How Mitch Albom Found "Faith"
As Albom told Paula Parker: "I hope that people who see this film would see that there is a lot to celebrate about faith. In our modern world—and especially since 9/11—when we talk about faith and religion, we hear only about the extreme factions on all sides. The fact is that most people who come to faith aren't on the extreme. They are loving and they've embraced it; it's part of their lives, it's part of who they are."
Were Albom ever to join me for tea, I'm sure we'd have our theological differences. But there's much worth celebrating in this film, and much worth celebrating in the fact that such a film would be made in the first place. Thanksgiving in the United States has been largely secularized. People express gratitude to friends and family and feel a sort of vague sense of appreciation (to whom or what, they may not know) for all the good things one has received in life. If you're Simon Cowell on "The X-Factor," you give thanks to "my talent." Yet here is a film that affirms the value of faith unabashedly. If it does so without quite affirming the truth of faith, or the truth of any particular faith's particular beliefs, at least it shows a Boomer questioning his skepticism and opening up to the possibility that the Judeo-Christian tradition has more to teach him than he had realized.
I also appreciate the journey metaphor here. The Hebrew people, collectively in the case of the Exodus and individually in the cases of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and others, undertook journeys that have become icons for our own spiritual maturation. And Jesus himself often described the kingdom of God in traveling parables. As Rachel Monroe writes at Hollywood Jesus:
Vibrant faith is a journey. Jesus said that only a mustard seed was needed to see the greatness of God manifested. In Mitch Albom's "Have a Little Faith" we see that sometimes we can be the mustard seed for someone else. Sometimes the starting point for God's greatness, in someone else's life, is the time and care we take to share His greatness in our own.
Rabbi Lewis and Reverend Covington, wiser and more experienced travelers on life's journey, took the time to share the path with a traveler who was just beginning. Their efforts have borne fruit. And so I have to question myself: With whom am I sharing the journey? To whom am I giving fellowship along life's way?
Thankfully, the movie does not end with a Big Lesson. As one of the characters says, Albom is a "double-dipper" in Judaism and Christianity. Of course, the point is not simply to have faith. The object and Subject of our faith should be rightly identified, rightly honored, rightly understood. Judaism and Christianity make competing truth claims, and we cannot let the question of truth fall by the wayside.
But perhaps our culture, or at least a part of it, must reawaken to the possibility that faith can be good and beautiful before it can awaken to the possibility that it can be true. Perhaps faith must become possible again before it can become persuasive.
Dr. Timothy Dalrymple is the Associate Director of Content at Patheos, and writes weekly on faith, politics, and culture for Patheos' Evangelical Portal. Follow him at his blog, Philosophical Fragments, on Facebook or on Twitter.