foundation on which to sit. They will be unsupported by your faith.
With love as your foundation, you can hold God as most high and yet see God as integral to all. Through the eyes of love, will you distinguish good from evil, and yet forgive all. For all is a blessed creation of God and each element of that creation holds a lesson for spiritual growth. Thus, we can replace anger, with peace within.
In the life and love of Christ, do we all find salvation, not from the wrath of God, but from the suffering we met upon ourselves, in ignorance of his love!
But these examples of faith are really just to illustrate my main point: we all need faith, at many levels. Everyone depends on faith in something, to interpret and live their lives. The question is, faith in what? It's up to each of us to decide. The spiritual will is strong, we can use it to improve our lives.
So think carefully before you design your faith. Choose a foundation of faith that will only support the kind of house in which you want to live this life! For me, that foundation is unconditional love. Amen.
– Dartmouth Weekly Prayers 4/19/07 Page