Tuesday, November 03, 2009

What I Know About Faith

i don't know if many of you know, but i am working as a hospital chaplain in a program called Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). yesterday we had 5 trauma's in 2 hours. this has caused me to reflect on what faith means, esp. since the claim in here by many of you is that faith is a little lower than dirt and isn't true, and does no good.

i've spoken to people from all walks of life. Every Race, and alot of faiths like Amish, Agnostic, Atheist, Christian (fundie to liberal to WTF?!), Wiccan, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. this program is helping me meet people where they are and explore a different perspective than my own. i've been so honored to see how others view the world through their faith, family, and cultural lens.

last night, in two of the trauma's the family system was a mess and people hadn't talked to each other in years. there was bitterness and resentment. but as soon as i walked into the room, they started to come together. they started talking about their hopes and what meaning they are finding in these tragedies. they asked for prayer and were comforted and one family even broke down and cried. i've seen this so many times, rarely have i seen faith during these moments divide. ppl are more accepting of their views and seem to gain some greater perspective.

when you're in the midst of suffering, it is my theory that it helps to triangulate. you know, the mathematical formula to help you find where you are. i think health faith-beliefs do this. provide perspective and look at the larger picture and let the small resentments and grudges fall away.

this isn't to say that things will remain like that.

to say that faith doesn't equal truth is short-sighted. it is one method of finding truth and hope in a situation that is hopeless. i've seen the scientific method and medical knowledge due the same for agnostics/atheists as well, to help them triangulate. both have worked and found hope and truth in their tragedy. to say one is inherently better reeks of egotism and priviledge.

start where they are, test whether their beliefs are toxic or helpful and go from there. this is a great way to COEXIST.

a new blog i've been chatting on, Triangulations has written an atheist's perspective on faith that I think is really helpful and eye-opening. In Sabio Lantz's opinion, here is what "My Favorite Type of Christian" protrayed in through a variety of Christian beliefs and the direction where Sabio and I would prefer them to move:

Christology: Inerrant –> Errant

View of Scripture: High –> Low

Soteriology: Exclusivist –> Inclusivist –> Pluralist –> Universalist

Science: Anti-science –> Pro-science

Women: Misogynist –> Equal Rights & Respect

Homosexuality: Anti-Gay –> Gay-tolerant –> Gay-friendly

Resurrection & Other Miracles: Literalists –> Figurativists

Cosmology: Young Earth Creationist –>Gap Creationist –> Old Earth Creationists–> Evolutionist

Ecclesiology: Top down rule –> Local rule

Missionology: Salvation First –> Service First

Eschatology: Zionist –> Pro-Israel –> Israel-Neutral
I must say that this is where i am and where CPE has taken me. i used to think i was open-minded, but at seminary sometimes we're too used to attacking one another's beliefs than affirming what works. i think this stand is the best way to meet others where they are. that's not to say that all boundaries should drop and hold nothing serious... but to hold loosely, but don't let go... that reminds of a song... RAWK!


Anonymous said...

And - yes.
-- that's what we've been trying to do at Leadership Now too... :-)

Al said...

At the same time you were posting this, another blogging friend posted this: http://thewearypilgrim.typepad.com/the_weary_pilgrim/2009/11/to-make-a-start-at-bringing-people-into-the-open-into-light-opening-blind-eyes-releasing-prisoners-from-dungeons-emptying.html
(I am crossposting this comment in both blogs.)
Both of you have very recently had the opportunity to see first hand what happens when you are Jesus in a difficult situation.
You both entered that situation hoping/knowing that you were supposed to be there, but didn't necessarily know what you would face, or how you would deal with it.
Both of you were Jesus. His hands, his heart, his love, his peace.
Both of you saw what happens when the presence of Jesus meets someone in need.
That's what will truly change our worlds, as we bridge the gap between people and the divine. I am proud to know each of you and call you 'friend'.

Anonymous said...

"when you're in the midst of suffering, it is my theory that it helps to triangulate. you know, the mathematical formula to help you find where you are. i think healthy faith-beliefs do this" (Luke)

I find that in the midst of suffering and pain - God just is. Something about the brokan condition of a human that allows for the potential for such an opening to exist...like you mention - where even families in turmoil can reconcile and seek peace.

I was just at a funeral of my uncle the other day and found faith abounded and was normal in such a scenario. People give up the petty squabbles in these arena's of pain for comfort, closure, and closeness. We find we all want the same thing during tragedy or pain...it is a type of salvation - a saving from our own discomforts and need for others.

I've read Sabio's blog and even Nate's where he quotes from - and they're right - the two sides do not undestand one another (atheists and believers in God). But no one cares in some senses - because in reality that argument changes nothing one iota that I have found...it's food for the fodder.

