The question of what it means to have faith is one that I have asked myself many times over the course of the last couple of years. I do not have any particular faith, as I was not raised in a faith-based household. Faith and religion were simply not topics of discussion in my family, but not for any solid reason I can think of. We’ve always celebrated Christmas and Easter, and said grace on Thanksgiving, possibly as a remnant of my mother’s Presbyterian (or was it Episcopalian?) upbringing in South Carolina, but there were never any church services or religious activities associated with those holidays. While the rest of my family members, at least as far as I know, have always believed in God, I can’t say for sure that I ever have. Since I was a teenager, I’ve always considered myself to be agnostic and/or eclectic. Faith simply never came easily to me.
This ultimately brings me to another question: Are faith, religion, and spirituality inextricably linked? I do not believe that they are. I consider myself spiritual but not religious, and so do 72 percent of Millenials. But can you have faith without being religious? I think that’s a little more unclear, as faith has many definitions, several of which relate to religion. Over the years I’ve found that there are certain tenets that I agree with from many different religions, but there aren’t any I agree with completely. But maybe this is a moot point, since many of my friends who are members of the three monotheistic religions don’t always completely agree with everything they’ve been taught either.
So back to my main question: What does it mean to have faith? Does it mean ” belief in the truths of religion” or “the spiritual apprehension of divine truths, or of realities beyond the reach of sensible experience or logical proof” as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary? Or does it just mean to trust that everything that happens is for a reason? Does it mean to be confident in a cosmic/universal plan that was set into motion before any of us were born?
Thinking about this makes me remember a conversation that I had with a pastor a couple of years ago. I was doing an interview for a story, and after the interview, he asked me what church I went to. I told him I didn’t go to church, and we got into a long discussion about why I didn’t, what was my faith, etc. He asked me if I liked to sing and dance, and I said I did. He asked if I knew that singing and dance were part of my culture, and if I knew that faith was as well. Of course I did, I said, but I guess I just never felt that my blackness automatically meant that I should have faith, especially when it wasn’t something I grew up with.
But looking back on that conversation, and many others like it, I can honestly say I wish I did have faith. It would probably have made certain events in my life a lot easier to handle if I could have said to myself, “There is a reason for this.” I do find myself having crises of faith, or a lack thereof, often. But maybe the fact that I have these crises is proof that I’ve had faith all along.
Wouldn’t that be something?