I enjoy listening to Christian Talk on satellite radio. It is a combination of the inability to turn away from a train wreck, and research for blogging.
The other day I was listening to a fellow talk about senior citizens. He said, "Don't lose the faith in the last quarter of the game of your life that you have held on to since the first quarter." He spent some time, concerned about them struggling with their faith—using words like "strive" and "endure" and "work hard" and "labor."
A young person chimed in how they were surprised to consider their grandparents having to work at hard at keeping faith. She felt by then they should have it all figured out, and would not be having the same problems as she did. The preacher replied, "We have to continually work hard, all our life to maintain the faith."
Why? Why all the hard work? Why must it be a constant, never-ending pursuit, in which the slightest relaxation of effort opens the flood gates for complete disintegration? Does the Christian realize that they are putting in 100% of the effort in that relationship, and God is doing nothing?
The movie Dumbo came to my mind. In order to provide the confidence that Dumbo needed to fly, the scarecrows provide him with a Magic Black Feather which he believes gives him what he needs to master flight. Of course, the audience knows it is merely a trick, and the feather is not really doing anything—Dumbo is actually flying all on his own.
Eventually Dumbo discovers that he didn't need the feather at all. It was a harmless deception to provide him the self-confidence to do what he was always physically and actually able to do on his own.
In the same way, Christians have created a Magic Black Feather called “Faith.” They understand that it is not attached to them; it is not within them, and they must grasp it with all of their human might or it could possibly slip away. If they lose their vigilant concentration of grip, even for a moment--because it is a feather it could easily slip away.
This "Faith" is a somewhat unclear concept. Oh, we get that it can have some fact or reason at its base, but it is something more than that. A certainty of an unproven claim. Something beyond just what a person can observe. It provides the opportunity for cute pillows and plagues that say “Faith is not thinking God can; it is knowing that He Will.”
But where is the certainty in the Christian belief? Why the constant re-affirmation, if they are certain in the first place? Look, if I rush into a room and scream "Fire!" — I will know in fairly short order who has "faith" in my claim and who does not. Despite the lack of smoke, or flame or heat, those that are certain of my claim will trample each other to get out.
The Christian is perpetually on guard to retain the "faith" while never being quite certain as to what it is they should believe. Should they believe God will cure their cancer? Or cause their sickness to be a testimony? Or is God telling them it is time to die? What is it they should be certain God is doing?
Christians have made their Magic Black Feather invisible. They never know quite whether they actually have it in their hand correctly or not. Dumbo had it easy.
"Hey Dumbo. Time to Fly!"
All he has to do is check for the Black Feather. There it physically is—good to go! Can't find it? No way is he going up that ladder! But a Christian does not have that item to view—to know they are holding faith. The only test is whether to see if they fly or fall!
Watch a Christian look for employment. A non-believer sends out resumes. A Christian sends out resumes. A non-believer hopes to get a job. A Christian has faith that God will provide a job. A non-believer is offered a position. A Christian is offered a position.
The non-believer weighs the options of taking this job, or continuing to seek employment (or both.) But now the Christian must pause. Do they have "faith" that this is the right job? If it is not the job they want, do they have "faith" that God will provide a better one? If the salary is not enough, do they have "faith" God will provide more?
They look for their Invisible Black feather—knowing they should be holding on to it—but do they have it right? Is it in their hand? Is it the right Feather? Being this perpetual untouchable, unseeable object one can never be quite sure if one has it correctly.
Further, Dumbo only needed the feather to fly. He didn’t use it to walk, or to eat, or if he got sick. That would be silly! The only reason it existed was to allow him to fly. A Christian has no such refuge.
When is faith to be used or not? Should one rely on faith for food, clothing and shelter? Should one be confident that God will provide everything one needs at any moment? Should one have faith that even though the needle is on "E," God will give them 100 more miles before they need gasoline?
Now, it may be said, "Wait. We need to use common sense." Really? Does common sense "trump" faith? Or, like Dumbo, are Christians picking and choosing when they want to use the Magic Black Invisible Feather or not?
Getting out of a boat in the middle of a lake during a storm, thinking one is going to walk on water is not "common sense." Yet that is exactly what faith requires. Matt. 14:24-32.
Here is the reality. Believers and non-believers work there way through life equally. We both look for jobs, look for spouses, look for friends. Some situations pan out, some bomb horribly. We all get sick and heal. We all have people we love die. Equally, we manage through life as best we can. Whether we constantly cling to a nebulous idea of faith or not—it looks the same.
Like Dumbo, at one time I performed my routine with my Invisible Black Feather firmly in grasp. Also like Dumbo, in a moment of surprise, my Invisible Black Feather of Faith was ripped from my hand. And, just like Dumbo, I discovered that everything I was doing, and everything I was about to do, did not require a feather at all.
The whole time I had been flying on my own.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)