Faith is a mysterious and fickle thing.
Everyone on earth puts their faith in something. Many have faith in the God of Abraham and weave it into their religion, be they Jews or Muslims. Many others put their faith in that same God of Abraham with the additional spin of the trinity–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–and they further carve up that faith into sects of similarly-minded believers who practice their beliefs in like ways, be it Catholicism or one of the thousands of Protestant denominations. Some put their faith in other versions of a divine being or spiritual guide and belong to any number of other religions. Some put their faith in science. Some put their faith in humans.
Here is the thing about faith; not a single one of us knows with certainty that ours is the right kind of faith–we can say it and we can believe it, but we can’t know it. That is the nature of faith, by definition. Because of this, faith is meant to be used as a shield and not a weapon. Yet, I see many Americans who are wielding their faith as a weapon.
Faith should be a comfort and refuge from the storm. Faith is meant to protect us from the slings and arrows of life. When life gets us down, we can take shelter behind our shield of faith. When times get harrowing, we can turn inward behind the protection of our shield of faith.
On some level, we all must understand that everyone carries a different shield of faith. No two people have an identical understanding.
This should be an easy concept for Americans to understand. We stitched it right into our own DNA as a nation.
Our Constitution provides for everyone’s unique shields of faith. In fact, it could be said that the Constitution is America’s shield of faith–a giant and endlessly diverse shield of faith. Because of the Constitution, nobody’s faith is more or less valued than anyone else’s. It is that simple. But this is the single most misunderstood thing about our nation that I see as I observe our national conversation. Too many people just don’t seem to get that. They seem to think that the Constitution is one and the same as their shield of faith.Then they begin to use their faith not as a shield, but as a weapon. They weaponize their faith in ways that would strip freedoms from others. We see it played out in the debate on immigration, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, gun control, education, and just about every hot-button political issue.
Too many people go on offense in the wake of some national crisis and claim that, if only more people subscribed to their faith, these kinds of things wouldn’t happen. In doing so, they completely overlook a dreadful history of travesties carried out in the name of their very own faith. In the process, they drive some from their ranks and divide themselves from the very people they should be called to love.
They use their faith as a weapon in the voting booth. They have very strong convictions about one or two issues and they will vote for absolutely anyone, so long as that candidate gives even hollow lip service that supports their pet causes.
In the process, they allow charlatans to have the keys to the nation.
It is becoming frighteningly apparent that, perhaps, this might be by design. Perhaps they hope that if enough of that ilk are put in charge, they might begin to dismantle the one thing that has held this great experiment in freedom together–the Constitution. Some would like nothing more than to see the Constitution–the nation’s shield of faith–reimaged as a clone of their own faith. They would use their faith as a weapon to see that happen.
If this nation is going to survive in the form it was intended, more people are going to have to start using their faith as a shield and stop using it as a weapon.
If we ever did that, we might begin to find more in common with one another than we ever thought possible.