There can be no doubt that every political leader has to have sound consideration of the meaning of faith, not only their own but that of the people, which of course means many different interpretations of faith, almost as many as there are different societies in the world.
In its expression Faith can be simple or complex, but what is it in the mind of the people? Church leaders of any faith seem to spend a lot of time interpreting ancient scriptures, so that would suggest it is complex.
Although there may seem a strong element of competition between faiths, and even versions of faiths within faiths, most seem to be about how to find Unity, to be ‘at one with’ whatever God one believes in, or gods for those who support multiple deities. In that sense Faith is Collaborative, or catholic, small c.
Faith certainly can be Catalytic, as far as the mind goes, in fact those who have very strong faith have usually had a conversion experience of one kind or another. Everything before that is just the lead in.
Finally, Faith is generally not urgent, until one’s day of death, most faiths seem to suggest that daily practice of faith is good but deliverance is available up to the last moment.
So Faith, in the mind, is a complex, collaborative, non-urgent but catalytic activity, and on that the President needs to think carefully about a mind state which suits those conditions.
Taking a left brain, reasoned approach to faith is perhaps not going to win many converts, though strangely sects do exist which seem to want to tap into that stream. Some aspects of science might be seen as appropriate. If one were to take all the odd things about the science of the formation of the elements, the formation of the planet and the evolution of living things and then human consciousness, it is not unreasonable in a court of enquiry to say that although God could not be proven ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ the balance of evidence might be in favour of that conclusion – that is, the case would be successful in a civil court but not a criminal court.
But in both directions Faith seems to be personal and catalytic, not something that derives from extensive reasoning. People of strong scientific mind might say that they do or do not believe in a God, but that faith would not be based on the science, but merely supportive or contrary, according to the mental judgements that have emerged. When Einstein said (or reportedly said) that ‘God doesn’t play dice’ he was expressing a faith in an idea as well as Faith in God, but neither could be based on science and evidence, they were axioms of personal judgement derived from who knows where.
So Faith really is about having a holistic view, seeing beyond the immediate interpretation of things, and The President, or Prime Minister, or Archbishop, or Dalai Lama, or other Faith leader should be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the holistic mind, of their own and that of the people they lead.
The strengths, and probably why Faith has been central to the success of so many societies, is that people do not get too diverted by detail. They stay on agenda, they try to win through to the end, even when all seems lost. They are willing to make personal sacrifices and they are willing to forgo short-term personal return in favour of long-term community benefit.
On the down side such commitment to the end leads to wars, conflicts or all kinds, confrontations, on the streets and even within families. It stays on agendas which seem outdated and lead to suffering, so that family planning is, for some, severely limited, which is disempowering and unhelpful in an overpopulated world.
It is not that anyone can say for definite that the policies of some faiths about family planning are wrong, it is that the policies are inflexible, no middle ground is allowed, or not much.
So the Advice to the President is to be aware of the need to use insight into your feelings about your faith, and that of other people, AND to use reason to ask if this Faith has elements which reason can legitimately challenge so that Faith does not have a universal right to the final judgement of everything, and nor of course does reason, so reason must be used to evaluate reason, are those who advocate policies based on reason placing too much faith in reason so that even reason itself is not being used reasonably?
The final almost ironic element to Faith is that it almost seems to demand that some things are unknown, that mystery of one kind or another is at the heart of any faith.
There is some element of any holistic thinking that is mysterious. The segmentation of the rational approach allows checking and cross checking of detail, but holistic thinking almost needs an act of faith to bring the picture into view.
So even when the ‘evidence’ seems to suggest a Sun Centred movement of planets, only a shift in faith could make that become real.
This is not necessarily because what is real is complex. The simple equation for acceleration, that Force = Mass x Acceleration needed an act of faith in how moving things would keep moving if not acted upon by forces. The equation of relativity, that Energy = Mass x Speed of Light squared requires a faith in a vision of the world which few people can fully manage.
The ‘equations’ of evolution are similarly steeped in evidence, but clearly some people find it hard to have faith in the vision of the conclusions.
But religious faith, faith in a God, seems to have to have elements of the unknowable.
Maybe one day we will understand how this works in minds which are trying to comply with differences in operation as profound as left and right-brained interpretations of the world.