What is faith, if it isn't faith in some set of beliefs? I find faith to have three key aspects. Let's look at what those are -- and then combine them.
First, it's widely understood that faith involves personal transformation and transcendence of ego-centric desires. Consider this, written by Virginia Knowles, describing the thought of Unitarian theologian Henry Nelson Wieman:
“Religious faith is the act by which we commit ourselves with the fullness of our being, insofar as we are able, to whatever can transform and save us from the evil of devoting ourselves to the transient goods of social success, financial opulence, or even scholarship or beauty or social concern.”We can embrace this function of faith while rejecting the notion that faith requires irrational conviction that flies in the face of evidence.
Second, it's widely understood that faith is distinct from reason and evidence. American Buddhist writer Sharon Salzberg says that faith is "the act of opening our hearts to the unknown." While reason and evidence tell us about what we can know, faith is an approach -- specifically, an open-hearted approach -- to the unknown. Rather than merely believing without evidence, however, faith is a willingness to go forward to take in new evidence and new experience, ever-willing to be transformed. This throwing ourselves into the unknown can feel like leaping -- hence, "leap of faith."
"Faith" names the antidote to ego preoccupations with achievement and with knowing. Faith is the courage to offer up all that we are to the world around us, not knowing what the world will ask or what we will find in ourselves to offer. Faith's opposite is not doubt, but despairing withdrawal.
Third, it's widely understood that Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, etc. are faiths. Theology professor James Fowler says that faith is “a way of knowing, construing, and interpreting existence.” The major world religions certainly quality: they each know, construe, and interpret existence in a particular way.
The idea of faith as a set of unshakable convictions impervious to evidence does convey, for all its misdirection, one implication that is true: evidence alone is not enough. Evidence is not the same thing as meaning and does not suffice for meaning. Mere phenomena present us with “a blooming, buzzing confusion” (William James) until interpreted, contextualized, made sense of. Animals -- most notably humans -- must make meaning from the raw phenomenal evidence. There are many various ways to put the same evidence together into a structure of value and meaning, and each way is a faith.
Combining these three aspects, we see that faith is best understood not so much as something we have or lack, but as something we do and sometimes fail to do. We "do faith" when we commit to the fullness of our being, with hearts open to the unknown and minds engaged in meaning-making.
Yours in faith,
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ICYMI (In Case You Missed It)
The Oct 24 worship service, "Thank God for Queer Folk," is here:
See our channel for many other past services HERE.
The Worldwide numbers are not reliable, and likely are greatly underestimating the actual prevalence of Covid-19. These numbers may nevertheless give us an indication of trends.
Average New Cases per Day, worldwide:
Peak week (Apr 23-29): 828,591
Lowest since peak (Jun 15-21): 360,876
Highest since the June low (Aug 24-30): 659,956
Two weeks ago (Oct 8-14): 405,632
Last week (Oct 15-21): 411,833
This week (Oct 22-28): 425,541
Note: new cases have been increasing since Oct 17, when the 7-day average was 402,146.
Average New Cases per Day, US:
Peak week (Jan 5-11): 255,931
Lowest since peak: (Jun 15-21): 11,960
Highest since the June low (Aug 27 - Sep 2): 167,498
Two weeks ago (Oct 8-14): 88,100
Last week (Oct 15-21):76,280
This week (Oct 22-28): 69,877*
*Down 68% since Sep 2 (an average rate of decline of 1.5% per day for 56 days)
Average New Cases per Day, Westchester County, NY:
Highest week of 2020 (Mar 23-29): 949
Lowest week, post-peak, of 2020 (Aug 19-25): 29
Highest week of 2021 (Jan 6-12): 861
Lowest week of 2021 (Jun 17-23): 11
Highest since Jun low (Aug 15-21): 212
Two weeks ago (Oct 8-14): 95
Last week (Oct 15-21): 77
This week (Oct 22-28): 75
Average Deaths per Day, worldwide:
Peak week (Jan 20-26): 14,818
Lowest since peak (Jun 29 - Jul 5): 7,695
Highest since the July low (Aug 19-25): 10,274
Two weeks ago (Oct 8-14): 6,716
Last week (Oct 15-21): 6,675
This week (Oct 22-28): 7,050
Note: deaths have been increasing since Oct 16, when the 7-day average was 6,636.
Average Deaths per Day, US:
Peak week (Jan 7-13): 3,524
Lowest since peak (Jun 30 - Jul 6): 247
Highest since the July low (Sep 17-23): 1,981
Two weeks ago (Oct 8-14): 1,532
Last week (Oct 15-21): 1,561
This week (Oct 22-28): 1,191*
*Down 40% since Sep 23 (an average rate of decline of 1.4% per day for 35 days)
Average Deaths per Day, Westchester County, NY:
Highest week of 2020 (Apr 9-15): 52
Lowest week, post-peak, of 2020 (Sep 27 - Oct 3): 0.0
Highest week of 2021 (Jan 28 - Feb 3): 11
Lowest week of 2021 (Jul 21-27): 0.0
Highest since the July low (Sep 10-16): 1.3
Two weeks ago (Oct 8-14): 0.0
Last week (Oct 15-21): 0.3
This week (Oct 22-28): 0.9
It's concerning to see that the worldwide numbers of both new cases and deaths began increasing a bit for two weeks now. This is ominous both for our siblings in other parts of the globe, and because upticks in the worldwide numbers are often harbingers of upticks in the US, and in Westchester.
Nevertheless, the new cases per day in both the US and Westchester continue to drop -- for now.
The US vaccination rate continues to slowly climb. As of Oct 27, 58.0% of the US population is fully vaccinated -- continuing to increase at the rate of 1 percentage point every 14 days.
Meanwhile, the Westchester County fully-vaccinated rate is 70.0% (as of Oct 27) -- also a growth of 1 percentage point in the last 14 days.
Be careful out there!
See also our SPIRITUAL PRACTICE DIRECTORY