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Bewildering Stories

Tim Simmons writes about...

Faith Awakening

In response to Challenge 275:


A few thoughts...

Hi, Tim...
Thanks for the Challenge response; they’re always welcome. I’ll make a kind of gloss by way of discussion. A comparison of our world views will make a truly Bewildering story...
Obviously, we don’t know enough to make a judgment of Faith’s true character since we see only a few minutes of her life. So it is unreasonable to assume that she was ungrateful for her uncle’s surrogate paternal duties. Same goes for no mention of her mother. True, we see only selected parts of Faith’s life. It’s the selection itself that raises questions. We see her obsession about her biological father, which continues from infancy to age 13; and that’s about it. Maybe she feels the same way about her mother and does love her Uncle Paul. But how can we tell? That’s not in the story.

Yes, Uncle Paul was her father in the end but of course his character flaw (unable to address the missing dad issue) caused overblown expectations which helped lead Faith to her outburst. Perhaps many more dynamics fed into the circuit prior to that?

Perhaps Uncle Paul is wary of Faith’s obsession and doesn’t want to upset her. Whatever, it’s a cultural matter: Faith would see nothing amiss if she were a Trobriand Islander, in whose culture children are — or at least were — raised by uncles.
If we assume her biological father was alive, then what kind of father was he? Can you dump off a child and never look back? Faith does make that assumption, while Uncle Paul simply doesn’t know. And we know only that Uncle Paul has become Faith’s foster father somehow.
If there is no influence of Faith’s biological father in her life, no knowledge that he is alive or dead, then for her, he does not exist. True, but that’s not the way Faith sees it. She exists and therefore must have a biological parent. Her feeling of abandonment starts young and increases with age.
The same can be said for any deity. Or anything, for that matter. Whether it actually exists is irrelevant if there is nothing upon which to hang one’s faith. “God” has as much influence on me as does the gravity of Pluto. Pluto’s gravity does have some influence on you, but who knows how much. It’s the same with cultural metaphors such as “God”: they may not be yours, just as Pluto is not your planet, but the metaphors have practical effects.
If I may dredge up the illogical words of the anonymous author of the Book of Hebrews: “Faith is the evidence of things not seen.” You put your faith in an unseen author, I see. Just kidding: the point is that it doesn’t matter who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews; the words have practical implications...
Faith can never be evidence of anything other than one’s belief. Billions may have faith in one thing or another, but it is meaningless and certainly not evidence for the veracity of their belief. Mostly true, but the Epistle is saying that direct visual evidence is beside the point. You can’t “see” gravity or the wind, but you can see their effects, and effects do have meaning. Where winds, gravity, and faith come from, well... like parents, they seem to be physical or cultural axioms.
One billion Muslims, one billion Christians and either one group is wrong or they both are. I put my money on the latter conclusion. Check out the elaborate joke Cyrano tells about that in “You Are Whom You Eat.” I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of it. In any event, whenever anyone starts talking about “God,” the question automatically arises: whose God?
My main point in writing “Faith Awakening” is that a father who remains completely aloof and makes no attempt to contact his child PERSONALLY (not through the hearsay of someone else such as Uncle Paul) is no father at all. How much more pitiful for an all-powerful deity to remain, for all practical purposes, non-existent while simultaneously claiming that he desires that none should perish? “Perish” is also a metaphor, but never mind. I’ll paraphrase my first question in the Challenge as “Who is Santa Claus?” Is he a guy in a red suit and cotton beard dandling kids for a photo-op? Yes. And so is the guy doing the same thing at the other end of the mall. And so are the kids’ natural or foster parents, and the passersby who drop donations into a Salvation Army basket. And so on, ad infinitum. You choose your metaphor and live — or perish — with the effects.
The Jewish god is likened to a father all throughout the Bible but what father would remain invisible to his children and never contact them? Even my own dad did that much.


Copyright © 2008 by Tim Simmons

The Hebrews didn’t see it that way. A visible god was a tribal icon, consultant, or handyman. God did not show himself directly even to Moses, but he hardly seems to have been uncommunicative.

Your word “even” may imply a personal subtext to the discussion that only you can address; I don’t know. I can say only that the metaphor we live by — be it that of parent or orphan — applies to nothing and no one but ourselves.


Copyright © 2008 by Don Webb

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