Everywhere I look these days, I see someone bee-bopping down the street with earbuds connected to their iPhone or whatever brand of smartphone they carry.
These amazing devices are about the size of a cigarette box and are capable of storing an entire music collection, along with a library of books and galleries of pictures. When you put these the telltale white earphones in your ears, music floods your head with the clarity of a concert hall and the power of a boom box.
These devices often sends us into our own little iWorlds. We ride mass transit without hearing a sniffle from another rider; we walk the inner city and seclude themselves from the cries of the homeless.
The whole thing puts me in mind of the way some people practice their faith. I call it iFaith. It’s a faith that is so tightly wrapped that it has little effect on a person or those surrounding him.
There are several problems with this kind of faith. First, it insulates people from reality — like a one-way glass in a police interrogation room. iFaith users stand hidden behind their faith while they interpret the world through to their own personal standards.
iFaith users are characterized by sayings such as, “I don’t wear my religion on my sleeve.” Or, “Faith is a private matter.” Or “I never discuss religion.” One of my favorite sayings people use to distance themselves from community faith is, “I have my own set of beliefs.”
Second, iFaith users ignore the inclusive scriptures that compare faith to a treasure that we all share or a huge banquet to which we are all invited. They read the very popular verse, John 3:16, as if it said “For God so loved me that he gave me his son . . .” They forget it says, “God so loved the world.”
That verse tells me faith should be about saving the world. But instead, iFaith proponents often talk about it as if faith should be our own personal escape pod while we’re trippin’ down the road to heaven listening to digital angel tunes.
Another problem with iFaith is how easily it mutates into spiritual laryngitis. iFaith adherents are silent in the face of social injustice or moral wrongs. Worse yet, they switch into the chameleon phase where there is no detectable difference between faith and our surrounding culture.
The most difficult problem with iFaith is that it has no relevance – and relevance is a primary component to an active faith. If you are looking for a relevant faith, consider asking this question about any faith community you are considering:
What would happen if your faith community or church burned down tomorrow?
Would anyone but the fire department notice? Would there be one less hungry person fed? One less family housed? One less child adopted? Would there be fewer battered women?
There should be no such thing as iFaith. Real faith must be inclusive, active, doing – an us-Faith Otherwise, it loses its significance and dies with the scriptural epitaph “Faith without works is dead.”