What is faith?
For those who are very proud of the absence of faith in anything other than facts, faith is a desirable implication of combined data points: if you are having a picnic you have faith in the “Partly Cloudy” forecast on Weather.Com but are not-so-faithful to the verity of The Farmer’s Almanac.
For those who are faithful in the absence of data points faith tends to be what is hoped to be true because you want whatever that unknown is to happen: you want it to be “Partly Cloudy” for your picnic having read nothing – in a way recognizing your impotence in having any impact on the weather.
But Faith used to be a code word for religious belief – it still is: but it’s now tinged, in the northeast at least, with a snark of the unspoken understanding that faith equals ignorance (which is true) – but in this case willful ignorance of the gutlessly hopeful (or simply the stupid and lazy). ” Trust in the Lord” was an absolute bedrock of New England’s founding zealots, now their place on the planet is becoming toxic to any offered up belief beyond the here and now.
But humans seem to want more than the here and now.
Clearly the individual personal here and now makes its extension into flawed or glorious celebrity – but royalty filled that function for all but the last hundred or two years: until the Kardashians could become 21st century nobility – and hundreds of “reality TV” shows allow anuyone’s foibles to be glorified on screens great and small everywhere all the time.
But we always had the sense that Royalty or envy of your betters or simply hoping for better had a parallel foundation in a God that was, at the end, cosmically true and fair beyond our understanding in the here and now.
As the northeast runs away from churches and other houses of worship with its collective hair on fire it’s not just running to celebrity – it’s to the largest scale of controlled, staged, propped and promoted Faith: entertainment, but in the most religious way we are running to a large country on the globe of Entertainment: Sports.
Whether its running every Sunday morning, or taking children to sporting events/training sessions, or simply turning on the TV on the new Sabbath: the near Sacred “Weekend” has become a special place of expressing sports faith. It is a growing place for many where we can safely express Faith in something
I am on a train back from a Giants Game: they lost, in the last minute, after a game full of failures. But the tribal and deeply emotional transference of Hope and Faith into a group of hero athletes was beyond all realistic connection to that game being just a game.
90% of 80,000 attendees were in Giant Blue, most with names and numbers of their preferred Heroes – past and present.
Chants rose and fell.
Booze rendered many ecstatic in triumph or, alternatively, angrily despondent over the egregious shortcomings of referees, coaches, the opposing team, or even their heroes. Amid the 80,000 the smattering of Redskin Maroon (the opponent this afternoon) had the exact same trappings and expressions.
Even though these fans did not participate in any practice or game, the cost of admission allowed them to appropriate the Team into their own lives as they always said “We” in talking about the Giants (or if you were in maroon, the Redskins).
The wave of Faith was a sweeping hum and cacophony of love and hate that swept MetLife Stadium, so much so it was more a Cathedral that a Stadium to me. 10’s of thousands spend the entire day there ,eating next to their cars before and after the game, and millions upon millions spend the whole season of Sunday’s watching games on TV, now efforting 4 full games on this new version of Sabbath – from 9am till midnight.
We need faith, it seems: facts are not enough as they are not complete, even for the most knowledgable (we can measure gravity to the Nth degree- but that’s about as far as we have gone in understanding what it is – and it is the central force that propels every aspect of this time and place)
Like rabbi’s and monks, sports fans can completely control fixed databases of sports stats: there can be surety amid the Faith and Hope. And just as Piety goeth before a fall from Grace: the tragedies and exultations of sports have a life almost completely dissociated from the day-to-day (hence the Freakout when a few athletes started taking a posture on racial injustice).
I love football. In large measure it pry-barred my fears into hope, it let me do something hard, ultimately well – it was a love connection amid teammates I never had in family.
But it’s just a game.
Football is a tiny construct where its impact offers nothing meaningful for our culture, our health or even our aspirations. Football, for many (and most of those have never played the game on any level) lives more in the hopes and dreams of its fans than in any other aspect of its realities. Football, like music or the arts can channel and focus love and energy into action and deep enrichment: but those things never planted a crop, saved a life or kept a family housed.
Just like religion.
But religion has, at its heart, the belief that all of us are one equal gift of something we can never understand, but feel everyday. The problem has become that the pettiness and trivialities of sects, political spirituality and self-serving grotesqueries so easily understood between Giants Fans and Redskins Fans have become so present in religion, the opting out of the religious into the easier place of sports and entertainment became a one-for-one swap.
“I believe in Eli” said a slightly intoxicated fan on my train with a “fathead” of Eli Manning’s face hanging from his neck. Eli had just thrown an interception with one minute left in a game the Giants were losing by 2 points: Eli had just been crucified in this game: but this fan still believed in him: “I believe in Eli – no matter what my friends say about him.”
There is Faith in everyone’s life: but in what?