Archive for December, 2013

The Flickering Flame of Faith

December 22, 2013 Leave a comment

Faith is the foundation of life, for we achieve nothing without it. Observe every great achievement, accomplishment, sacrifice, and you will find faith behind it as the driving action. Thus, there is a strong positive correlation between faith and achievement.

This is an intellectual, abstract faith in the capabilities of the human spirit. It comes from within the heart, and cannot be measured or quantified. The quality of this faith depends on the quality of one’s thoughts and spirit. Observe the reasons behind any failure and we will often find the lack of faith a significant factor. Faith can resurrect one from despair and failure. Without faith a person might as well be dead, for life has no hope for improvement, no hope for success, no hope for anything.

Faith drove Alexander the Great to conquer the known world. Discoveries and advancements in science and technology were driven by the faith of pioneers. Edison made thousands of attempts with the lamp. Despite the insurmountable cultural and social odds, Mother Teresa and her followers served the dying and impoverished of Calcutta through faith that their actions mattered.

What is faith?

A dictionary answer might be: “Confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability. Belief that is not based on proof. Belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion. Belief in anything, as a code of ethic standards of merit. A system of religious belief.”

This dictionary citation captures the whole of humanity. There is not a person alive that doesn’t exercise faith in at least one of these capacities. However, I find it interesting that the antagonist to religious faith argues that faith is not rational, that to accept “faith” in the religious sense is to abandon reason, that to do so turns back the clock on a society advancing on the success of scientific reason.

I’d only want to turn back the clock if the clock is keeping bad time, which in this sense it is. And we have already seen that, in a larger sense, faith is the foundation for all that we have attained as a society. Faith is no more unreasonable than love – for though faith often transcends reason, so does love. And I have yet to meet a nonbeliever who rejects love on the same “rational” terms as faith.

So once we start down this road, where shall it end? Many “believe” in vibrating strings on a subatomic scale that form the building blocks for matter, and they believe in a mysterious “dark” matter and energy that permeates the known universe which cannot be observed or quantified. What good does this knowledge provide to the daily interior life of the human spirit, whether or not it is “true” or “correct” as a model?

I find it interesting so many are willing to believe in the created things of this universe without acknowledging a creator, the same source of the faith that drives us to knowledge of creation.


The Sound of Hope

December 19, 2013 Leave a comment

“All wars are civil wars, because all men are brothers” (Archbishop Francois de Salignac de la Mothe-Fenelon, 1651-1715).

The United Nations General Assembly condemned Syria, North Korea, and Iran for human rights violations. Civil wars rage, blood spills, and the cries of the defenseless echo throughout eternity.

Anyone who has taken an ethics class may have been posed the question: “Would you feel justified in stealing food if you were starving to death?” Maybe, if you were like me, you engaged in a colorful ideological debate on the subject. As interesting a topic this might be for abstract discussion, it’s impossible to have an honest discussion when your own stomach has never known starvation, or when theft is quite literally your only means of survival.

Survival is a miracle for the residents of these lands. Suffering is a given. Humanity has always needed to be rescued from itself, from its fallen state. Even the non-believer in a creator acknowledges the inherent evil that has driven humanity to every imaginable horror throughout its history. From the day Adam and Eve were first driven out of Eden, we have desired nothing more than to be free from the suffering we inflict on each other and ourselves.

The Christian recognizes this day will not come of our own accord. We will never “evolve” beyond this destructive nature.

But that does not mean we cannot hope.

What does hope sound like, look like, feel like? — “Love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your mind… [and] love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, 39).


A Light Goes Out

December 17, 2013 Leave a comment

A retiring medical officer I served with on both my deployments will be publishing a book detailing his observations of the Iraq war. He asked me to review it and perhaps add some of my own experiences and observations.

One of his chapters regards a wonderful young Iraqi man, who operated a successful cigar shop outside our camp in 2005. The chapter ends with his murder by insurgents. Even more sadly, it was done within sight of his own young son.

One of the few lights penetrating the darkness of that country has been extinguished.