Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Question Mark

This is a perspective I frequently face. Many of my friends are atheist or agnostic and, while they respect my faith, they think it's a little hokey. Like many people in my generation, they see faith as an outdated superstition. Others my age, those on the far opposite end of the spectrum, see Christianity as the answer to all questions, with the Bible as the encyclopedia of answers. The problem with these views, in my opinion, is that they see faith generally, and Christianity specifically, as an answer. I don't see it that way. To me, faith is a question.

I don't think that faith exists to answer questions of how we came to be or how the world will end. I fully appreciate the knowledge of the world that comes from science. I believe that scientific discoveries often tell us more about how the world began than any creation story in a sacred text. I am awestruck at the beauty and complexity of the universe and I am amazed at scientists' ability to gain deeper understandings of the world. But answers from science do not negate the need for faith.

I am working this summer in one of the top hospitals in the country. Every day I see the wonders of science and technology, I watch as people fight illness with medications and machines that demonstrate the incredible power of science. And yet, beyond the machines and medications, beyond the ingenuity of science and the fragility of human bodies, there is something more. There are still questions.

Even in our contemporary world full of knowledge, questions of meaning remain. If there was a big bang, what set it off? Why is it that Earth has just the right atmosphere to make the existence of living things possible? These questions point to the unmoved mover of Greek philosophy, a larger force, beyond physical existence, that is the first cause of all life. And, perhaps more immediate to everyday thinking, are questions of meaning and relationship. What is the deeper meaning of life? Sure, we can explain chemically how a human is formed, how human development works. We can understand illness and the workings of the body, and even death. But what is the deeper meaning? What is the purpose of the turning of the earth, the changing of the seasons, the beating of a human heart, the growth and withering of plants?

I had my first existential crisis in sixth grade while doing last minute work on my science fair project. I had been studying plant photosynthesis and was trying to name the purpose of my experience. I found myself agitated, asking my parents over and over, but WHY does the plant perform photosynthesis? It just grows and dies, and its existence is just about survival? Why does it bother? Faith isn't about questions of how (for example, how was the world created?) it is about questions of why. Why do we exist? Why do we seek relationship with one another? That is where I begin to base my faith. God, faith, are the framework in which I seek answers to those questions of purpose.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

If I had a comment card...

"You look like a chaplain. It's in your face."

"I don't mean to offend you, but aren't you kind of young for a chaplain?"

"There's something about you. It's like there's a little light inside you. That's how God is using you."

"Thanks for praying with me. I didn't hear most of what you said, but thanks."

"Are you a pharmacist? You don't belong here."