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Eddie Cross: What role does faith play in our futures?

What role does faith play in our futures? Does it have a role in any way? Is it something from our distant past and now almost irrelevant? Are these real questions that need answers in today’s secular and agnostic world?

Perhaps the first issue to debate is faith in what? A charismatic leader, one of our many gods, in ourselves, money and power? Just think about those issues and come to a conclusion. Charismatic leaders have been more of a problem than a solution in our histories. Hitler, Mussolini, you can draw up a long list, they either led us down the garden path or lead us astray or simply failed to deliver, with disastrous results.

Faith in god may in fact be one of our biggest problems – Islam now holds sway over perhaps 1,5 billion people. Its subdivisions fight each other to the death and the radicals are a threat to the rest of us. I once attended a meeting on religious freedom in Berlin, Germany. It is one of the founding values of the United Nations, more observed in default than in compliance. It was hilarious to sit in that hall with representatives from every country in the world and from every possible religion you can name. There was little peace or harmony there! We were told that 75 per cent of the nations of the world do not respect our freedom to worship or believe.

Faith in ourselves? Does that even need a discussion, we all know full well that we have faults and weaknesses and are not totally reliable. Money? Some of the saddest people I have known are immensely wealthy and yet have little real satisfaction in life.

When you can buy anything you want, nothing has any value. And as for power, that is a common deceiver, ask any chief executive who has retired or a State President who has stepped down or been thrown out of power. There is little life afterwards – in some cases a nightmare.

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When you summarise the situation like that then faith really looks like something to be avoided. Yet without faith in something, life is a nightmare.

So where to now? My first point here is that life without faith in some form is dreadful. If you do not have faith in something, then life itself has little meaning. Can you imagine a future without faith that somehow you will come out at the other end with more than nothing to anticipate.

What kind of a future can we offer our children if we do not have faith. The very idea is terrible to contemplate and we all need faith in some form to get by or even get out of bed in the morning.

So, lets agree that faith is somehow essential to life itself.

The first essential is to have faith in yourself. My daughter has a friend who has been blind from birth, she has a bubbling personality and shows no sign of being inferior to the rest of us in any way. She lives a full life and even acts as a counsellor to others with real problems.

Somehow when you are with a person like that, you feel diminished in some way. One of my most memorable experiences was travelling back from Europe with the Zimbabwean team from the Para Olympics. Those kids were so pumped up and proud. Every possible disability and yet winners.

Without faith in yourself, you have little hope of creating a meaningful life for yourself. It’s not arrogance or self-importance, it’s just a belief ‘that I can win’. This is vital, because all life is a challenge, for everyone.

Such faith must have as its foundation that I am special. If we are accidents of evolution over time (a physical and mathematical impossibility) then life cannot have any special value. However, if I am the product of creation, then it was by design and not default. Then every person is special, irrespective of their looks or any other factor.

For me that is one of the great attributes of the Church, because in a Christian Church, every one of us is someone special. Society in its raw form does not do that, it rewards the strong, the good looking, the arrogant and the clever.

Faith must have purpose. Why are we on earth, a small blue ball in a vast, apparently limitless vacuum chamber called space. Just image our universe without stars, just endless space. Just imagine sending out a space probe and watching it disappear into the black sky with nothing but endless, cold, empty space.

But we are not on such a platform, we are on earth, a completely unique creation whose very existence is so finely balanced that if it slowed down, even by miniscule amounts, it would self-destruct. We live within a razor thin covering of gasses on which our lives depend every second we live.

If we are created and the world on which we live and subsist is also a created entity, then was it meaningless? Or by design? If the latter, then of course life has purpose. The issue of design in the physical world it not contested.

The Soviet Union had to isolate their physical scientists in distant cities because, in that theoretically atheistic regime, every time a scientist looked down a microscope or through a telescope at the heavens, he or she saw design. Where could such design had come from? There has always been only one answer.

Design points to purpose, all we have to do to make our lives meaningful is to discover what our purpose is in life. The answer in the Bible is clear, for me it is the only religious script that makes sense of it all.

In Genesis, one of the most remarkable bits of writing in the whole world of literature, it states quite clearly that we were created along with the world we inhabit and in that world system we are in charge. Mess it up, we have to live with the consequences, there is no alternative.

Secondly we were made to get married, man to woman and to raise a family. Did you think that marriage was the creation of an Act of Parliament? Please go through life and mess up your family, divorce your spouse, wreck the lives of your children and leave life by the exit door we all go through and the last thing you will remember is regret that you made a mess of the most important part of your life.

For a man, perhaps the next best thing after marriage to the person you have learned to love, is to earn the love of a daughter and the respect of a son. Lose that and you have lost something very special.

Then go on into the Bible and read the 10 Commandments, just 10, but they encompass all of life rules for success in society. The Chief Justice of a major Commonwealth nation said once that in his opinion all the law was encompassed in those few sentences.

Read on and discover that a man who was executed by the Romans at the age of 33, with little formal education and no money or even a home, said that all the law was to be found in just two – love God with all your heart and soul and love your neighbour as yourself.

Just think about that and what a world it would create if we practiced those principles in everything we did, every day. Could Putin have invaded Ukraine? Could Hitler have ordered the extermination of minorities in Europe?

Would any child die of hunger, anywhere? Would crime exist? The answer is of course not, and in all of this we as ordinary people, living lives among others anywhere, would live a purposeful and meaningful life.

The key all of this is faith, faith in God, faith in his creation and all its marvels and its ability to heal itself from all the damage we do to it every day. Faith in ourselves and in the people among whom we live. Faith is not peripheral to life its absolutely central. That is why I cannot understand or accept the drift in world society to a faithless, atheistic society where we make the rules in defiance of established natural and spiritual laws.

Eddie Cross is a former opposition MDC MP for Bulawayo South and a respected economist. You can follow his blog African Herd