'Noun Faith' Produces Consumers, But 'Verb Faith' Produces Citizens

09/01/2010 11:03 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

If you have attended a liturgical Christian church, you know the drill:

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in being with the Father. Through Him all things were made.

This is only about a fourth of the Nicene Creed. By this time the eyes of most congregants begin to resemble a glazed donut, heavy on the glaze.

I don't want to devalue believers who find ritual spiritually freeing. My point is that the Nicene Creed is the cornerstone of "noun faith." This style of faith emanates from top-down edicts. The powerful ruling class decrees to its followers what to believe. These creeds are then drilled into the disciples' psyche day after day, week after week, year after year.

Their dogmas are otherworldly, free from empirical evaluation. This transitory life is portrayed as a prelude to the real life to follow, which is everlasting. The adherents of "noun faith" are passive, easily molded by the all-knowing.

The Buddha's teaching in this arena makes immanent sense to me. He rejected speculation about such matters as God, the nature of the universe, and the afterlife, urging his followers to focus instead on the Four Noble Truths by which they could free themselves from the wheel of suffering.

"Noun faith" is form of mind control. It produces consumers.

"Verb faith" paints a starkly contrasting portrait.

The word translated as "faith" in the New Testament simply means "trust." Do we trust in unprovable speculation about metaphysical realities by those who know better, or do we trust in a grounded, earthly, integrated faith?

James, the brother of Jesus, depicts "verb faith":

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-17)

In his landmark volume Stages of Faith, James Fowler asks the questions of "verb faith," "What are you spending and being spent for? What commands and receives your best time, your best energy? To what are you committed in life? In death? What are those most sacred hopes, those most compelling goals and purposes in your life?"

In a postmodern world, our high priests are the multinational corporations and their messaging machines. Advertising is the least of their catechisms; their primary evangelists are corporate media "journalists."

They are incessantly programming you to be a submissive consumer. One of their primary products is war.

In the lead-up to the Iraq invasion, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card remarked to the New York Times, "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August." Card was explaining what the Times characterized as a "meticulously planned strategy to persuade the public, the Congress, and the allies of the need to confront the threat from Saddam Hussein."

We discovered in 2008 that over 75 retired officers had been coached by government and military officials to 'spin' the news about Iraq over the course of five years or more. Fox News led the way in presenting these individuals to the public, but NBC, CNN, CBS and ABC all followed suit.

The military analysts did not simply propagandize for ideological reasons; in many cases, they work for defense contractors and are "in the business of helping companies win military contracts."

"Verb faith" produces active, engaged citizens who express a here-and-now earthly "heaven."

Rev. Martin Luther King makes it plain: "Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial."

This is the third piece in a series. The previous pieces can be found at