The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Why do we need faith?

The  following was submitted by the wise and wonderful Suzanne, concerning my recent thoughts on Faith:
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"Not being facetious here, Steve
but what exactly is Faith?

Being pretty much devoid of fear and anger
that leaves me with frustration
and I think I probably rate pretty low of the scale for that too

recently when my hand was in a cast and
to some degree in pain most of the time
I experienced frustration
so I did my usual telling myself
in time it would go away
and until then I could feel it
and then set it aside

so what exactly do you have Faith in?
other than that time passes and everything changes
which is a positive thought when things aren't going according to plan

I write about speakng to the universe
but whether I think the universe has an active Intelligence
that actually listens and does something about my problems
I suspect NOT

and believe me I am MOST andmost sincerey grateful
for my life and my health and the people I love
and my Mind and my Body
and my circumstances
but my gratitude isn't directed at any one/thing/mind
I also write about "my spinning Fateful sisters" 
the notion of Fate personified
but whether or not there are three old dames who have spun me out
and who place the paths of delicious other humansnear mine
giving me the oppportunity to commubnicate and love
or not
I just do not know

so how exactly does Faith operate
is it ony for getting through Bad times

when I reach the end of my own resources
I know enough to ask people who are likely to know
more about the particular problem than I do
and whomi ght have helpful suggestions

but so far I haven't had any expereinces
that render me incapable of somehow dealing
with my own hurts or obstacles or plight
(and in those times when I feel really REALLY bad
I know it won't last permanently
which is what gives me strength
to get through them)

I guess I don't understand how Faith
(in some Divine Caring Something)
would make me a better person
or a more capable one
of dealing with the hands I draw

I do my best not to cause harm
or waves of the negatively perturbacious type
I do what I can on an individual basis
to give of what I have

believing I am OBSERVED and will be judged
wouldn't make me behave any different than I do
that I can see

so I have real difficulty
comprehending how Faith
would make a difference in my life

respectfully submitted
Suzanne"
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I have to answer this in sections, sweetheart.  Remember that my primary lenses for communicating what I experience are the Hero’s Journey, and the Chakras—this is both a strength and a limitation, but with that caveat, here we go…
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The study of world myth suggests that faith is central to the movement from one level of life to another.  The three primary manifestations of faith would be:

1)     Faith in self.
2)     Faith in our companions
3)     Faith in a higher power.

In your examples, Suzanne, you clearly embrace the first two, and I feel (and have always felt) a spiritual sensuality in your  words and actions that implies a powerful connection to Spirit.

“Faith” would mean evidence in things unseen.  When one gets to the end of logic and experience, it is this quality that keeps us going.  The trick is that the ego, which is quite limited, thinks it is the totality of us.  Whenever we embrace a new path, or new relationship, or new challenge, if it will ACTUALLY change us and help us grow, we must empty ourselves out.  Without coming to the end of our current conception of self, there is no impetus to change, and we all like to stay comfortable (in certain ways.  Some people embrace extreme sports, for instance, but are quite nervous and conservative about their relationships or careers). 

Ideally, I think we should have all three.  There are simply times when we lose the ability to believe in ourselves.  Friends and family can be invaluable in these times.  But wow, what happens if you hit one of those emotional walls and you have no support system?  At such a time, belief that there is a pattern to the universe and that you are a part of it, can keep you going until you break through the wall.  This need not manifest as a belief in a particular God, although it often does. 

Faith, then, is a belief that beyond the edge of what we can see and understand lies a pattern, or an intelligence, or a life force that embraces and protects us.  A disproportunate number of the highest-performing, happiest, sanest and healthiest people I have known or studied around the world have such a belief.  That doesn’t make it true—but it does imply that it is useful.
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I suspect it is even more useful for African-Americans, and for a variety of reasons.  While there was massive external stress placed upon that community, there was also poisonous programming that suggested that individual blacks were, frankly, garbage.  And their communities could offer only limited assistance—they were not true cultures, but rather sub-cultures dependant upon the very people who had subjugated and degraded them.

A belief in some kind of all-powerful being who might bring justice, even in the next world, helped them remain sane in this one.   That’s just the spiritual side.  Religion, to me, is as much a social or political organ as a spiritual one.  And Christianity provided “protective coloration” for blacks.  Even a bigot had a harder time dehumanizing a Christian black than a Muslim or an Anamist.  The connections between Christian whites and blacks in the south were critical in the Civil Rights movement.  A white who believed in Christ, faced with a Christian black, was more likely to consider violent actions a risk to his immortal soul.

Faith/Religion in that light, then, was a critical factor. If blacks had not accepted Christianity…I’m not entirely sure we’d be free today.