Emily DickinsonLike many of you, I grew up in a conservative, even fundamentalist, culture in the South. My home church would be mortified to be classified that way, but the proof is not so much in the doctrine they preached, but in the presumptions by which they lived. In recent years, I have become increasingly convinced that doubt is healthy and certainty is fatally toxic.

We see it in the inflammatory rhetoric of the Taliban, ISIS, and the fundamentalist preaching of certain sects of imams calling for jihad. It is easy to recognize in the Jewish radical sect killing Palestinian babies or stabbing lesbian teenagers at a pride celebration. It is painfully obvious in Southern politics with Alabama considering no longer issuing marriage licenses so they don’t have to issue them to same-gender couples, or Bobby Jindal cutting off all funding to Planned Parenthood, even though the two clinics in his state have never performed abortions.

Where it is tougher to recognize, though, is in the theology we hold or value. I often see things posted on Facebook that speak in absolute terms and with conclusive certainty by using catchy clichés about faith and God. No offense to anyone I love, but if you are certain about anything then there is no faith involved, and the Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Jesus said to Thomas, “Because you have seen you have believed, but blessed are those who have not seen (are not certain) yet believe.”

Emily Dickinson wrote, “We both believe and disbelieve a hundred times an hour, which keeps believing nimble.” What too often passes as faith for Christians, Jews, and Muslims is actually presumption. It is the presumption that we KNOW anything about God. That is not faith; it is arrogance, the kind of arrogance that must kill, destroy, or at least put down any who do not agree with it. That is because presumption is a fragile thing, always in danger and, therefore, always dangerous. Faith is much more durable because it trusts without the need for, or the arrogance of, certainty.


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Rev. Michael Piazza