A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Faith without deeds?

Bill Knight column for Thursday, Friday or Saturday, March 23, 24 or 25

This Saturday is Annunciation, when Anglicans, Catholics, Lutherans and other Christians mark the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she’d conceive and give birth to Jesus: hope rewarded.

Yet, as I was saying the Rosary while walking the dog at dawn, hopelessness struck me. From human behavior – mine, too – it's hard to believe most people truly believe in God. That increasingly seems true, whether Christian or other faiths, Trump fan or Clinton voter, politician or Teamster, senior or adolescent, rural or urban, male or female, transgender or those who revile them ...

We just don't “walk the walk,” and often don't even try. There’s mercy for failed attempts, but attempting is key, I believe.

Friend Dennis McCowan said, “As a PK [Preacher’s Kid], I grew up in the church and witnessed both the good and the bad (hypocrisy). Today, I find the fundamentalist and evangelical movements only preach, do not practice. Most do not know or understand Scripture ... only using select passages to support their selfish, greedy rhetoric. This is more political and corporate than theological.”

How did this happen? And how do we believe? Apostles heard the Word first-hand, of course, so everyone else relies on Something Else: a moving experience, perhaps, or what we read or what we see in others.

“Despite the lack of worldly proof,” writes Monsignor Stephen Rossetti, “we sense in a very deep way that it is true.”

There’s free will, so I feel that I choose to believe, and to accept the mysteries. But doubt persists (especially with what we see) and hopelessness.

A Lenten reading from writer Melissa Gillie says, “We keep resisting God even after we are convinced that His way is the best way.”

So: There are “Believers.” But it’s not the same as when we believe nurturing kids is good or taking laptops into the shower is bad; not even like believing in gravity so things fall and the Moon landing happened, so humanity is capable of great things.

It’s believing love is real, too.

Great examples of love are in the Beatitudes, a favorite, but there’s also the Book of James, a nice blend of reassurance and scold. From James’ second chapter: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? … Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead … A person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.”

It might be summed up as “Talk’s cheap. What are you doing?” In today’s saber-rattling on the one hand and abandoning the needy on the other, I’m teetering on spiritual despondency. Some would say individuals don't need government to do good works, which is true. However, people working together can usually achieve things more efficiently, whether through a civic organization or government. There's a grace in such mutual efforts, whether it's a Mass or a barn-raising.

This isn’t exactly a crisis of faith for me, but it's troubling.

Author Patrick Reardon (“Faith Stripped to Its Essence”), writes, “Faith is a mystery. Faith gives meaning as well as a moral and ethical framework to our lives. [But] action is faith made visible. We are called to stand up for our faith and to do whatever possible to ease suffering.”

Then guilt can occur, and there’s the sense of being in “Wayne’s World,” crying, “We’re not worthy!” Tithing and donating food and clothes, and even participating in a mission to Haiti seem as inadequate as negative attitudes against the poor, elderly, foreigners, etc. seem inappropriate.

Can we do more? Of course.

Shall we do something? Hopefully.

[PICTURED: Poster art from Pinterest.]

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