I mean, think about it - when you're dealing with these trauma cases and the need for comfort - does any of the stuff we debate with atheists even register into any of the convo's? In suffering only faith will do it seems (cause of the unknown factors being weighed out in people's heads).

I am coming to a point where atheism is becoming the middle class mentality - the religion of anti-religion for the comfortable. I'm no different than any atheist when I boil it down - I live in comfort and see little need for any God.

But I know it's because of the comfort's I am afforded in the Western societies - those freedoms. When I am in a room of pain and loss...my tendecies towards atheism slips away for some reason...it holds little worth grasping. At some point hope is what faith affords the suffering. If one does not wait for hope then what good is reality?

Sabio Lantz said...

Thanks for the mention.
It is a pleasure having you on my site. Thank you for the contributions. Best wishes on the CPE !
-- Sabio

Luke said...

"I mean, think about it - when you're dealing with these trauma cases and the need for comfort - does any of the stuff we debate with atheists even register into any of the convo's?"

actually yes. they have helped me deal with crappy spots in my own theology and even spots i didn't want to look. when someone is confused with how a just God can allow suffering, i'm all over that. questions of theodicy and departing from the sovereignty of God is much easier for me thanks to reading process theology, post-modern theologians, emergent theologians, as well as atheist critiques.

Luke said...


wow... thanks! i'll check out that other blog and see what's up. i'm humbled by your praise.


thanks for the comment and the thoughts, fantastic!

Luke said...

and Jay,

sorry to hear about your uncle. i think you're right on that in times of loss and crisis ppl can drop the petty stuff and come together. it's all about the relationships man! for me, religion affirms this and best affirms it in Christianity. others have a different take, but as long as they're searching for a way to be in relationship with integrity (i.e. not selling out and having good boundaries) i'm for it.

Al said...

Since posting my comment a couple days ago, I have had the opportunity to live out the same things myself. I have two very good friends (sisters) whose aging mother had a stroke last week. I had a call from them yesterday morning that she was not expected to live through the day, so I spent a few hours at the hospital with them, and other family members. I just heard a few minutes ago that she passed away during the night.
I now have a much better understanding of the situations you are in in your training, Luke. I also understand better how valuable and strengthening faith in God is for those who have followed him all their lives. They have a broader understanding of life than just the years spent on this earth. In my mind, life after death truly places things in a larger perspective that makes sense. It gives meaning and place to the chunk of eternity we call life, because it is part of a larger whole.
I know there are many skeptics and atheists who don't see it that way. Who say there is no proof, our belief in a life after death is just a pipe dream.
But after yesterday's time with this family, I am convinced that their faith (including what happens after death) is more the first kind of faith Sabio talks about: (http://triangulations.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/faith-defined/)
1. Beliefs based on confidence or trust
* confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, an idea, or a thing.
* confidence or trust in a person or thing
* something that is believed especially with strong conviction

than the second:
2. Belief without Evidence
* belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence
* belief that is not based on proof

Sabio Lantz said...

Looking at your post, this is how your used the word "faith" if you use my post's definitions:

Paragraph 1
faith = no clear meaning, just talking about the word

Paragraph 2
Faith = 3) system of beliefs

Paragraph 3
Faith = 3) system of beliefs

Paragraph 4
Bad grammar , didn't make sense. Must be typo

Paragraph 6
Faith = unclear, just talking about the word

So you see, using the word in lots of ways and acting like they mean the same can be confusing. Just use the word "religion" or "system of beliefs" instead of "faith" at those times and the meaning gets more clear.

Just a thought.

Sabio Lantz said...

@ Al

do you know how to include HTML in a comment? You might ask someone to show you how to put a link into a post. It makes it look very nice.
Good luck.
-- Sabio

Sabio Lantz said...

Actually, Luke, your uses helped me come up with #5.

People do this with lots of words:
Freedom, Logic, Love.
All abstract words.

Al said...

Sorry Sabio, I just know a bit about formatting text, but don't know much more. If the particular blog program commenting process doesn't include it, I'm out of luck. I kinda wish blogger had more stuff available in the commenting process for guys like me. (I know other blog platforms do.)

Luke said...


thank you for your critique! you've also unvieled by secret.. namely, i'm a lazy blogger. ;-)

i had written this last week and scheduled it to post this week. if i had read your post, i would have come back and edited it to make my points clearer. but this post was largely about the "system of beliefs" that ppl carry around with them being useful in the hospital most of the time.

thanks for the catch! i'll work harder for the next time.

Sabio Lantz said...

Great, Luke.
Yeah, being specific is important on inter-"faith" (systems of thought) dialogue.

Vague works great when working with those who understand and agree with you.

@ Al
The HTML for linking is EASY, just ask a buddy to show you the formula. I will try below, but substitute a < for a [

[a href="(put your link here)"] underlining this [/a]

hmmm, looking at that, it is tough. Do you have anyone who can teach you?