Walking Our Faith: How to improve our essential self
The other day I was listening to an audiobook on the impact of social media and the author mentioned Socrates’ assertion that man is a social animal.
This got me thinking about the incredible advances in technology we’ve made since Socrates’ day (470 B.C.) For instance, I was going to say we have also abolished slavery, but I’m not certain that is true in all parts of the world. But we certainly have come far in how we treat those who are different from ourselves, although racism and sexism and ableism and ageism are still found in even our most advanced society.
So when we place these persistent prejudices against our astonishing advances in technology, just think of the recent photos we all enjoyed from the limits of outer space or how quickly a vaccine was created during the pandemic, it is a paradox that our minds have outpaced our hearts.
It seems to me that we still battle against our essential natures. Every generation will at some point face the siren song of a dictator or the urge to go to war. We are still Adam and Eve in the garden dealing with our primal tug to serve ourselves rather than to serve others.
My brother John asks me to prove that God exists, and I cannot point to a place in time and space and say there is God, other than my belief that Jesus Christ is also God and lived with us.
But my brother wants a more tangible proof, someone he can sit across the table from and ask, ‘Why did you allow the Holocaust, or the suffering of children from cancer, or the abandonment of the elderly to institutions?’
I cannot give my brother the opportunity to sit across from God and receive answers to his questions. To be honest, there is not a week that goes by when I wish I could also speak face to face with God and hear his voice, to understand why we create such incredible mechanisms to cure disease, yet remain as driven by fear and ignorance as we were in Socrates’ day.
But it is this very dichotomy which provides the foundation of my belief in God and the evidence I need to continue to believe in God, in the face of my questions.
Our primal natures compel us to compete and create in order to ensure the survival of our genetic line. It does not ask us to put any moral or ethical parameters on that survival. So greed and competition more often than not supercede cooperation and altruism.
On the other hand, when we look at the life of Christ and his teachings, we receive a message that is counter intuitive two our evolutionary imperative. Christ asks us to love one another, to put the interests of our neighbor on the same level as our own, to feed the poor, to heal the sick, to care for the homeless, and cherish and protect our children and elderly.
One reason this column is called Walking our Faith is because I believe faith must walks its talk. In my life I can compare a before and after as evidence of the impact of walking my faith in the world. When I look at my life as a young adult from my 20s until my 40s, I went to church every week but I was merely paying my relationship with God lip service. While my life was selfish hedonistic and rather unhappy.
On the other hand, as I have pursued a closer relationship with God and discarded things which stood in that path, I have become more content and less selfish. Not for one moment will I suggest I am holier than thou, because I sin every day of the week, if not in deed, then in thought. But I am a much better person than I was.
Which is to say that the human nature which causes us to be avaricious and fearful and envious remains. It is not static, it requires continual engagement, otherwise we will fall back into the temptation of our essential natures, which is why we still have scandals and abuse in our churches. Our continual pursuit of God’s love is the only solution. I believe that pursuing God has made me a better person and has given me a greater capacity to love my neighbor and love myself. I believe that transformation, as flawed as it is, is the greatest evidence of God that I can offer.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking Our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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