Wednesday, September 05, 2007


[50 years ago last summer, your editor covered his first story in Washington. Throughout the year, the Review will exhume some of his writings]

Sam Smith

[I am occasionally asked why I sign my letters, "Keep the faith," and of which faith am I speaking. When an ex - Mormon - turned - Episcopalian journalist raised the issue, I sent the following reply]

Far be it for me to distinguish amongst such ancient and venerable theologies, but the major faiths include the Muslim, the Christian, the Jewish, and the Seventh Day Agnostic. During the sixties on Capitol Hill there was a faith headed by Sister Imogene Stewart, Prime Minister of the Revolutionary Church of What's Happening Now. Garrison Keeler speaks of the Church of Our Sister of Perpetual Responsibility. Finally, there are the Frisbeeterians who believe that when you die your soul goes up on the roof and nobody can get it down. I will not advise you as to which faith to follow, but I seem to recall that there is an outstanding warrant against you for apostasy in one religion already, so be careful.

Episcopalism - whether of the low and lazy sort, the high and crazy variety, or the broad and hazy subset - is not really a faith, but something between a club and a conspiracy for the restraint of trade. My current faith tends to be a mixture of pantheism, transcendentalism and mid-period Zuni shamanism, although I sometimes refer to myself as a recovering Episcopalian.

The phrase 'keep the faith' is most prominently associated with the late Adam Clayton Powell Jr., who in one session of Congress got more good legislation passed than has been achieved in all the years since his expulsion. He, of course, added the familiar "baby" to the phrase. I went to interview ACP once on Capitol Hill and as he opened his bar to display a variety that would have done Clyde's Tavern proud, he said, "This, Sam, is what come from serving the lord." I found his variety of faith quite appealing.

It is a phrase I use only with people whom I presume to have a faith worth keeping even if they (or I) are uncertain as to its nature. If it makes you more comfortable, I could change to "Keep a faith" in your instance.