Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Current Notion of Faith

This one isn't extremely deep, but it has been bugging me for a while.

The other week i was watching an episode of Firefly on Sci-Fi. If you haven't seen it it's about like 8 people on a private ship in the future, wandering the universe trying to make money and avoid entanglement with the corrupt Alliance government.

Anyway, like most tv shows it had multiple plot lines. One of them involved Jayne, as he and several other crew members visit a planet where Jayne had escaped from some time before. Jayne tried to avoid being recognized, since the last thing he had done before escaping was rob the local magistrate. Unfortunately for Jayne, he ended up having to dump all the money he stole as he left. Unbeknownst to him, the slave laborers on the planet found the money he dumped and thought that Jayne had intentionally given it to them. Ever since then, Jayne had been a hero, and the laborers even put up a statue of him. When Jayne and his crewmates show up on the planet, the laborers give him a hero's welcome, but eventually it comes out that he was trying to steal the money for himself, and that he had actually abandoned his partner in his efforts to escape. Jayne told the people they had been foolish for believing that anyone would be so selfless, and then pushes over the statue of himself.

Back on the ship, Jayne speculated that the laborers were probably putting his statue back up, dispite what they knew about him. The captain replies that maybe it wasn't about who Jayne really was, it was about who they needed him to be.

Plot line 2: There's actually a preacher on this ship (although he has a mysterious past), which i guess balances out the fact that there's also a prostitute. Anyway, there is also a teenage girl, a genius. One day the girl gets a hold of the preacher's Bible, and the preacher finds her writing in it and tearing out pages. When asked why, she replies that she's "fixing" it. She edits the story of creation to make it fit with evolution, and comments that "Noah's ark is a problem," since there's no way that samples from thousands of species would all fit in one boat. She tears that page out.

The preacher stops her and states that you can't "fix" the Bible. His comments are something to the effect of "It's about having faith in something beyond yourself." Essentially he was saying that the point is not whether or not these things make sense, but just that you believe them. Unless i misunderstood him, he meant that it doesn't matter whether they actually happened, just that you believe in something bigger than yourself.

I didn't notice it immediately as i was watching the show, but now i cant help thinking these two plotlines were not put together randomly. Both have to do with faith. But both seem to conclude: it's not about what really happened, it's about what we need to believe in. And i think this is the new faith.

Faith itself seems to be relatively popular. Everyone likes believing in something beyond the physical and scientific. Santa Claus, perfect virtue, miracles. Even the moral lesssons of Bible stories. But it stops short of believing that there is a God big enough to do the impossible. It just likes hearing about the impossible. The ark is a good story to believe in, not something that actually happened, in this kind of faith.

I suppose it's better than nothing. But it is so far short of the glorious faith that is more than a sentimental hope, but the affirmation that real things happened in a real world and made a real difference.

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