There is one true fact about any presidential election: the president is not going to be our savior. That job is already taken! Secondarily, we must remember that there is no difference between the person we elect and us. Yes, they have achieved status, but they are no better or worse than any of us; they are human. I know it seems like a silly statement to make, but as we begin to think of faith, we have to start with an understanding of where we place our hope, and more importantly, our faith.
Over the next month, we will be exploring faith. During Wednesday Revive, we will be seeking a deeper understanding of faith: what it is, and what our relationship is with faith. On Sundays at the traditional worship, we will be exploring how we act on our faith by serving God. Like the roots of a tree, faith is the foundation of Christianity. However, like roots, if faith is not cared for and nurtured, it may degrade. Even though we may feel that our faith is strong, if we do not tend to it, learning and growing in our faith, we risk not only losing our faith, but seeing the foundation of our being erode away.
When our faith erodes, we tend to seek other places to find God. Many people in America try to find God in our government¾hence the savior talk (the Jesus or Moses persona that politicians often assume). This is bad, but often times when faith erodes, we do more than just place our faith in things of this world like our governments to fill the void. We place our faith inward, into ourselves.
This was something that the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous recognized. Though the organization has since modified their stance, opening up to a more pluralistic, and at times, secular view, at its inception they saw alcoholism as being deeply connected to the sin of ego: placing our faith in ourselves and our own selfish action over God. While many have critiqued this position over the years, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith did not come up with it out of the blue. When we look to biblical texts, or other texts of historic significance, we see that the fall of societies and the erosion of faith often start when people are looking inward rather than outward, thinking of what is best for them, not what is best for God.
The worst part about this is that the type of thinking that goes along with this selfish salvation often makes us see faith as something we can control. Faith is not controllable. It is something that one day is strong, and another weak. It is always being challenged, and is rarely comfortable. Since faith is unstable, we often gravitate towards tangible things, because that is easier, and we can get that instant gratification. So we can understand why people want “political saviors” or to find ways to take control of their lives. But ultimately, that leads to disappointment or even self-destruction.
As we work with the topic of faith over the next month, we will see how it is both an easy thing and a hard one. On one hand, faith is easy: “In Christianity, belief, trust, and obedience to God as revealed in Jesus Christ” (McKim 2014). But on the other, it is difficult, because it is so countercultural to live that way when both our nature and our society favor self-preservation and control. So as we explore our faith, we will question everything we can to discern our faith and struggle together with what it means for us to give up control and have the trust that opens our hearts to all that God provides, letting God and the spirit do what needs to be done.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen