Faith addresses questions about how we are to live
Jill Jarvis, pastor at the Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, 1263 N. 1100 Road:
We humans live with the knowledge that we will die, and religion is our response to the question, "How then, are we to live?" In search of answers, we wonder: What does it mean to be human? What is the source of good and evil? Do we have souls? Is there a God? Is there anything beyond the natural world?
It is beyond the capacity of human intelligence to know, with certainty, the truth of ultimate reality. How, then, can any spiritual seeker hope to discern truth among the conflicting claims of religions?
If we feel free to seek answers, then no matter what beliefs our families, cultures or religious authorities insist we embrace, we ultimately believe what our reason and experience tell us is true. Our beliefs may or may not conform to others' (or our own) expectations. But if we are committed to an ever-unfolding, free and responsible search for truth and meaning, then we can't just believe whatever we or others want. We believe what we must.
This is not to say it doesn't matter what we believe. It matters greatly, to ourselves and to others. Some beliefs promote fear and alienate people from one another; others provide a sense of compassion and connectedness, celebrating our differences. Some beliefs are rigid, requiring us to wear blinders lest we fall away and be condemned; others encourage and support our ongoing quest for new insights and understandings. We can honor and trust our beliefs if they are worthy of our very highest ideals, nurture our personal worth, help us make sense of our experiences and inspire us to act in ways that bless the world.
- Send e-mail to Jill Jarvis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What you believe is your own business
Judy Roitman, guiding teacher of the Kansas Zen Center and a member of the Lawrence Jewish Community Center:
If you come to the Zen Center, nobody asks what you believe, and nobody tells you what to believe. We tell you our practice forms: how to meditate, how to chant and so on. What you believe is your own business.
When I was growing up, my Orthodox Jewish relatives didn't ask what I believed or tell me what to believe either. They told me to go to services, to keep kosher and to observe the Sabbath.
More important than belief is practice, and more essential to practice are what in Zen are called great faith, great courage and great doubt.
Great faith doesn't mean faith in something, or faith that things will turn out your way. Faith needs no object. It's living life in the way your foot meets the ground in walking. Your foot never wonders if the ground is there for it.
Great courage means not giving up. Changing course is no problem, but you have to keep going. Great courage doesn't have to be dramatic either. Every time you do something that's a little difficult or a little unpleasant, and do it without complaining, and do it until you're finished, that's great courage, right there.
Great doubt is most important. People think religion is about belief, but it isn't. What am I? What is this universe? What should I do? These are not questions that can be answered once and for all. Don't evade them. Find a spiritual practice that helps you look at them steadily, and then practice with great faith and courage.
Belief comes and goes. Even if you believe in God your whole life, your idea of God is always changing. But spiritual practice is not dependent on belief, and it can last a lifetime.
- Send e-mail to Judy Roitman at email@example.com.