Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hear Here

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

                        Romans 10.17


We need to believe. We need faith. That’s always been true, of course, but with each passing day, the need for faith becomes more evident everywhere we look. Fear and his two stepchildren, Cynicism and Doubt, have taken up residence in our public squares, our learned halls, and our private imaginations. We hope for the best, yet brace ourselves for the worst. Progress and change no longer are characterized by courageous leaps of faith. They’re methodically plotted baby steps governed by uncertainty. We’ve allowed our lives to be governed almost exclusively by what we see—things we can prove empirically and explain logically. Yet we’re constantly surprised at how often rational proof leaves us unprepared for rare phenomena and human contradiction. It’s a lousy way for anyone to live. It simply doesn’t work as well as we’d like or, for that matter, as well as we pretend. For followers of Christ, however, it’s completely counterintuitive.

The prophet Habakkuk condemned arrogant, restless minds that can’t be satisfied, contrasting them with this: “The righteous will live by his faith” (2.4). Then, not once, but in three New Testament letters written to three different audiences are we emphatically reminded of this: the righteous live by faith. It’s we, the believers—not our political leaders or scientists or social theorists—who possess the insight to look beyond the visible to see what’s possible, to hope for outcomes unproven by precedent. We’re the ones capable of making leaps. Undaunted by Fear, Cynicism, and Doubt, we’re humanity’s agents of progress and change.


We need faith—not only for ourselves, but also for our world. And according Paul’s letter to the Roman church, we acquire faith by hearing the message of Christ’s word. This dependency on the Word is what separates true believers—people of faith—from “spiritual” people, who blend a sense of human decency with consciousness of divine presence. We encounter so many “spiritual” people these days, particularly those of us who live and move in GLBT circles, that many of us have got confused and consider “spirituality” and faith as almost alike or possibly the same. They are not. Faith grows out of Christ’s message; spirituality grows out of personal conviction. Spirituality steers its practitioners toward what’s best for them. Christ’s message steers us toward what’s best for others. Spirituality changes one’s perceptions of the world. Faith changes us so we can change the world around us.

Hearing the Message

Many of us who’ve been ostracized by religious bigotry and exclusionary traditions have settled in the flatlands of spirituality—keeping our distance from living by faith, yet consciously hanging near its borders. It’s time for us to head back, to find a home where we can regularly hear Christ’s message of love and acceptance, to rejoin the company of believers who live by faith. Our world, our communities, and our loved ones are stalled, paralyzed by Fear, crippled by Cynicism, and shaken by Doubt. It’s time for us to build ourselves up to take leaps of faith toward progress and change for them. We need faith, which means we need to hear the Word, which means we need to find a place where we can say, “My faith grows stronger and stronger because of what I hear here.”

People of faith makes leaps of faith.

(Tomorrow: Love Lines)

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