The Blog of Jack Holloway

Monday, January 13, 2014

Intellectual Scarecrows: More Reflections on Faith in Christianity

I went to an event featuring Jason Upton Friday night, and Jason never ceases to give me something to ponder and write about for weeks afterward. He sang a song about a bird who comes along a field with a scarecrow in it. The chorus of the song goes something like this:
If I were a bird
If I were a foolish bird,
I'd listen to my fear, and fly away from here.

But if I were a bird
If I were a wise bird,
I'd listen to my heart, and find the treasure waiting in the field
After hearing this chorus, I realized it was describing my very situation. Christianity is definitely not without its scarecrows. So do I fly away because of the scarecrows, or do I embrace the field in spite of them?

In another song, Jason sang, "I will never forget what you've done for me" (speaking of God). I realized as he was singing, that faith in Christianity is not a now-and-never-again decision. That is to say, it's not something that one decides one is or isn't going to embrace for the rest of his or her life. I had a friend admit to me that he is tired of my intellectual mood swings and my shifting beliefs. I got the sense that he just wanted me to make up my mind about Christianity. But I don't think Christianity is that kind of decision. I think it's a day-to-day decision. The Israelites had to get up every day and decide if they were going to put their faith in Yahweh, if they would remember and embrace the God of their Heilsgeschichte, their salvation history.

I could think of the times when I felt I was experiencing God, and I could choose to doubt their authenticity and explain them away, or I could put my faith in God again. When I think of the peace I randomly experienced after weeks of depression, I could choose to explain that peace as some kind of psychological phenomenon, or I could have the faith that that peace came, and only could have come, from God.

The faith decision I talked about in my last blog is a decision that has to be made every day, and it has to be made when remembering the past, when responding to the present, and when looking to the future. When I look back, I have to have faith that God was present. When I go through my day, I have to choose to have faith that God is present. When I look to my future, and I wonder where I'm going to be and what I am going to do, I have to choose to have faith that God will be present.

I still think that faith needs to be assessed and re-assessed. I still think doubt is, to use Plato's analogy, an essential key to escaping our caves. As long as I call my faith into question, I can be sure that I am not living in an ignorant bliss, happily assuming Christianity as a priori truth. As long as I doubt, I can be sure that I am genuinely seeking truth. But, just as well, as long as I refuse to exercise faith, I will be living in doubtful uncertainty, in nihilism and despair.

Life is filled with millions of opportunities to answer the question, "Which version of the story is more worthy of your faith?" If I were a foolish bird, I would see the scarecrows, listen to my fear and fly away; but if I were a wise bird, I would listen to my heart and have faith. Let's hope I find the treasure.


  1. Thanks for sharing, live is full of scarecrows but it's time to look for the treasures in the field.

  2. Just getting to know Jason's album and searching for the meaning in the words. His music is so different. So reflective. So prayer/conversation with God like. Scarecrow has really impacted me too. In response to your blog I feel that faith is meant to be a once and for all decision. But it took me about 14 yrs to get to that point. After that it has become for me a daily decision as challenges come to hang in there and listen for what God is saying in the challenge. The foolish bird in me wants to fly, the wise bird knows there is nowhere else to fly. Feel the song had a lot more hidden treasure. Still digging.