faith noun \ˈfāth\
: strong belief or trust in someone or something
: belief in the existence of God : strong religious feelings or beliefs
: a system of religious beliefs
Sitting in the pews of the historic sanctuary at Sixth & I last week, it shouldn’t have surprised me that the concept of faith played so prominently in Malcolm Gladwell’s talk about his new book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. Heck, the title of the book references one of the bible’s most well-known stories.
But I was surprised. The way I understood it, the book explores the struggle of underdogs vs. favorites and the notion that adversity can be an advantage in disguise. Fascinating. But faith? How did that fit in? Within the first five minutes, Gladwell offered his theory on the science of success, declaring that faith and the spirit of the Lord are critical to the triumph of any “David.” And without these key components, one cannot overcome “Goliath.”
This is uncomfortable territory for me. Religion and faith did not play a prominent role in my upbringing. In the age-old science vs. faith debate, I’m squarely in science’s corner. For some I realize that a belief in science and faith are not necessarily mutually exclusive, so I was curious. Admittedly, I have always been intrigued by people who, after overcoming a particularly rough time, can say “my faith got me through it,” or in the eloquent wisdom of Martin Luther King, Jr., “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
Lovely words, but I wanted to see the proverbial staircase before I took that first step. And I was hoping that Gladwell’s remarkable ability to deconstruct complex psychological and sociological phenomena through powerful storytelling would somehow make the concept of faith more accessible to me (now that he had brought it up).
Gladwell called out two stories in his book as shining examples of faith’s essential role in overcoming the odds to achieve greatness. He explained that the people in these stories were able to perform acts of courage because they came from godly traditions. Read the rest of this entry »