This book began to take shape almost immediately after the publication of God: Stories, its partner-in-reflection. Several stories in the present volume could not be included in the earlier book, both because I ran out of room and because they seemed, somehow, not to fit. Once God: Stories was published, and reviewers began to tell me what I had failed to consider in putting it together, I began to realize that I had missed a number of mind- broadening possibilities. In choosing stories rooted in Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish traditions, I had unwittingly excluded more than half of the world’s believers.
Faith: Stories, at least in part, is an attempt to close this gap. And while such an attempt to be inclusive necessarily exposes the limitations of the exercise, this book attempts an encounter with spiritual traditions unremarked in its predecessor. I’ve included two stories—sections of novels, as it happens—that touch on matters fundamental to Quaker traditions and lore; other stories concern Hindu, Islamic, Buddhist, and Confucian values and ideas. While none of these stories intend or accomplish a full appreciation of the traditions from which they arise, they do underline instructive truths about the strength and transformative power of diverse faith experiences.
Faith, of course, occurs in many forms, and with various consequences. We tell ourselves we need to believe in something beyond our own basic wish for survival and comfort, and readers should not be surprised to find here a scattering of stories about the stare-down between rationalism and steadfast faith in sacred agency. Hanif Kureishi’s “My Son the Fanatic” and Salman Rushdie’s “The Prophet’s Hair” are examples. The same might be said of Khushwant Singh’s “The Mark of Vishnu” or Marjorie Kemper’s remarkable “God’s Goodness.” In some stories faith is disorienting, even crippling, while in others it provides a gentle and unexpected respite from the hard realities of lives taken over by pain and disappointment.
God: Stories was intended, among other things, as a resource for reading and assessment by church groups like the one at the West Concord Union Church, in Concord, Massachusetts, where many of its stories were discussed well before they reappeared in book form. Faith: Stories will, I hope, extend that exercise, and its broader range ought to invite a conversation about ways in which faith commitments both divide and strengthen us.
C. Michael Curtis
Copyright © 2003 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Introduction copyright © 2003 by C. Michael Curtis. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.