For starters, we must speak proactively and vulnerably about our faith, instead of only in reaction to the latest hot-button issue. There are questions that haunt every human life: How does one know what is true and false, right or wrong? Is there a God? If there is, can we interact with him, her or it? If so, how? Can God speak to us? Can God say no to us? What are our obligations to God and to other human beings? How can we have joy? How can we live well? How can we be wise?
Whether one thinks of oneself as religious or not, unprovable and value-laden assumptions about truth and meaning drive our lives, including our politics. Yet these often go unacknowledged. Engaging with the presuppositions and beliefs underneath the loudest cultural debates of our moment helps us more fully understand the crux of issues, our true points of disagreement and the common humanity we share.
Most people’s experience of faith is far more personal, rich, important and meaningful than can be summed up in our political sparring. We must keep this in mind when writing on, debating or discussing religion and spirituality. Part of the purpose of this newsletter is to preserve space to examine not only faith in public life, but also how spiritual practices quietly mold us, our communities and our days.
Churches and other religious groups must continually highlight how our traditions address pressing issues that will never trend on Twitter or dominate political debates: problems like loneliness, despair, conflict in families, disappointment, grief, longing, loss and those all-too-human anxieties and insecurities that keep us up at night.
On a more personal note, sometimes I have to retreat from larger media debates over politics and theology to preserve the honest, tender and fragile heart of faith in my own life.
I often quote the fifth-century ascetic Diadochos of Photiki, who seems shockingly contemporary in our time of smartphones and social media. “When the door of the steam baths is continually left open, the heat inside rapidly escapes through it,” he wrote. “Likewise the soul, in its desire to say many things, dissipates its remembrance of God through the door of speech.”