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A TGB READER STORY: When Faith Is What I Need Most

By Carole Leskin

I tried to write something to post today. Something sweet, gentle, funny, or hopeful. But I could not.

Today all I could do was sit and grieve. Overwhelmed. Where am I? What is happening to the imperfect, but basically kind country I knew? Cities and even towns all over the US are burning, looted and destroyed. The military are being used to disperse peaceful protesters. George Floyd is murdered and four policemen, the people who take the oath to stand and protect, are accused.

A Central Park bird watcher is reported to the police. More than 100,000 people are dead from COVID-19 with more every day, as the necessary supplies to help treat it are still not fully deployed.The pandemic rages on.

The number of people unemployed is as great as during the Depression. We cannot get close to people. We wear masks. Our loved ones die alone and have no funerals. Social distancing, a necessity, has become painful isolation, and depression and suicide is a daily occurrence.

The list could easily be longer - but this is enough. And so, many of us spend our time inside and afraid.

There is a terrible irony in what has become the slogan we hear chanted and see on placards everywhere as protesters by the thousands march day after day. Not since the 1960s have we seen anything like it.


George Floyd's dying words. But also one of the last things people of all ages, colors, religions, genders say as they die from covid19. The same can be said by people where air and water pollution is once again killing our environment. And when peaceful protestors are dispersed by gas. There is more - but you all know examples.

The murder of George Floyd has become more than a chant decrying racism and police brutality. It is the cry of the people of the United States - once thought to be the greatest nation on Earth - the slogan for so many in 2020.

I turn to the place - the only place - where I find comfort. Faith.

It's not that I believe G_d can miraculously solve all of this distress. For me, Faith means that there is hope. It asks me to wake up each morning and consider how I might be helpful. Sometimes, Faith is the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.

It encourages me to get on with life as best I can, recognizing it is a gift, and knowing that good people are everywhere. Faith is purpose. Faith is potential. Faith is possibility. But it is up to me to do more than pray for help. What happens daily is my responsibility. There are days when I fail.

Somehow, I am still often optimistic. And that, I believe, is Faith.

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What you say about faith reminds me of this quote by Vaclav Havel:

"Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out."

And this, by Jane Goodall, which I try to adhere to: "You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference. And you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make."

--Even if it's just what I did this morning--pick up trash along the roadside and on the beach--on my morning stroll.

Faith.......I am just now reading Fenton Johnson's "Keeping Faith," because like you on some days, I don't know how. Or even, what it is. I like what you wrote, and will reread several times today. Also Nana's quote from Jane Goodall.........yes.

Gratitude for your words, both of you.

Yes, I agree. It is important to remember that people have been through much worse than what we are going through now, even though we are in difficult times, for sure. There was a saying and a book years ago entitled " I never promised you a rose garden." Some might remember it. If we have the gift of life, we can still enjoy its benefits, and still make our own contributions to the world, by words or actions. We have to be careful for ourselves and for others as well so that we can survive to a previous way of living when things were not so difficult for us and others. And in some instances, we can work together to improve the lives of others.

It is more than comforting to read this essay and comments about the nightmare we are living with only faith to see us through. Thank you for the expanded vision and I pray for all a more tolerant view.

Wow, Carole, you said so succinctly everything I've been feeling. Thank you for this beautiful piece. I saved it so that I might read it over and over when I am down. In addition to all the craziness in our country at the moment, I am in the beginning stages of a long recovery from surgery and all the sitting around "healing" is already old. I printed a quote the other day that is now my mantra that I keep repeating to myself: "...I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do." (Edward Everett Hale) We all need whatever help we can get in these times, and your story will be something that buoys me through next months.

I appreciate the sense of optimism and steadfastness conveyed here -- thanks for that.

Your essay intertwines COVID-related issues with the racial reckoning that is currently taking place. With regard to the latter, my perspective is that the upheaval that we are witnessing is not something to grieve. The basically kind country that some of us remember was exactly that: it existed only for some. For others, the tragedies of which we are now aware were always going on -- they just weren't being filmed. History shows us that positive new social movement often requires a fracturing of the old order, and people who had previously experienced peace and happiness often experience this change process as unsettling.

