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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Faith in the Republic

Faith, Aquinas said, is a virtue, i.e. a habit of my being, a voluntary attitude and activity. I will not confuse it with my beliefs, the doctrinal content or expression of faith. Beliefs are given, provided by my upbringing and culture. Faith I will when I will to be. I do not need to hold any thing I have been told to have faith. I do not need to have a religion, to believe in God, in holy books or church teachings. I do not need to believe the priests, the theologians, the politicians, the philosophers, the deal-makers, the scientists, the successful. Faith has me listen and explore their thoughts, words, and actions to develop my own beliefs in dialogue with them and others. I do not have a faith, i.e. a particular belief system. I choose faith when I choose to grow my soul. Faith is the habitual attitude and act of being open to experience, of listening to the past, engaging the present, and intending the future. Faith in the past, hope in the future, and love here and now--but the greatest of these is love. Faith is not the words we profess or the rites we enact. Faith is the  expanding of consciousness even to the transcending consciousness of all, the Spirit of the Universe. I am faithful and hopeful when I abide in love.

And this is why the Republic must separate Church from State by declaring freedom for and from religion. The unity and cohesion of the Republic is not religion, not a set of beliefs and customs, not a culture and ethnicity. The unity of the Republic is in faith which is made possible in the public space--a safe place set aside for all persons as equals to speak and act in concert, to grow their souls and expand their consciousness in intercommunion. It is a place of power, freedom, and transcendence. Religious life and institutions can help, but cannot substitute for that public place. And they hinder when they attempt to do so.

The virtuous faithful act in the Republic is the political act of organizing safe places for the love of neighbor to emerge and flower.

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