This week’s issue of Parade, the newspaper insert that appears in Sunday papers across the nation, includes an article in its “Views” section called “Why Faith Matters.” The article highlights an excerpt from former British prime minister Tony Blair’s new memoir, A Journey: My Political Life.
Several things about the article struck me.
First, Blair talks about his father, a lifelong atheist who suffered a stroke at age 40, when he was a mere 10 years old. On the morning of the stroke, while his father was struggling for his life, Tony was at school, “frightened and bewildered.” He sought comfort in his teacher, a priest who suggested the two kneel and pray for Blair’s father. “I’m afraid my father doesn’t believe in God,” the young Blair said. To which his wise teacher answered: “That doesn’t matter. God believes in him.”
What a tremendously powerful thought! God believes in us, even when we don’t believe in Him. God loves us, even when we don’t love Him. God sees us, feels with us, adores us, lives alongside us, even when we are completely checked out. It is impossible to get away from God’s great and abiding love for us! “There’s no hiding place,” as the spiritual we sang in college choir admonishes in a good way.
Blair’s father never did come to acknowledge God, but his teacher’s words stayed with him throughout his life, changing and forming him.
“Today, religious beliefs…are at the core of the lives of two-thirds of the world’s population, giving them sense and direction,” Blair notes. “And it is not only a matter of numbers — faith matters because it inspires people to act and raise their sights beyond themselves.”
Having spiritual beliefs does not immune us from having the capacity to do wrong or evil, he says, “But far more often, faith can be a force for good. I have witnessed its positive impact wherever I’ve gone in the world. I’ve seen it at major disasters in the incredible humanitarian efforts of the Red Cross, Islamic Relief, or World Jewish Relief, all organizations inspired by belief. I’ve also seen it in the central role of synagogues, churches, temples and mosques in helping the poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged in every country. In every case, men and women of faith who are trying to put the idea of unconditional love into practice are leading these efforts.”
Divisions happen nevertheless, Blair says, but we ought to focus “on the vast areas we share and not on the much smaller areas that separate us.”
The article concludes with Blair saying, “By understanding one another, respecting one another, and acting with one another, we can show why humanity is made not poorer by faith but immeasurably richer.”
Blair gets it, he really does. There is so much criticism of faith and religion in the media that we often lose sight of the tremendous amount of good it has done, and will continue to do. What would our world look like, truly, without religion? I submit that it would be even more of a mess than it already it is without the hope and love made possible through faith.
There’s something to this faith thing. There’s something about believing in something greater than ourselves, in recognizing we are creatures and not the almighty, in pulling away from ourselves and letting that greater power guide our lives.
I have discovered the beauty, joy and love of the faith life and I do not take this for granted. It is the most profound and wonderful aspect of my life. Though not everyone will believe in the God who created them in this life, everyone will believe in the next. And throughout all of time and beyond it, God will never quit believing in His beloved children.
Q4U: In what ways has faith inspired you to act and raise your sights beyond yourself?