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Faith and naivete

May 22, 2015
Alex M. Saunders, M.D.
San Carlos

Re Father Rolheiser and the word “naivete,” commentary titled “Artificial light,” May 15):

A person may be called naive if she or he (“xe”) does not understand why “xe” believes something and has no means of testing the truth of what is believed. With as much specialization as there is today we are all bound to believe what we are told on many subjects. It is, therefore, the responsibility of those who teach to do so with honesty and care. Teachers otherwise do us a disservice.

Here is an example. San Franciscans are told that sometime in the next 30 years there is an 80 percent chance of a high-magnitude earthquake. If we ask for a more precise date and magnitude we are told, “It is not for us to know exactly. But we must live our lives as if it could be tomorrow.”

In the same way we are told that “the Kingdom of God is coming with its judgment of living and dead, and of that kingdom there shall be no end.” When the disciples ask, “Is the kingdom coming now?” they are told, “It is not for you to know the exact hour.” The implication again is to live as if it will happen tomorrow.

Both teachings are made with sufficient clarity that we change our lives with confidence, and are not considered naive for doing so. A teaching made with more certainty would lead to loss of credibility in the teacher, at least for those not naive. Since a large part of the population is naive by definition, it is the obligation of the critical but loyal to challenge statements made with excessive certainty. Obligation of the challenged teacher is to admit error and clarify. Without this dialogue, faith of the naive is severely challenged.

The writer is a member of St. Charles Parish.

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