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In Praise of Faith

By Max Dashu

So the economic shrinkage has begun, and we are grappling with instability, uncertainty, insecurity. In times like these, finding a place to stand becomes more of a challenge than ever. It’s an important question for many of us: how to sustain what we have been growing all these years, and not be knocked off balance by the far-reaching changes? An insecure position does not have to translate into feeling insecure, I tell myself. Emotional reactions like fear and doubt are natural, but don’t work to our benefit. But faith does.

I want to be really clear about what I’m calling faith. It does not mean believing in something that does not exist, or clinging to an illusory view that does not correspond to reality. For many in a Christian-dominated society (others too!) it connotes believing in a doctrine, in specific entities and scriptures. When I rejected patriarchal religion, these ideas caused me to shy away from the concept of faith. I saw how faith talk was used in the service of doctrine, to control people, and especially to delude and repress women.

But that’s doctrine, and my reaction to doctrine. To stop there closes the door on a transformative power that is real and far-reaching. Faith is not believing in something that doesn’t exist, in particular entities, or any of the cultural delusions we are all too familiar with. Bush II used the word in a bait-and-switch euphemism in order to fund right-wing churches, alias “faith-based” institutions, which bar the formal leadership of women. Bah! Closed minds are the antithesis of real faith, which is expansive vision, optimism and openness to possibility. Faith anchors you in what you most deeply love and value and desire. It confers the ability to look beyond immediate obstacles, hardships, enmities, and to pull yourself through and beyond them.

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