Recently I wrote a simple piece titled "Where Is the Faith?" that made it onto The Huffington Post. I must admit that it was a most ordinary subject made extraordinarily provocative by the stifling, politically correct atmosphere we have managed to construct around us where discussions about God and Her existence are considered untouchable. What ensued as a result of this rhetorical debate were discussions and experiences that led to a higher education that I had not bargained for. Here is what I learned:
I now understand why the Talibans and the Boko Harams of the world have launched a holy war against education. Their view that education is evil and open-mindedness is dangerous stems from their recognition (and fear) of the prodigious power of knowledge. Empowerment is perilous, for the more education one has, the more she is willing to question. On the other hand, the less educated a person is, the more blinded he is by the beliefs that have been engrained in her; there is also little desire to learn, as learning, understandably, is hard. Does a dull and rusty knife work as well as one that is well oiled? Education is what oils the brain and fuels the mind.
I discovered that people of enormous faith (also with stellar degrees) have questioned their faith (and fate) at some point in their lives. It was astounding to hear the Rev. Dr. Robert Allan Hill, Dean of Marsh Chapel and Chaplain and Revered Professor of New Testament and Pastoral Theology at Boston University, unabashedly announce that "the words resonate with me, and I believe, with many others." I did not expect support such as this from someone who is considered by thousands to be the epitome of sublime knowledge and profound wisdom.
A good friend of mine, Ken Zaniewski, greatly admired for his active role in the church, wrote a beautiful email, part of which I will share with you:
"[S]o many religions to choose from, which one do I pick? Which is the right religion? What if I pick the wrong religion? Did God create Man or did Man create God? I choose the latter. God should buy a 60 second ad during the World Cup Soccer Finals or during the Super Bowl to let us know he is still around and has our backs....
I especially love the storm that rages in his mind (and now mine) about who created whom. A lofty yet humble question indeed!
The gist of the many conversations I've had with many so-called believers is, as my faithful friend Jill -- also an avid churchgoer -- bluntly put it, "If someone says that she has never questioned her faith, she is lying!"
The bottom line is that the greater the faith, the greater the desire to debate and rationally win the educated debate. Wisdom equals confidence; knowledge is power; therefore education is (a necessary) evil.
I now know that my friends and co-workers -- many of whom faithfully flaunt a cross -- do not necessarily harbor the faith this falsely portrays. The talisman adorning their neck is often there because of their belief that it is supposed to be there, not necessarily because they believe.
I have also learned that forthrightness -- not impudence -- is still respected. Even in a repressive culture where everyone seems to be walking on eggshells for fear of offending the next person, an open discussion of devotion is welcome -- something that does not happen often because we are afraid to engage. Expressing one's faith is healthy, for if my faith is strong, there is no desire for unhealthy proselytizing. It would not be out of place to mention here that I have often laughed at the wasteful debates over the use of the word "God" in our schools or "prayer" in the classrooms. If only our children could be taught at an early age that, just like no child is better than another, my God is no better than yours. And just like we expect our little ones to respect everyone -- no matter their differences -- we should imbibe in their souls respect towards all beings -- even the higher ones. But unfortunately the debate rages on about trivial issues like how a moment of silence after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance should be abolished. God forbid students start praying at that very opportune moment? As a public school teacher, I do fervently wish that pupils at that instant were praying instead of trying to do everything but that! Why are we afraid to let our children contemplate, I wonder?
Something else the blog post has taught me is something we have known all along: that there will always be those who will be happy for our littlest successes, and, although it hurts because we are vain creatures after all, there will always be those who will never be happy no matter how important our achievement is to us. Sometimes all we crave is a simple acknowledgement -- an expectation that is often too much to ask of some. This was a good life lesson for me -- never to be replicated with others. I vow to remember this golden rule of biblical proportions: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (Luke 6:31). Who ever said I am a nonbeliever?
While ruminating over the facts, one thing became abundantly clear: In spite of the never-ending quest since the beginning of time, no one can positively prove to have met God. There is nothing wrong with this, for the enlightened believer believes in meeting God through servicing mankind, which, to me, is the ultimate faith -- the only essential state of Godliness. And in conclusion, it really matters diddly squad whether it is the Almighty Father in a milky white robe or the Dark-Skinned Mother donning a garland of human skulls around her bloody neck who makes us want to do good. The "God" that we have made all-powerful is immaterial, for it is the means to reach the end that is all-important.
In the end, God is not just a tangible fact that I set out to seek at the behest of dear Dr. Conard but the immeasurable joy that stems from displaying intangible kindness towards others. What if, at some uneventful yet momentous point in history, someone misspelled "good" as "god"? Imagine....