Unification News for March 1997
Expressions of Faith
In order for faith to be tangible and real, it cannot exist in a vacuum. On the one hand, faith cannot come into being without some reason as a basis for it; and on the other hand it also cannot exist without a form of expression for it. Faith needs to take shape and be expressed in some form, and it also needs periodically to be reaffirmed and renewed in its expression.
Forms in which faith is expressed will invariably change over time, particularly religious faith. In fact, when we look at a group of people in a particular society over a long period of time, we may see that certain aspects of religious faith will remain constant (such as, for instance, the belief in the existence of God, the Scriptures, life after death, etc.), while the way in which that belief is understood and expressed will be time-period sensitive, and subject to subtle changes.
When certain expressions of religious faith lose their meaning and power, we can also observe that they are then replaced more radically by different forms. This particularly happens when forms of religious faith start to negate reason, fall behind common sense, or start to block or contradict new developments within society. As a result, particular forms of religious faith will either start to disintegrate altogether, or simply take a different form.
To give an example: even though Martin Luther was a person who had faith in God and in the Bible, he could no longer tolerate conditions under which that faith was expressed in his time. In his mind, the expression of faith was in contradiction to what he perceived to be truthful. Martin Luther held on to his faith, but changed the model and pattern in which it was expressed by forming a new expression in starting what we now know as the Reformation. In response to the Protestant reformation, the Catholic Church also followed with its internal reformation.
So even though religious faith may take different forms over time, certain aspects do provide a constant-and form its foundation. These constants (such as the need for religion based on the belief in the existence of God) are heavily rooted in traditions as well as in a collective understanding which is largely subconscious.
These constants can neither be erased, nor easily manipulated. Nevertheless, in history we have seen many attempts to do so. Notorious in our time is the Marxist-Leninist attempt to erase religion completely and to provide a purely materialistic explanation of reality. In the end, however, the immense attempts to replace long- held beliefs with a materialistic philosophical base, and the efforts to adjust the psychological and sociological reality to that philosophy, were unsuccessful.
The failure of these social experiments to manipulate human reality are a clear indication that there are firm underpinnings in the human psyche which go beyond all philosophical reasoning and resist deliberate psychological and sociological manipulations. These elements in the human psyche give root to a universal belief in the existence of a spiritual reality which transcends our visible reality. In fact, the very basis of religion itself is primarily rooted in these feelings or intuitions.
Faith and Spiritual Understanding
In my view, distinctions must be made to distinguish faith which is based on authoritarianism (external rules and dogma) from faith based on individual conscience (a personal sense of right and wrong) and faith grounded in spiritual understanding (universal, eternal principles).
Faith which is driven externally by religious authoritarianism, doctrine and dogma implies ways of thinking and acting almost exclusively based on following the directions of other people. Faith based in conscience means faith founded on conformity to one's own individual sense of proper conduct.
Most people will agree that faith based on one's own sense of right and wrong (individual conscience) is preferable to faith based solely on following the directions of others. In Kohlberg's "Theory of Moral Development," the highest phase of moral development is where one is guided by one's own individual conscience rather than the personal opinions of others, or by the conventions of the group. Noteworthy in this regard is the fact that, according to this theory, most adults never reach this ultimate developmental phase of following their own conscience in their life. It is believed that the majority of all people remain at a level where they will allow their convictions and actions to be determined mainly by dogmatic and legalistic thinking and/or the level of acceptance they can gain in the eyes of others.
It is interesting to note that Father in recent months has specifically emphasized that our conscience should be our point of reference. Father even made the startling proclamation that "our own conscience knows us better than God knows us." In my view, this means that we need to develop the attitude that we have to take individual responsibility for what we believe, and that we all have to be accountable for our own actions rather than measuring ourselves against the judgments of others.
The problem with conscience (in the way it is generally defined and understood) is that conscience alone will not necessarily imply proper understanding and conduct. For instance, there are many people involved in criminal conduct who are very much in harmony with their own consciences. The reason is that conscience is for the most part formed on the basis of good and/or bad values and attitudes which we adopted, and that we have subconsciously internalized through our environment. Therefore, what a certain person will see as objectionable behavior may be seen as perfectly justifiable and conscientious behavior by another person.
For this reason, there must be a standard of values and principles which embraces individual conscience but goes beyond it. This more inclusive standard must therefore be based on an understanding of the "common good of all," rooted in "universal/eternal principles."
