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. 

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  1. Definitely agreed, Anne. The
    Definitely agreed, Anne. The co-opting of the word “faith” as a noun rather than a verb as various religious organizations over recent years have done really bothers me, since the use of terms like “faith-based” (in place of “religious-based”) are usually used by people that seem to have little actual faith to begin with.

  2. Great Post Anne. I know from
    Great Post Anne. I know from your writings over the years that you and Whitley have had the same problem that I have—that is that we were raised Catholics, go to and belong to a Catholic Church, but get attacked if we question or harbor beliefs like reincarnation that aren’t 100% with Church teaching.
    This bothered me until I met an old Jesuit priest who had an incredible knowledge of spiritual matters. He made a very wise statement to me. He said “Most people in the Church confuse dogma with faith”.
    This hit home after my Mom was talking to her parish priest (who has a Phd in theology) about my Dad’s spirit visiting her after he had died (I know he did because he visited me once as well). Well Mr. Phd priest then asked her if she was seeing a shrink !!! The man has NO faith—just dogma.

  3. Nice Post Mrs S! But, in my
    Nice Post Mrs S! But, in my small minded way, I’m reminded how “minister” rhymes with sinister….. the left handed way. But im just a silly twit. Just a heretic Huguenot victim of dirty mackerel snappers. I wonder whom killed more innocents….. the pope or hitler?

  4. Anne, I love how you point
    Anne, I love how you point out that your friend was described, not as a churchgoer, but instead, as a faithful Christian because she ministered to her family and friends, gave to charity and cared about others. I am a faithful Christian too by your description, but maybe not by my Church’s point of view. I want to believe the teachings of the Bible; however, I am frustrated in my life long search to find the truth. Some books of the Bible, I believe, have been left out purposefully. Some translations of the Bible, I believe, have caused distortion to the Bible’s actual messages. Some translations of the Bible, I believe, have been purposefully altered mainly to benefit the monetary success or social power of the Church or religious institution. So, I enjoy what has been given to me to read, but sadly I do not think it is exactly what was offered to everyone by its authors. I feel that if I have been given 3/4th of a cake, it may taste the same, but if the ¼ that was not given to me contains all of the frosting, the cake is completely different. It just depends on what has been left out of the Bible and why. In my 40 year search for a church that satisfies my need for spirituality, what I have found in all cases so far is that the church has lost site of the truth and has no interest in finding it. My heart craves the companionship of people to enjoy worship in pursuit of faith. The “faith” you describe in your journal. Instead, I sit in an enormous air conditioned building packed with people wanting to worship, but instead are told, “We are building another church, a bigger church on the other side of town. We need your commitment of tithes and offerings to fund the construction” The congregation is guilted and manipulated to provide the funding for all projects, operations, and construction. What does that have to do with faith? I would rather worship under the beautiful stars at night or sit on the grass at the park with my family enjoying meditation and prayers of thanks. I am very grateful that your website and honest communication has offered me varied information on spirituality leading me to a faith that is more honest, loving, charitable, and respectful of each other and our earth. Thank you dearly for your message and gift.

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