F is for Faith
by Patricia Adams Farmer
Faith rarely comes to us whole; mostly it comes in pieces, sometimes in tiny fragments, especially when life feels broken. Sometimes faith is lost altogether in the breaking. When children are massacred in their schools, where is faith in such a shattered place as this?
Process theologians believe that we are not alone in the shattering; it is the divine experience, too. For when children are murdered in their school, part of God's own self is shattered in a painful cosmic groan that echoes across the universe. Yes, we process thinkers believe that God is in the shattering, or as Alfred North Whitehead says, God is "the great companion—the fellow sufferer, who understands."
Writing from prison in Nazi Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, said, "Only a suffering God can help." With this kind of God-with-us theology, we know the deep sacredness of sharing one another's pain. We touch a holy place when we dare to enter another's suffering. And in this raw connection of vulnerable being to vulnerable being, the fragments of faith come together in surprising ways. Out of this divine mix of connection and co-creation, novel possibilities begin to emerge from the rubble. Divine suffering is where change happens.
But only those with fresh, wide-open eyes can see this new possibility, grasp it, and run with it: such are the eyes of youth. These days, youth are the heroes of faith, no matter their religion or irreligion. For the young know that faith is not a belief system, but a way of responding to life. They simply refuse to give up on the possibility of things.
Since the Parkland school massacre and "March for Our Lives," youth are showing the world what faith looks like. These young survivors have been shattered. They have bled; they are still bleeding. But they refuse to let it go, to move on, and forget—not this time. For this is their time, their moment to rise. They have lost faith in adults, but they have not lost faith in life itself. And so they have responded with a resounding no! to the "thoughts and prayers" version of faith, and have chosen the kind of faith that gets up and moves and changes things.
The Never Again Movement is an act of true faith: facing it all—the tragedy and the injustice, the pain and the rage—and doing so with youthful trust that there is enough goodness left in the world to break through the wall of apathy and delusion. Such youthful belief is what faith should be: Facing All in Trust & Hope. That is, these marching, resisting, passionate—and soon to be voting—youth offer us a fresh picture of faith, that is, faith as a stubborn and relentless belief in life itself.
Perhaps this new image of faith can inspire those of us who have almost given up in despair. Many of us are shame-filled and heartsick to be leaving the next generation an ailing planet and a violent society. But faith would tell us that we've got work to do, and the young will have to lead us.
These days, I'm not sure how many youth have faith in God, but I believe that God has faith in youth, for by their courageous and insistent cries against the powers that be, they are teaching the old, the jaded, and the apathetic that faith without works is dead—and that "only a suffering God can help."