Although religion may seem like a prominent practice among many individuals, more and more people are placing little or no importance upon religion. A Pew Research study discovered that “in 2007, Americans were more likely to say religion was very important (56 percent) or somewhat important (26 percent) to them than they are today.”
The study reports “the decline in the share of Americans who say religion is very important in their lives is closely tied to the growth of the religiously unaffiliated, whose share of the population has risen from 16 percent to 23 percent over the past seven years.”
Whether it is from hypocrisy, unyielding traditionalism or constant scandal, one thing is clear: people are losing faith. So, how, as a young college student, does one “keep the faith?”
First one must determine what faith really means. There are those who righteously claim to be faithful because they attend church every Sunday, pray before meals and send their children to summer church camps. However, the same people also condemn those who are different than them, refuse to acknowledge beliefs other than their own and contain the peace and happiness that faith has to themselves.
There are also individuals who attend church and pray, strive to support and love those who are unlike them, respectfully and curiously inquire about the beliefs of others and spread acceptance and joy to everyone they meet.
The difference between these two groups is the willingness to truly engage in real faith.
In 1 Peter 4:8 it reads, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Real faith is the ability to love one another unconditionally and erase the sins that we often attempt to justify such as hate, judgement and hypocrisy.
“Keeping the faith” does not mean keeping it as a weapon, but using it as a tool to foster love and acceptance between individuals.
Regardless of one’s perception of true faith, it’s difficult to remain religious in a community tarnished by scandal and dissimulation. Why stay religious when the practice is tarnished by its own leaders?
Simply put, religion is a lifestyle. If someone chooses not to follow or chooses to radicalize that lifestyle, that is not a reflection of the entire religious practice or those who follow it.
In order to differentiate between the actions of a few and the ideology of the many, one must strive to understand those who are different than them. After all, how does one expect to understand their own beliefs without first acknowledging that which they might not believe?
Asking questions and seeking knowledge are the first steps to unlocking an appreciation and mutual respect between religious cultures.
“Keeping the faith” is more complicated than simply going to church and praying. “Keeping the faith” involves unconditional love of everyone regardless of race, sexual orientation or religious practice.
It’s choosing a lifestyle that builds a community without tearing another community down. It’s understanding differences between individuals and loving them because of those differences, not in spite of them.
The neglect of these ideals could explain the rapid decline in religious commitment during the past few years, but the only way to reverse this trend is to renounce duplicity and misconceptions and to truly “keep the faith.”