A Unique Love
NPR radio personality Tavis Smiley shares his thoughts on faith, hope, 'Black love,' and his own kind of ministry.
BY: Interview by Rebecca Phillips
After years as a Black Entertainment Television host, radio personality and author Tavis Smiley increased his national prominence in early 2002, when he became the first African-American to host his own signature show on National Public Radio. He is also the author of six books. Smiley's most recent book, "Keeping the Faith," is a collection of essays by him and other African-American authors that explore the meaning of faith, hope, and love in their lives. Smiley recently spoke to Beliefnet about some of these issues.
In your book, you write a lot about how your faith has helped you overcome the most difficult times in your life. How has faith played a role in your life?
I believe the biblical definition of faith, that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. I don't know how one navigates this thing called life without having abiding faith in something. There are some times in certain situations that you have to believe, even when there is no evidence. You have to believe even when there are no signs that something is going to work out.
I'm what people would call a control freak--I trust me and I trust my instincts. I try to control my universe and my world so that I can have the desired outcome for my life. Having said that, there are certain situations we find ourselves in that we have absolutely no control over. In those circumstances, that's where I find my faith that this thing is going to work out, and it's going to work out the way that is best for me. That's where my faith comes in. For people who don't have an abiding faith, I don't know what they do when they find themselves in those situations. They pull their hair out, they commit suicide, they get emotionally depressed, and they get despondent. People with faith can avoid those issues if they just trust the process and let their faith kick in.
Would you describe your faith as believing that God is on your side, or at least always looking out for you?
I believe that God is on my side, but not just mine--He's on all of our sides. The question is not whether God is on our side; the question is whether we are on God's side.
Is there a difference for you between faith and hope?
I think that some people have hope without really having faith. They have some small sense that this might work out. They're holding on to something, however small it might be, that this situation is going to work out. That is hope for me--hoping for the best. Faith is different. It's a step up. Faith says, 'I don't see it, I don't have the evidence of it. But I know that this situation is going to work out.' I think it's possible to have hope without faith, but not faith without hope.