A friend of mine who is studying for the Anglican priesthood recently shared, through his social media network, an article entitled 21 Pictures that will Restore your Faith in Humanity. It is a photo essay that shows a range of images including Christians who showed up at a Chicago gay pride parade to apologize for homophobia in the Church, an Indian villager in Calcutta rescuing kittens from a flood, a bookshop that leaves its books outside to passerby on a pay-as-you-can basis even outside shop hours, and many other heart-warming photo-documented moments.
I had to chuckle when I saw this article. Not because the photos were humorous, but because I had seen the exact same article posted to an atheist social media forum a few months earlier, accompanied by the comment “who needs faith in a fictitious God when one can have faith in humanity?”
While this may not be the most obvious example of interfaith exploration, setting up faith in humanity over faith in God, in my opinion, definitely creates an interfaith question!
Furthermore, last week I wrote that interfaith work “does not fulfill itself [in] the most basic things we can all agree on.” The example of the above-cited article shows how we can agree on so much, yet, nevertheless develop radically and even contentiously different conclusions around those very things we agree upon. How do I react to seeing my faith packaged as a choice of God over humanity? I firstly see it as an opportunity to deepen my understanding of what I actually believe:
Do I, in my words and actions as a Christian, engage in or portray an attitude of structural mistrust and doubt towards my fellow human beings? Do I renounce personal agency as a prerequisite to celebrating the presence of God? Is a choice between God or creation the “good news” that Christians appear to be offering the world?
Moreover, why do I trouble myself with these questions, when they could just as soon be avoided, and such uncharitable statements dismissed? Maybe because “you will find God if you seek God with all your heart and with all your soul.” To a great extent, this is what “having faith” looks like to me. Who’s to say that some wonderful insights might not just reside in some odd and undetected nook or cranny, where and in such a way that we would least expect it (such as an atheist social media forum)? After all, this is precisely the type of question I occasionally ask my so-called faithless friends who inhabit those very spaces!
Hardly one to back away from a challenge, I decided to formulate a reply to the original “who needs faith in a fictitious God” comment:
“Who needs to judge the dimensions of one’s faith when all humanity is well-served?”
Miraculously, my interlocutor appears to agree:
“That too, Afra.”