During my senior year in high school, on Sundays, I was the “youth leader” at the local Methodist Church. I’d been voted into the position mainly, I think, because I had strong opinions about the world, and seemed to be the only one in the Youth Group to say much. The kindly pastor, Rev. Hyde, seemed to get a bit of a kick out of this opinionated young man, and I think he had some high hopes I would help increase youth attendance at the church. Of course, at the time, I could care less.
One of my duties as a youth leader was to give sermons for the Easter Sunday evening service, and the Christmas Evening Service. In my rebellious state, I saw these responsibilities as opportunities to spout my dissatisfaction with the world.
My Easter service speech was tepidly received. I vaguely remember talking about how society viciously attacked Jesus–murdering him, actually–and although he got the last word with resurrection, my point was that society then and society now were basically the same. After my “sermon”, the good Reverend spoke about forgiveness and transcendence–a more elevated answer to my cynicism. Then, for the Christmas message, I flew into that tired rant about how the commercialization of Christmas ruined the spirituality in its purpose by making everything about buying stuff from corporations. The Reverend followed that up with a talk about the gift of Jesus to the world. It made my comments look bitter and unforgiving–which they were.
After the service, I was supposed to stand at the exit to greet the congregants as they shuffled home. One lady came up to me and said, “That was a nice speech you gave. Well, not nice, I guess.” I nodded and smiled sheepishly.
As a young man, clearly I was having a bit of a crisis of faith. I’d lost faith in the goodness of society; lost faith in capitalism, and lost faith that anyone was really hearing what I was saying.
After high school graduation, I stopped going to church, renting a small apartment with some friends, which inevitably led to wine and pot parties pretty much daily. One day, after one of my roommates and I had just finished off a large bowl of hash, there was a knock on the door. We were expecting a visit from another friend, so I jumped up to answer it. As I opened the door, I became aware of smoke billowing out around me, and lo and behold, there was Rev. Hyde.
Apparently, word had gotten out about a bunch of pot-smoking hippies living above the clothes boutique–across the street from the church no less. The Reverend said, “I’m just checking on you since we haven’t seen you in church or in the youth group.” I said, “Yeah, well, I’ve moved on, and I don’t think I’ll be coming back.” There was a long pause and the Reverend’s face fell. “Well, if you change your mind, you know where to find me.”
I remember feeling bad about the Reverend’s revelation that I had certainly been lost to the dark side, but it only fueled my faith in the hypocrisy of society. And this is, finally, the point I’m attempting to make.
The truth behind faith
Our faith–what we depend on to be true–cuts both ways. We can have faith that life is one big joke then you die in everlasting darkness; or, we can have faith that life is basically good and that we are infinite beings of everlasting light and love. The choice we make about faith is the underpinning of how we experience life. Faith is the culminating judgment we’ve declared about the world–the underlying assumption we’ve made about how things actually are.
When persons or events seem negative and destructive, it is our faith that drives our responses to them. On the one hand, we can declare, “Yeah, that figures. Everything really is going to hell.” Or, we can affirm, “These people are going through a process of waking up to their true divinity, where they must face the darkness to find their light.”
It is the faith that is born from direct knowing of the Creator and the basic goodness of Creation that pulls us out of the polarity inherent in chaos and negativity. It is that faith in the Reality of cosmic love that uplifts the world, and brings comfort and ease, even when things seem bad because we know at a gut level that it’s going to be all right and that the apparent difficulty is only happening because it is resolving.
Maintaining faith in all the hopelessness and negativity in the world represents a premature conclusion that hasn’t made the next leap to non-duality. Yes, there is hopelessness and negativity, but it’s only there as a preliminary step towards love, ease, and joy in the world.