The Rev. Jill Jarvis, Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, 1263 N. 1100 Road:
As a religious liberal, I have a natural and, I believe, healthy skepticism about claims to truth. Given the multitude of mutually exclusive religious assertions of absolute truth, I realized early on that it was ultimately up to me to decide what I believed — if only to choose among them or reject them all. Rather than accept others’ ready-made truths, I have to trust my own ever-unfolding understanding, informed by personal experience, ancient and modern wisdom, science, and the perspective of trusted others.
As a Unitarian Universalist, I am a person of faith. In our tradition faith is not an unshakeable belief in that which cannot be proved. Faith does not require us to suspend our questioning or to reject the certainties of science. Faith calls us simply to examine the experience of human history and our own personal lives, and to live according to the lessons revealed to us: That life holds within itself an eternal potential for good. And that this potential can be realized only when we humans join in the process to make it so. This was the spirit of faith inherent in the Civil Rights movement. It is present today in the struggles for immigration justice, universal health care, and LGBTQ equality. It has sustained me through the joys and sorrows of my own life.
As faith is a commitment from within, religion is the way we live our faith. Religion holds the symbols, stories, rituals, and sacred spaces we create to practice and renew our faith together. In a Unitarian Universalist community we share the insights of our unique experiences, reflecting together on our differences in ways that encourage new wisdom and personal growth. But if religion becomes an end in itself — rigid and coercive, unable to integrate new understandings in a changing world — then religion becomes an obstacle to faith, and can even distort faith into an instrument of alienation and destruction.
— Send e-mail to Jill Jarvis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rev. Gary O’Flannagan, pastor, Cornerstone Southern Baptist Church, 802 W. 22nd St.:
Many people today don’t understand what faith really is from a Biblical perspective. Some people think Biblical faith is blind, without reason that faith is only for the uneducated and unenlightened. So, how do I define faith? Faith is a personal trust in someone or something other than ones self. In the New Testament letter to the Hebrews we’re told that “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” Hebrews 11:1 NIV.
Faith is much like a light in the distance of a dark night, we’re not sure where the light will lead us but we walk toward it because the light is better than the dark and when we arrive we find ourselves safe. The Bible talks a lot about faith, it has over 240 references to faith and many of these references deal with people following God, not knowing everything, just knowing they have to follow him and they are shown living out their faith in real ways, in ways that sometimes doesn’t make sense except for the person who is living it.
New Testament, Biblical Christianity is a lifestyle of faith. We don’t know everything, we don’t have all the answers as we follow Christ. But He is the light in our dark world, Jesus speaking to his followers said in John 8:12 NIV, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
My belief hasn’t shaped my faith as much as my faith has shaped what I believe. Now that doesn’t mean I don’t think or struggle with many of the issues of our world but my faith leads me to believe that God not only has the answer but that he is the answer. And in due time we will all see if the Christian faith is valid.
— Send e-mail to Gary O’Flannagan at email@example.com.