Have a little Faith

I read the book have a little faith by Mitch Albom recently. I think it’s pretty popular out there in the community, and I suspect it’s a good barometer for how many non hardline-atheist westerners think about faith in general, and especially about the relationships between different faiths.

The setting of the book is Mitch’s journey getting too know the rabbi from his childhood synagogue so he can write the old man’s eulogy. What was originally going to be a few short interviews turns into an 8 year relationship, as Mitch finds there is much to love about and learn from the old man.

Interspersed with Mitch’s account of his growing relationship with the rabbi, there is the account of a boy growing up in a very disadvantaged home, who has an interest in God, but ends up in jail and doing drugs. As the story progresses, we find out that this second man has been converted and runs a church in a depressed part of Detroit.

Mitch Albom has a clear respect for both these men, and in the end I think he tells their stories the way he does to make a classic pluralist argument. Surely these two men who are both do wise and good are both serving Good on their own way, and took try and judge between them on the basis of doctrine is narrow and fundamentalist.

If can be difficult too respond to this kind of outlook because it involves condemning either a wise old rabbi or a reformed drug addict who is giving his life to serve peopled in the situation her has come out of himself, but I think two points can be made.

Firstly, I suspect both the rabbi and the pastor are a lot less pluralistic than Mitch Albom. Although they both try and be tolerant, the pastor believes people need to come to Jesus to be saved. And you suspect the rabbi wouldn’t be keen on the idea that Jesus is God, even though he wants to be in good relationships with his catholic neighbours. It is only Mitch himself, who is essentially a non-practicing Jew, who really doesn’t think these things matter.

The second point that strikes me is that the pastors story is so essentially Christian. To be converted from a background of drug addiction and disadvantage is such a testimony of grace and forgiveness and the power of the Spirit.It actually highlights the uniqueness of the gospel message. How many rabbi’s are there with a story like that?

So all in all, ‘Have a little Faith’ is a warm and easy read, but it does have definite pluralist overtones. It could be useful as a conversation starter on these issues, or as a way to get your mind around the way our culture its thinking about these issues, or of course as sermon illustration material.

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