Amanda Jay Hall is alive. This mother of four in Streetsboro, at the age of 30, just after the birth of her youngest child, was diagnosed with colon cancer. Surgery and chemo treatments followed. Two years later the cancer had metastasized to her lung. More surgery and chemo. One year later it was found in her liver. Tumors were burned off. Now Ms. Hall, a singer/songwriter declares her range has increased and she states, “When you are looking death in the face, God reveals so much to you.” She has survived much, even while her Navy reservist husband was in Iraq. Upon his return so her husband could work, her church cared for their children. She says, “I had to have faith that God would see me through it.”
I’ve only learned of Amanda Hall, by reading Dorothy Markulis’ front-page story in our local Hudson Hub-Times, captioned with “Cancer survivor to sing message of hope.” Her story is what faith should be. Amanda found strength in her faith and got the practical support of her church. When one survives spreading cancer, there is no room for questioning why God, if there is a God, would so engineer a world in which disease that can take the life of a mother of four. However ambiguous is the assertion of what faith did for her, she got comfort from it, and there is no place for a reporter to ask, “What do you mean when you say, ‘God reveals so much’?”
Yet inquiring minds need to know. Inquiring minds should ask of those of faith what they mean when they praise God for helping them survive cancer. Knowing that could “prove” to be a healing remedy for so many. Recently one of my long-time friends was diagnosed with the worst kind of thyroid cancer. During the last two months of his illness, he and his family via a Caringbridge site told of their faith and how it helped. Yet again inquiring minds should ask what does that mean?
To learn the hard truth asks questions. When it comes to faith, asking for details most often is taken as impolite and inappropriate. Why? Because it is expected that there is common understanding that our language is ambivalent and shared meanings should be taken-for-granted, especially when it comes to faith. Consequently we have a shared “clouded definition” about what faith is in spite of the billions of words uttered by those who claim to know. It is akin to how we accept an expanding bureaucracy of Intelligence—an $80 billion National Security Complex of 17 agencies and a post-9/11 creation of the Department of Homeland Security with its $1.2 trillion-plus budget. Even those charged in Congress to know enough to make wise decisions are afraid to ask and challenge what all this “intelligence” means.
Think. Asking hard questions should not only be an IBM motto. It should be applied to risking life in dare devil stunts, to drones and global warring, to what is spent on religion as compared to cancer, E coli, AIDS, and to coping with the natural evils of earthquakes and winds going wild and global warming.
Perhaps for most of us whether we can define what faith does doesn’t really make a difference on how we survive, unless those, who say they know its true definition, make the laws that censor speech and press, treat some as second-class, privilege their own particular faith, ban sex education, cover up sexually abuse children, order how women must cover themselves, demand circumcision or vaginal mutilation, and determine rules about sex among consenting adults and make abortion a crime.
Thinking people should know what they mean when they say “God bless America” or any thing or anyone. Should we not question what faith means rather than allow a host of mega-prosperity preachers reap the offerings of gullible souls to live in tax-free opulence? Rather than build cathedrals by established tax-free religious institutions should we not weigh fund health care for every soul who is born?
Thinking people should not be content with a foggy-fuzzy goodness of faith in an unknown God. We should not be complacent when our family, after caring for my youngest brother who suffered a too-early death from cancer two years ago, was expected, like Job, to accept that God wanted him to suffer and was told in his funeral sermon his death was God’s will. Of course it is inappropriate to disturb Amanda’s comfort in her faith by asking her what she means when she says, “When you are looking death in the face, God reveals so much to you.” If we would be thinking people, although we do not challenger her, we should not naively swallow that kind of talk. Common sense tells us that her surviving of spreading cancer was not a way God was and is revealed. Common sense rules out that an “Intelligent Designer” created devastating diseases and forces shaking our planet with which we must cope. Common sense dictates we should doubt that a wise God is revealing her, him, or its self.