Only faith based in spirituality will embrace universality in values and principles based on the implicit understanding of a principle or guiding force (God, if you will) which embraces all of life. Spiritual faith therefore implies that a person has an internal understanding of a power and principles higher than oneself-and an understanding of the way this power or these principles apply to one's life and guide one in one's spiritual growth. It implies that we have an absolute certainty that God exists, have developed a personal relationship with Him, feel the freedom to further develop that relationship based on our own individual conscience, but are also guided in our behavior toward others by principles which may be universally applied.
Faith based on spirituality does not mean that such a person would not support a certain religious point of view, but rather that in spite of his support of that viewpoint, one is no longer dominated by the views of others in one's thinking and actions. Rather than letting our actions be determined by the opinions of others, we allow our own conscience and spiritual intuition to be our guides.
The Power of Faith
It appears that faith instills great power and allows people to accomplish great deeds. There are many stories of people who through faith overcame severe handicaps, eliminated physical and emotional pain, and found great courage in difficult and challenging situations. On the basis of faith, many people have been able to deny themselves and made enormous sacrifices, even to the point of giving up their lives without hesitation for a greater cause.
In fact, it is faith which inspires people to act over and beyond their immediate self-interest and their immediate circumstances. And it is faith which allows people to take a long-range view of themselves and others.
Faith as the Power to Create
A very important consideration in the existence of faith is that in order to continue to grow and develop, it also seems to be inherently necessary for us to imagine, hope and believe. Nothing is created unless we can conceive it in our mind first and purposefully create an image of it, hold on to that image, and project it both inward and outward with a certain energy, devotion and conviction. It is our ability to imagine and believe in the possibility of making that image actual, as well as our determination in holding on to these images and beliefs, which allows us to develop entirely new creations.
My own definition of faith therefore would be: "through conviction in belief and determination in action, giving shape to an ideal which has not been established yet in reality."
The Model of Faith in our Time
Throughout history every society has always been inspired by the models which people of faith have provided in establishing a new ideal or carrying ideals to a new level of progress, in spite of the great odds against them or the sacrifices asked of them.
In our lifetime it is both the image of True Parents as a concept and ideal and the embodiment of True Parents in Rev. and Mrs. Moon which serve as new models of faith and selflessness. In the face of great odds and through self-sacrifice, True Parents continue to be the carriers of the conviction that the perfect family and the worldwide family of mankind is an ideal which can become reality for all mankind. They have held on to this vision in spite of the many obstacles and continuing setbacks in making that vision tangible and real. In following the ideals, example and image of True Parents in our own lives, we have adopted the same faith in the belief that the ideal person, ideal family and ideal world are possible and immanent.
In the course of many years trying to understand and live this vision, we may also have become somewhat disillusioned in the actual reality we have encountered. Perhaps we are disappointed in our ability to change ourselves into better people, and perhaps we have become disillusioned in others in a similar way. Perhaps our expectation that the ideal circumstances would appear in a certain way and at a particular point in time has become deflated. Perhaps we stepped into a marriage hoping to fulfill the dream of an ideal marriage and an ideal family, and instead we have woken up under the realization that it is very difficult to make that an actual reality. Or perhaps we have become somewhat disillusioned and critical of the organizational aspects of our religion.
All this can cause our faith to diminish and in the process our minds can become clouded and our hearts can become somewhat closed. Yet in spite of our lack of comprehension and disappointments, we need to
give impetus and form to our faith in one way or another, because faith ultimately means actively calling something into being and giving shape to that which has not materialized yet.
In our commitment of faith, each person must balance the internal and external aspects of faith. We must all come to a certain commitment of faith based on our level of understanding, our limitations, our abilities and a willingness to stand for what we believe.
At present, the ideal family is a concept and an ideal waiting to be actualized, and in a way the Blessing symbolically represents the coming into being of the ideal family. This symbolic representation can help in guiding us to the substantial fulfillment of that ideal. However, the substantial coming into being of the ideal family within our own families and the communities in which we live is dependent on the fulfillment of our responsibilities in an act of faith.
Ultimately, the act of faith is a commitment to something which cannot be fully understood initially. To have faith is a little like stepping into an abyss expecting that the bridge will appear under our feet. The conviction that by stepping into the ravine the bridge will appear is in itself the very mechanism which causes the bridge to appear under our feet and allow us to cross to the other side. In this sense, faith ultimately is the act of creation itself.
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