I once heard about the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855). Although I do not remember much, one thing in particular stood out to me: He believed that faith is a battle, that each and every day you have to fight for each “doctrine” –– question everything –– in order to have any kind of true faith. Anyone with any experience with the world of faith knows this to be true. Faith can be a great comfort only because it was worked for; it gives you a rock-solid base because you built that foundation stone by stone. However, every time it is my turn to confront my faith, I balk. If someone questions a belief I’ve never questioned and––more importantly–– don’t know why I believe, I turn the argument against them or do anything to avoid answering the question I don’t have an answer to. This is not good enough for God. Other people, other humans full of faults like ourselves, may be fooled by outward appearances but he is not satisfied. He demands we build our house upon rock, not sand.
In the current political environment, “faith” seems to have very little to do with anything. As a nation, we face the two most hated candidates in the elections this November. Many of us are frustrated with the system that could allow such candidates to become possible, with the perpetually-locked congress that is unable to do anything, and the government that is either doing too much or too little. The fact that we have polarized into two extremes, neither willing to change position, is something that can no longer be ignored. Throughout the past months the hatred being flung from one party to another, from one group to another, from one person to another has only been increasing. No one has any “faith” in anyone else. We only trust those on “our side” of any matter, or only the like-minded, unable to hear the nonsense from any other “side.”
It was Abraham Lincoln that once reminded this nation that divided we will fall, but no one seems to be stepping forward to remind us today. This is where the question of faith comes in. Regardless of what religion or faith or spiritual orientation, those of us of faith have something else required of us, and it is of course radically different from what we may want or what everyone else is “allowed” to do. It is embedded in the idea of agape. While it is clothed in different language for those not rooted in Western (and therefore, Greek) philosophy, the concept remains the same.
In Greek there is not one word for all the types of love, as there is in English. Instead, Greek has four words: storge (στοργή) is the love of a parent for a child or familial love; philia (φιλία) is the affectionate love between friends; eros (ἔρως) is the passionate, intimate, and often physical love experienced between partners; finally, agape (ἀγάπη) or caritas, in Latin, is the universal love between God and humans, between Creation and humans, and that should be between one human and another. Agape is why we are called to be caretakers of the earth and each other. Agape is why we cannot put ourselves first, why we look for something higher than any society’s definition of “success” in our lives. Agape is part of what it means to have faith.
In light of the political environment, it also means something that feels impossible to live out. Faith requires that we love –– in the sense of agape –– everyone, including Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and all the rest. This doesn’t mean we have to like them, but it does mean we have to accept them as human, to listen to what is really being said. As much as we may feel hate for our neighbor down the street who supports the opposite party, maybe it’s worth listening to why half the nation seems to support them. What’s the message behind madness? Why is everyone so unhappy? What am I called to do?
Regardless of the outcome in November, these issues and these personal questions are not going to go away. Stop hiding from them. Stop hiding from these questions so that when you stand up and stand by someone, you have firm ground to stand on; so that when you live your faith, it means something and you know what it means.
About Spiritual Potpourri
This blog is written by me, Katie Buerger (unless noted otherwise) and maintained by UPCaM@Case. I am a current sophomore at CWRU, and have been an UPCaM member since my first year. Because I am Spiritual Potpourri’s exclusive writer, this means the opinions and perspectives given in blog posts are limited to my views. I think myself to be open-minded, but I am human. I do research my topics (all the sources are listed at the bottom of each post), but I ultimately can only write from my perspective as a Christian. I try to write to a general audience (not exclusively to Christians), but I do at times make assumptions about the knowledge of my readers. However, I would like to assert that my views are not representative of UPCaM’s or Christianity’s – they are mine alone.