Home : News : Commentaries : Display

Chaplain's Corner: Figuring out faith

By Chaplain (CPT) Dale R. DuMont | 6th Engineer Battalion | July 23, 2014


The "Chaplain's Corner" offers perspectives to enhance spiritual/religious resiliency in support of Air Force and Army Comprehensive Fitness programs.

Comments regarding specific beliefs, practices, or behaviors are strictly those of the author and do not convey  endorsement by the U.S. government, the Department of Defense, the Army, the Air Force, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, or the 673d Air Base Wing.

The word faith conjures up as many different emotional images as there are people today. We hear faith echoed in songs on the radio, as in the one by George Michaels, "You got to have faith, faith, faith." Faith comes to us in movies, like in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where Indiana, played by Harrison Ford, is searching for the Holy Grail. In a climactic scene toward the end, Indiana is reading a book of riddles weaving through a maze of razor sharp blades and then he comes to a deep impassable canyon.

He has to go forward to save his dad, so he rereads the book of riddles, which tells him to take a leap of faith. So he closes his eyes, puts his foot out and steps forward and (phew), there was an invisible walkway. His "faith" led him to the Holy Grail.

The images from our media remind us that faith is necessary in life situations, regardless of why you need it, whether being solicited by George Michaels or fighting for life like Indiana Jones. But have you ever wondered, what does this faith hang on? For example, if faith is, "a strong belief or trust in someone or something," as cited by Webster, what is required of the person or thing to deserve our faith? The answer to this is as broad as it is deep.

For example, Webster's first sentence example on faith is: his supporters have accepted his claims with blind faith. So faith can seem to have little or no basis. But what if this person we trust in faith acts in line with Webster's second example: Our faith in the individual has been badly shaken by the recent scandals.

Faith seems to hang on two hooks. Faith resides in the person giving it and in the character of the object in which it is placed.

First, the giver of faith, even a skeptic, has faith that at least they can clearly comprehend logic, or not. For if you can't trust yourself, then how could you even discern if you doubt or not.

For example, a student asked a professor, "How do I know if I exist?" The professor replied, "And whom may I ask, is asking." Thus faith begins in the character of the heart of the one giving it.

The second home of faith lies in the object to which it is placed. As a word, faith is only about 700 years old. Faith gets its roots from the Latin, term fides, from which we get the word fidelity, the act of being faithful or accurate in detail.

From the roots up we can see the correlation between faithfulness and faith given. Have you ever heard of a bank called Fidelity Trust? I have never heard of a bank called Negligent Doubt?

In order for faith to be given from me or you, then the person or thing we are giving it to must have a sense of faithfulness or fidelity.

We begin to sense that the relationship between the character of a faith giver and the character of the object of faith seems real. For example, if I was in the audience at Arctic Warrior's Chapel and a trusted chaplain stood up front and pulled up a chair, he sat in it, stood up and then said, "who here would like to make a quick $10.00, come sit in this chair, if it holds up, I'll give you $10.00, if it falls when you sit on it, you give me $10.00."
I would let the eager teenager earn $10.00.

However, if I was in Las Vegas at a show and a magician sat on the chair five times, each time escalating the amount and paying out $100.00 the last time, then he said, "Now who would like $1,000,000.00, just sit in the chair, you just have to sign the paperwork here to pay if it falls." If a private from my unit jumps forward eagerly, I would warn him as a skeptic.

For the object of faith is not the chair; it's the character and nature of the magician asking you to sit in the chair. If the private was desperate, I might not be able to convince them, not to gamble with a magician in Vegas.

In our respectful military and democratic culture, which believes the autonomy of ideas on faith is the best way forward, learning our motives to give faith, whether to George Michaels or to a book like the one Indiana Jones was reading, and how to develop the character to earn faith, seems like they need to be a part of our conversations to one another and to our children.

As part of our journey forward, we might respectfully dialogue with one another by asking, what do you have faith in and why?