What, Then, Is Faith?

Cover: Photo by S. Migaj on Unsplash

When one sits down to write words that won’t be read for weeks in a time of escalating disaster, understatement is all but assured. The unprovoked and atrocious invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces is but one of many sinister processes underway. No doubt the situation will have worsened by the time my words are read; no doubt more unnecessary death, destruction, and suffering will have occurred. Perhaps there will be tangible steps toward peace.

Friends are not alone in advocating diplomacy rather than an escalation in the fighting, rightly resisting calls for the U.S. to intervene militarily. War is not the answer, as Vladimir Putin is learning, but this is a lesson sadly drenched in the blood of innocents. Our prayers are with Ukrainians as they resist and endure; we pray that peace may prevail and that the Light within every person, civilian and combatant alike, can once again flourish and brighten what has become a dark time in the absence of justice.

Both the Viewpoint and the News column in this issue address the conflict in Ukraine from Quaker perspectives. Also relevant is Carlos Figueroa’s exploration of twentieth-century U.S. civil rights hero Bayard Rustin’s Quaker faith. America in Rustin’s time was not far removed from a world war, a time when the Quaker peace testimony, pacifism, and nonviolent resistance were being rigorously put to the test. Rustin’s words in an address to his fellow Friends ring just as true today, and are just as challenging, as when he delivered them in 1948. Our faith in the power of peace and nonviolent resistance will continue to be tested in the weeks, months, and years to come, and in the faith and words of Bayard Rustin we have a blazing beacon of moral consistency. 

This un-themed issue also includes pieces that focus not on the world, but rather inward. Donald W. McCormick writes about the Quaker tradition, both ancient and modern, of writing one’s spiritual autobiography, including a step-by-step pathway that makes such an undertaking less intimidating and more approachable. Andrew Huff returns to the pages of the Journal with “We Walk By Faith, Not By Sight,” in which he wrestles tenderly with the searing question of how he can hold fast to faith in God when the suffering he encounters in the world can seem to evidence the absence of a loving Spirit, instead the harsh dividends of an unjust material world.

Reading and re-reading these pages, the pattern that emerges to me might be a recipe for survival in difficult times: recognize what has made me who I am; learn from my blood and my spiritual ancestors, both in their moral clarity and in their imperfections, their striving and their hopes for me; be resolved that the world’s many woes are not the logical conclusion of immutable laws. “Right now, it’s like this.” These words of the Theravada Buddhist teacher Ajahn Sumedho have been important to me in my own darker days. What is faith, if not envisioning and acting to manifest a different future?

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