On the transition of names: Faith to Being.I’ve listened to Krista’s show for many years now in the groggy Sunday morning hour between waking and my first cup of coffee. I don’t set my alarm anymore. I somehow just wake up at 7, and push the earbud in one ear from the player next to my bed that is always tuned to WNPR. That way, I don’t wake my wife, who has the gift of sleeping in.This morning, I listened as Krista Tippet tried to explain what amounts to the obsolescence of Faith and the ascendency of Being.Speaking of Faith has become my surrogate for church services. Not for community, though; just for the part of church service where the message is supposed to be delivered.For community, I have hooked up with a small group of current and former Catholics, with whom we have lived, worked, and worshipped together for a lot of years, bringing up our kids together, sending them off in the world, watching our parents age and die. We get together about once a month to have dinner, to swap stories, to think, to reflect, and in our better moments, to pray. We read together. Scripture, poetry, and “Einstein’s God” are in scope. We remain the two or three or twelve or so gathered in His name, because that’s what we have.Doubt has become a factor in the community. It started with un-reconcilable differences with the church. It has moved in many directions since. Doubt casts a shadow over what we might otherwise believe, how we might practice that belief, and what we explain to ourselves, our children and grandchildren.Doubt has led to the obvious rejections. We reject blind obedience to a practice, or a tradition for sake of the tradition. We reject the false righteousness that claims its legitimacy from a narrow interpretation of scripture; and we reject any authority who claims they are righteous just because they once read, or touched, or currently wave a Bible, or claim to have had a chat with God. We have come to understand that deeds are more important than words; and the deeds of many of our religious leaders don’t match their message, and have misled their flock. We reject the comfort of an unexamined life.What is left after all this rejection, though? Two opposing forces… Faith and Doubt.Doubt can be healthy, and can encourage debate. Doubt can be a conduit to a more nuanced truth. But in its darker moments, doubt unchecked has its own false righteousness. Doubt will stifle the spark of faith.Doubt is easy. Faith is hard.I need my Sunday morning dose of Speaking of Faith. For me as a person in doubt, and for a people bombarded with doubt, we need precisely this: to speak of faith. To take on that hard topic, to give it flesh, and in doing so restore the balance. A disturbing thing was Krista’s admission that Speaking of Faith is changing its name partly because “Faith” is and always has been controversial, divisive, and uncomfortable in the NPR community. Since when is this a problem?Despite my troubles, I am Christian, and Catholic; so let me try to explain this from the Jesus perspective. Look as what has happened to what purports to be Christian radio. In seeking not to offend the base of the radical right wing from which it is funded, Christian radio has largely succumbed to unabashed pandering to a political fringe, tied up in a movement that Christ himself would reject. What witness remains of Jesus living within us today, actively seeking forgiveness, acceptance of the stranger, non-violence, self-sacrifice, caring for the poor, the sick, the prisoner, the Samaritan, the “other” who is not like us, not from our family or religion or culture or county? Who will choose Love and Truth in action over words? Where is the forum in which these amazing people can share themselves and their innermost Faith... without first having to pass a purity-in-message test?Until this morning, we have had a particularly powerful witness; that a mostly disinterested organization such as NPR would allow an hour of this controversial format, which actually embraced our human longing for Faith, and call it out by name. Every week, SOF has found practitioners of Faith in all its facets to interview and inspire us. Now, the hour has surrendered this high ground to a watered down concept of “being”. Much of the power of Speaking of Faith is in the name.“Being” gives fodder to the critics, and comfort to the cynics. There is no challenge in “Being”. We all are being. The challenge is to explore Faith, not to give in to the fear of alienating or offending, by speaking of Faith. Fear is the currency of bad religion, of divisive politics, of ignoble behavior, of class and tradition. Not the driver for a great hour in radio.For sake of my morning tradition, for sake of the weakness of my faith and the balance I hope for, I will continue to tune in. What lies ahead may be strong; but as a witness, it is diminished.
I mean, c’mon. Would Car Talk be as compelling if it were named “Moving”?Faithfully yours,Mark Meyering
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