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A SENSIBLE THEOLOGY FOR THINKING PEOPLE
In some ways, faith is a simple concept; in others, it’s a rather complicated, obscure word, especially for Bible translators.
The most famous quotation regarding “faith” comes from Hebrews 11:1 (New International Version): “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Then, it is translated in the New American Standard Version: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The second version is closer to the King James Version.
In the KJV, “faith” is not “being sure” or “assurance,” but it is the “substance of things hoped for” and “the evidence of things not seen.” The word “substance” (in English) most generally refers to things that are real and solid.
Today, most believers do not get this deeply invested in a word like “faith.” One says, “What is your faith” meaning, what particular religious persuasion do you follow? If you say “Presbyterian,” for example, the one who asks the question can make the immediate assumption that you believe, to some degree, in predestination. If you say “Assembly of God,” for example, they might immediately assume that you are more charismatic and may, for example, practice glossolalia. If you respond “Baptist,” then it is generally assumed you do not believe in infant baptism and are heavily invested in missionary efforts (of the Baptist variety).
H. L. MENCKEN, AMERICAN JOURNALIST
The American journalist and satirist H. L. Mencken, one of the most influential American writers and prose stylists of the early 20th century once said, “Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.”
So, if someone says they have “faith,” what do they mean specifically? It’s hard to say, but, we can be sure they have no more idea what the word implies or means than anyone else. Frankly, to say, “I have faith,” is a vague, obscure and unintelligible assertion.
Likely, if you engage a person in a discussion about faith and what it means, the discussion will probably conclude with one of the aforementioned expressions from the New Testament, or, an ad hominem argument (attacking the person as opposed to arguing the concept).
It is truly astounding the number of times the ambiguous term “faith” enters into our conversation.
I’d say, most of us have faith that the sun will rise in the east in the morning, despite the fact that the classical meaning of the term seems to denote something that is neither particularly certain nor with any solid evidence.
I contend that talking about faith in our day and time is an exercise in futility. When it comes to our religious affiliations, creeds, and personal persuasions, we would be better off talking about what we believe to be true in our own individual minds and avoid making general assertions about such an indecisive word as “faith.”
We are, I believe, living in post-denominational times with a rapidly declining interest in religion, per se. What we need is a new, solid definition of “faith” that will meet the needs of our modern ways of thinking.
[L. Milton Hankins is the editor and publisher of Columnist with a View. He is a weekly op-ed columnist for the Huntington, WV Herald-Dispatch. His latest book is “A Sensible Theology for Thinking People.” It is available through Amazon.com and local bookstores by order.]
STATUE OF ROBERT E. LEE - This is what started it all in Charlottesville.
A descendant of Robert E. Lee spoke these words at the MTV Video Awards last month in the immediate aftermath of Charlottesville:
“My name is Robert Lee IV, I’m a descendant of Robert E. Lee, the Civil War general whose statue was the center of violence in Charlottesville. We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy, racism, and hate. As a pastor, it is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America’s original sin.
“Today, I call on all of us with privilege and power to answer God’s call to confront racism and white supremacy head-on. We can find inspiration in the Black Lives Matter movement, the women who marched int he Women’s March in January, and, especially, Heather Heyer, who died fighting for her beliefs in Charlottesville.”
Long story short, his North Carolina congregants didn’t like what he had to say on national television and they decided to take a vote on whether he should remain as their pastor. Lee took the hint and issued this statement:
“I regret that speaking out has caused concern and pain to my church. For this is [sic] I offer my heartfelt apology. I understand that my views could be considered to be controversial. I never sought this sort of attention. But, I do believe in God’s role in calling out for positive social change for the good of all.
We are all called by God to speak out against hate and evil in all its many forms. There are so many good things going on with this congregation and I do not want my fight to detract from the mission. If the recent media attention causes concern with my church, I reluctantly offer my resignation.”
Lee’s congregants emphatically did not like the world wide media attention. Washington Post:
“Lee did not describe specific responses he received from congregants. But the comments section on an article about his VMA speech in the Winston-Salem Journal gives some sense of the backlash. One commenter wrote that there was “no way” Lee was a Christian and that “it seems anybody that wants to protect our country is a racist, or white supremacist. …It’s a sin to use your position to name-call and judge.” Another commenter wrote that rather than appear on television, Lee should devote his time to ministering: “You have how many faithful members? Maybe if you spent more time around the church that number would increase.”
“In an Aug. 18 interview with BBC News, Lee argued that statues of his ancestor honor white supremacy and endorse a system in which it is acceptable to be racist in America. He pointed to the complete lack of markers to fascists in Europe following World War II as evidence that there is a way to “remember your history and not commemorate it.” Lee talked of how he had spoken with a descendant of a slave owned by the Lee family, describing his heartbreak over hearing the firsthand experiences of those “hurt and oppressed by statues.”
“Lee has spoken openly about how he arrived at his own conclusions about his lineage, saying he has at once felt pride in the fact that Lee family members signed the Declaration of Independence and shame over Robert E. Lee’s leadership over the Confederacy. In one NPR interview, he spoke of how he was often given mixed messages on whether the elder Lee was a proponent of slavery or states’ rights.”
REV. ROB LEE
Rev. Lee is quite courageous. He is in a small, yet gradually increasing group of courageous pastors, notably John Pavlovitz and William Barber, who are unequivocally standing up for what is right in America. They truly are moral leaders in troubled times when churches and congregations are reflecting the divisions and turmoil that exist all over our country. Their moral compass is strong and we are fortunate. When Rev. Lee was asked “was it worth it,” he replied, “Unequivocally yes.”
[This article first appeared in Daily Kos on September 5, 2017. It was re-blogged by “Support the Dream Defenders,” “Street Prophets,” and “Daily Kos Liberation League.”]
HUCKABEE SANDERS - POSTER CHILD FOR SOMETHING EVEN UGLIER THAN RACISM THAT AROSE FROM ANTEBELLUM SOUTH
What could be worse than the soul-shredding evil of racism during the era of human bondage? My answer would be creating a world of make-believe so fortified by lies that those who lived within it could believe that slaves didn’t mind it in the least when their children were sold from their trembling arms or when their wives were sexually assaulted by the plantation owner.
While the institution of forced labor was dismantled after the Civil War, the peculiar mindset that defined reality as whatever the patriarch said it was, regardless of the evidence of one’s own senses, escaped the confines of the South and spread to other areas of white working class America.
It was a worldview built on an invented moral authority. Southern evangelicals had fought the abolitionism of their northern evangelical counterparts by creating a new hermeneutics–Bible literalism. It proclaimed that anything theologians found in the world of 2,000 years ago as having made its way into the Bible could be declared sacrosanct and God-inspired. Critical thinking skills, even personal observation were disdained for the proclamations of the patriarchal leader. In that context, lies were whatever liberals said, and the truth was the patriarch’s mumblings.
White House press secretary, Sarah Huckebee Sanders, thinks of herself as a good Christian because she is faithful to the truths of Donald Trump. If this poison isn’t worse than racism, then it certainly runs a close second.
[Constance Hilliard’s article was reblogged by Daily Kos Liberation League on August 2, 2017. It is reprinted here with permission of Daily Kos.]