Monday, December 8, 2008

Faith in Action

My good friend Becca Hartman gave me this poem and I was particularly taken by it:

I was hungry
and you formed a humanities club
and you discussed by hunger
Thank you.

I was imprisoned
and you crept off quietly
to your chapel in the cellar
and prayed for my release.

I was naked
and in your mind
you debated the morality of my appearance.

I was sick
and you knelt and thanked God for your health.

I was homeless
and you preached to me
of the spiritual shelter of the love of God.

I was lonely
and you left me alone
to pray for me.

You seem so holy;
so close to God.

But I'm still very hungry
and lonely
and cold.

So where have your prayers gone?
What have they done?
What does it profit a man
to page through his book of prayers
when the rest of the world
is crying for his help?

As people of faith (in God and humanity), we cannot settle for the publishing of more papers to collect dust, the hosting of more convenings and conversations that don't lead to sustained action, or believing in a faith that continues to be disengaged from radical living for the life of the world.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marched with King in Selma, AL during the height of the civil rights movement. When reflecting on his experience, he said, "I felt like my legs were praying." I am, unfortunately, a person of faith that has preferred to consume my religion rather than live it out in service to others. I am both nervous and exhilarated to see what it might look like to take this poem to heart.


Tim said...

This is exhilarating, for sure, but as a likely future academic, i'd say that conversation, thought, writing, conferences, these things are still important. Personally, I'd view what you've said as a part of the Church Body that has been underutilized, but not the most important part of the body. I guess i like the body metaphor so much because there Is no best part. Worship and "social action," which is pretty much all Christ taught in some ways, can come as active action, as removed academics, even as silent prayer. Many monasteries consider it their job to be apart from the world so that they can pray for it. If the Christian God is worth his weight, this had better be just as active and changing as working at a soup kitchen.

Becca Hartman said...

Certainly thoughts, words, writings are powerful - they inspired you to take action, to make a fundamental commitment to living faith out loud. I think that one of the reasons I like words and situations and people that make me uncomfortable is that it jars me from what can otherwise become a totally comfortable way of trying to 'be Christ in the world.' My Christian God is powerful in part because she turns the world's normative structures on their head... I guess my point is that the discomfort that comes from that sobering poem or to think about my own work with a different definition of success simply keeps me agile in the world.

AC said...

I might remark simply that in the pursuit of realizing my own dreams to improve humanity's plight, I have never desired to "consume" faith more than I do now.

Enjoy who you are, Dave, despite of how a few words may lead you to think otherwise (even momentarily). It is how you consider such possibilities that makes you an incredible person. I doubt God would disagree. :)

Ali said...

After all the poetry lessons I gave you, I feel a little slighted that you did not put one of my poems up. That's all I'm saying.