I live in one of the cities that we are constantly being told is burning (it isn't) and being looted (it isn't). Our protesters are not looters or anarchists or anything of the kind. Again and again, these young leaders advise us who march with them to be nonreactive and peaceful. I believe in their ability to pick up where our generation left off and to succeed where some of us (I definitely include myself here) did not.

That having been said, I'm very much wishing for an end to the tragic COVID pandemic and this socially-isolated quarantine era.

You reminded me of Cornel West's speech in 1993: "Optimism for me has never been an option. Because there’s too much suffering in the world. Think of all the African bones and bodies at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean with the slave trade. And Jewish brothers and sisters in the concentration camps. And Dalits in India. None of that can generate an optimism for me, ever."

In July 2020 West was interviewed by Sigal Samuel:

But hope is something else, you see, because hope is not spectatorial. It’s participatory. You’re already in the mess. You’re in the funk. What are you going to do? Hope is a verb as much as a virtue. Hope is as much a consequence of your action as it is a source of your action, as Roberto Unger always said. So that hope is something that you find in your immersion. And you decide you’re going to fight till the end. No matter what.

Sigal Samuel:

When you say hope is also a “consequence of your action,” do you mean that by choosing to act now in this incredibly stressful time with integrity, with accountability, with responsibility, our actions themselves can nurture and fuel hope in us?

Cornel West:

That’s eloquently put. That’s exactly right. Hope is about everybody trying to contribute to the push, the motion, the momentum, the movement for something bigger than them that’s better. The good, the beautiful. If you’re not in motion, you’re a spectator.

Faith. And i thought there'd be atleast a phrase about whatever happens, the Lord is sovereign and or something along the lines that it's the grace of the Lord Jesus that's getting me through the drama. Shoulda realized the posts would be all about (temporal) salvation by ones own works.

Dear Sue,

This is not the website I go to get solid theology, but... there is rather a lot in the Bible about [very loosely paraphrased] "faith without works is dead" and "work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is Christ who works in you" and "if you say to your brother "be warm and well fed" but do diddly-squat to help him with that, you're not doing it right" and "whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me." Also: "faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love."

If you want OT, then you've got "and what does the Lord require of you, but to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God" and tons of other statements about what you *do* because you have faith (and scads of examples of people who did-things-because-faith; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego say "Our God can rescue us from the fiery furnace, but even if God does not, we won't bow" - the priests step straight into the Jordan *at flood stage* before it dries up - there's so much in there about people doing things because they have faith, and it does not diminish God's power in those situations).

I guess: if we're not acting in God's work in this world, some of which is large-scale, some of which is small-scale, some of which is visible, some of which is invisible, we're not acting with God - "doing the work which he has prepared in advance for us to do." If we're not acting with God, our faith is... questionable... to say the least.

I agree that an exclusive focus on temporal salvation is a problem for a Christian (it's also a really common problem - humans have their priorities messed up; we want salvation from this headache sometimes more than we want spiritual growth). But I'm okay with a blog post not necessarily containing all facets of moral or spiritual truth, especially when I'm visiting a blog to learn about other things.

(also, I don't know if this may be helpful to you, but my personal "kick me in the pants and straighten me up" theology is often from Beth Moore's twitter account. I don't always agree with her on every issue, but she puts down in black and white what I need to see enough of the time that I get a lot of good from her, and discard the rest. If your pants are sized differently and the issues where you've got a beam in your eye are different from mine, however, results may vary. But it's maybe a good place to look if you do want some things about Christian Living in the "right now"? Also, excellent pie recipes and donkey photos and occasional joyous posts about grandchildren.)

Thank you Carole for expressing "faith" in such inclusive far reaching terms that don’t narrow down to dogmatic theology that is "my way or the highway" rhetoric.

You have a beautiful and kind way of expressing feelings and thoughts. It’s very refreshing.

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