Finding Faith

March 9, 2010

Finding Faith

There was once a fiery preacher who possessed a powerful but unusual gift. He found that, from an early age, when he prayed for individuals, they would supernaturally lose all of their religious convictions. They would invariably lose all of their beliefs about the prophets, the sacred Scriptures, and even God. So he learned not to pray for people but instead limited himself to preaching inspiring sermons and doing good works.

However, one day while traveling across the country, the preacher found himself in conversation with a buisinessman who happened to be going in the same direction. This businessman was a very powerful and ruthless merchant banker, one who was honored by his colleagues and respected by his adversaries.

Their conversation began because the businessman, possessing a deep, abiding faith, had noticed the preacher reading from the Bible. He introduced himself to the preacher and they began to talk. As they chatted together this powerful man told the preacher all about his faith in God and his love of Christ. He spoke of how his work did not really define who he was but was simply what he had to do.

“The world of business is a cold one,” he confided to the preacher, “and in my line of work I find myself in situations that challenge my Christian convictions. But I try, as much as possible, to remain true to my faith. Indeed, I attend a local church every Sunday, participate in a prayer circle, engage in some youth work, and contribute to a weekly Bible study. These activities remind me of who I really am.”

After listening carefully to the businessman’s story, the preacher began to realize the purpose of his unseemly gift. So he turned to the businessman and said, “Would you allow me to pray a blessing into your life?”

The businessman readily agreed, unaware of what would happen. Sure enough, after the preacher had muttered a simple prayer, the man opened his eyes in astonishment.

“What a fool I have been for all these years!” he proclaimed. “It is clear to me now that there is no God above who is looking out for me, and that there a no sacred texts to guide me, and there is no Spirit to inspire and protect me.”

As they parted company the businessman, still confused by what had taken place, returned home. But now that he no longer had any religious beliefs, he began to find it increasingly difficult to continue in his line of work. Faced with the fact that he was now just a hard-nosed businessman working in a corrupt system, rather than a man of God, he began to despise his activity. Within months he had a breakdown, and soon afterward gave up his line of work completely. Feeling better about himself, he then went on to give to the poor all the riches he had accumulated and began to use his considerable managerial expertise to challenge the very system he had once participated in, and to help those who had been oppressed by it.

One day, many years later, he happened upon the preacher again while walking through town. He ran over, fell at the preacher’s feet, and began to weep with joy. Eventually he looked up at the preacher and smiled, “Thank you, my dear friend, for helping me discover my faith.”

———————————————-

Here it is, the culmination of what the last eleven parables have been pointing towards: a person loses their faith, completely forsakes it, and in turn discovers it for the first time. Look, I know it’s a controversial stance to take, but as I’ve been alluding to, I really think this is fertile ground to explore. If you ever look up Pete Rollins on facebook, under his political views he has put, “What is the act of robbing a bank in comparison to the act of founding one?” Now, I don’t want to dump too much on people who work within the capitalist system– my dad works for an insurance agency, and he really is a good man– but I will humbly suggest that there’s a good reason that for much of church history lending money at interest was considered sinful.

But this isn’t just about bankers, or even just about capitalists. This is about how we convince ourselves that because we’re “religious people” that it excuses all the crap we do, the system we continue to participate in. There’s a very good argument here that we are what we do. No matter how much we may say we believe in good news to the poor, if we AREN’T good news to the poor then we’re really just full of it.

Here’s another story:

A man is possessed of a terrible fear. You see, he’s convinced that he’s just a bunch of birdseed, and that if he goes outside a Hitchcock movie will be replayed. This is a terrible, debilitating phobia/delusion, and the man practically never leaves his home. Finally he goes to see a therapist.

A couple of years, and many thousands of dollars later the man has a breakthrough. “Oh my goodness! I’m a human being! I’ve got nothing to fear from birds.” He thanks his therapist and leaves.

About a week later he tears back into the therapist’s office, and he looks terrible. He has circles under his eyes, and is gaunt like he hasn’t eaten for a while.

“What’s going on here?” asks the therapist.

“Doc. Thank goodness you’re in. Look, there are a bunch of chickens next door and…”

“Wait, wait, wait. We’ve been over this a thousand times; you’re a person, and you have nothing to fear from birds. The chickens will not eat you, because you’re not birdseed.”

“Yeah, sure, I know that, but do the chickens?”

All the head knowledge in the world, all the orthodoxy you can muster, doesn’t mean much if it isn’t acted upon. So if you say you believe in being generous but aren’t; if you say you believe in forgiveness but won’t; if you say you want to pursue peace and reconciliation but you perpetuate conflict, you may want to consider what it is you actually believe in, and whether or not it is time to forsake that belief in order to rediscover and affirm it with word and deed.

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One Response to “Finding Faith”

  1. Katie said

    Convince the chickens!

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