desert mountains as seen from the front of my retreat house
Whenever weekends come around, I think about all the "religious" people who will be going to a mosque or a temple or a church over these days.
Generally speaking, religious people think that it is a virtue to have a strong faith- a solid belief in God and the various doctrines surrounding "God" that accompany one's particular brand of religion. But, I'm not so sure that having a "strong faith" is such a good idea. In fact, I don't have a "strong faith" and I want to keep it that way.
In my experience, people who live their lives based upon a rock-solid set of ideas about God and what God expects of us can be quite brittle and often judgmental of others who haven't yet "seen the light."
But religious people aren't the only ones who are absolutely sure that what they believe is the "truth."
Every day I try to spend some time looking at the various social media web sites - Google, Facebook, Twitter. In particular I try to tune in to web conversations about God and religion (there are hundreds of such conversations every day), and I am always amazed at the unbending stridency exhibited whenever the topic of religion is raised.
Atheists are absolutely certain about their position. Theists (believers) are just as rock-solid sure about what they have to say. Evangelical Christians are positive they have the truth about Jesus, but those who are on the more liberal side are also just as sure that they are right and the other guys are wrong, and the insults hurled at the opposition are often quite brutal.
Today as I was thinking about the perils of having a "strong faith," I looked out from the front of my retreat house and I thought about something Saint Paul had to say about faith and mountains in his famous epistle on love (1 Corinthians: 13): "If I have faith strong enough to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing."
Today, I looked up what Paul had to say about "love" and I decided that this is the kind of strong faith I want to have:
No matter what I say, what I believe, what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me-first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
(translation: The Message)