We recently returned from a funeral and I was very impressed by something the minister who officiated at it said. She really didn’t know the 92-year-old lady who was being buried, so couldn’t speak too personally about her, but she had been filled in a bit by the deceased woman’s daughter, so she wasn’t totally clueless. I later learned that this minister (who is a woman) used to be an IBM executive, but quit to go to divinity school and returned to preach in her home town, the town where our friend’s mother had grown up and where she was buried in her family’s plot.
The deceased (I’ll call her "Mrs. T") may have been a churchgoer at one time in her life (although her daughter doesn’t seem like the sort of person who was raised in a religious family), but I don’t think she was attending services anywhere at the time she died–especially since she’d recently moved into an assisted living facility in another town, in order to be closer to her son and daughter.
Despite not really knowing her, the minister said that Mrs. T. had "faith," because "faith," like many Greek words, is not just a noun, it’s also a verb. She went on to emphasize that Mrs. T. was a faithful Christian because she ministered to her family and friends, gave to charity and cared about others. I had never heard this definition of faith before, so I went up to her afterwards and told her it was a great relief to have heard her short sermon. We chatted about it, and I related my problems with the words "faith" and "belief," in that they seem to be used by so many so-called "religious" people as a sort of club to attack anyone who thinks differently than they do. The terms are translated by these people as something along the lines of, "I have my beliefs and if yours are different from mine, they’re wrong."
But none of this mattered to Mrs. T. and it certainly doesn’t matter now that she’s gone. Mrs. T. walked a spiritual path, and that in itself made her a good Christian, no matter what beliefs she did–or did not–profess. I’m just another Confused Christian–one who dabbles in Buddhism and Wicca and a few other disciplines, as I make my way along my own personal spiritual path–so I have to admit that this idea makes me feel good.