In the comments of an earlier post my friend and I spent some valuable server space arguing the definition of the word Faith. So, I looked it up. Merriam-Webster Online gave me these definitions:
1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : LOYALTY b (1) : fidelity to one’s promises (2) : sincerity of intentions
2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust
3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs
Fair enough. Please note in the second definition the idea of believing in something for which there is no proof. It is this clause which prevents me from applying this word to myself. To be even more picky, I might replace the word proof with evidence. But there’s more to it than that. I won’t use the word faith to describe myself because the Religious Right in America have co-opted the word. They have marketed it into something that creates an us-versus-them mentality, and made being a “person of faith” something the citizens of this country are expected to aspire to. They do it all the time. I must admit I’m impressed with their skill.
I first noticed this ability in the mid-’90s, when somehow the word liberal became dirty. Conservatives started affecting an odd slant whenever they used the word, and suddenly even the most die-hard liberals avoided connecting themselves with the word. They did the same thing to the word French. By the same token they managed to take the word patriot and spin it in a way that it excluded anyone who dared question the status quo. The general public reacted by avoiding anything that might label them as liberal, vilifying to a comedic degree anything considered French, and going to great lengths to display their so-called patriotism. The same thing has happened now with faith. If you are on the right side, the “good” side, if your are “with us,” you must also be a person of faith.
I think we liberals need to fire back somehow. It’s unacceptable that we should avoid identifying ourselves with terms the right has co-opted. It’s not enough that we own up to these words in an attempt to take them back. That will only get us so far. We need to find words — common words everybody identifies with — and we need to own them. The question is, what words?
I’m open to suggestions.