Scenes from the first day in Sydney

Scenes from the first day in Sydney
D, the Opera House, and the Bridge

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Talking about Faith

During the next three weeks, we are exploring a number of themes and issues in our morning conferences, including faith, social justice, and the history of the Jesuits. Yesterday, we began the conversation about faith with some thought provoking reflections, some of which I will share here. As you can imagine, sitting around with a bunch of Jesuit discussing a topic like faith is not exactly entertaining, but I hope that it might at least interesting. The views I present here are not intended to represent the perspectives of others let alone any consensus of the group (you probably know the that where two or three Jesuits gather, there are bound to be more than two or three often conflicting views).

First of all, what is faith? While many people tend to think immediately of religious beliefs, I tend to agree with those who make a distinction between faith and the content of what we believe. I tend to see faith as a quality of what it means to be human, that it is a self-transcending openness and desire for something/someone ultimate in our lives... a sort of tacit assumption in the trustworthy goodness of reality, and a willingness to be in relationship, even to depend on or be interdependent on an other. In a sense, when I say I have faith, I am saying that I believe in something or someone. I am saying I can imagine a future in which things unfold on behalf of our highest benefit (even if this involves temporary suffering), and that there is a potential in a person, an organization, in human society itself-- that will emerge when the conditions are right.

I think that perhaps one of the reasons I begin with this more fundamental assumption of faith as a dimension of our being human is that people who are not religious believers can and do join in the conversation on these terms. These days, the willingness to share experience at this very basic level seems more relevant as many people do not consider themselves religious in the formal sense; yet, we all must find ways of working together for our common future.

Contemporary challenges from the global economic collapse to climate change demand that we engage together on behalf of our world... tapping into a hopeful and constructive imagination of a more peaceful, just, and sustainable human society. Such a society requires people working together across religious and secular boundaries. If I am not mistaken, such collective labor for the common good requires tapping into this essential human quality, and a felt sense of good will. Does this make sense? Perhaps I am being to idealistic?

Tomorrow I will continue on this topic, so feel free to leave a comment and weigh in.

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