Two young men, Peter Bebergal and Scott Korb, become friends and slowly discover they share faith. While Peter is Jewish and Scott is Catholic, their frank discussions, compiled in their new book, "The Faith Between Us," explore belief and meaning with both earnestness and irreverence.
While it was somewhat different when we first met, I learned of Scott’s faith in an exchange over e-mail. I had only actually met him once before in person—both of us were attending a reading in Boston. And for the next year we corresponded daily. Slowly, details began to emerge. We’d both studied theology in graduate school. One Sunday Scott wrote that he had just returned from Mass. He taught religious education. In another note I wrote that I was going to temple on Yom Kippur. Our references and allusions were curious: the Bible, Flannery O’Connor, Martin Buber, and Dietrich Bonheoffer. Our religious lives seemed more than tradition, more than just familial habits. There seemed to be something at stake. Then one day, while my son played on the floor at my feet, I asked Scott if he believed in God. Not only did he answer yes, but he also seemed to know exactly what I meant by the question.
The few other times I had openly admitted to someone that my faith was more than agnosticism, conversation usually turned to the meaning of the words I used. Do I believe God is a person? Do I think God has a body? Is there a heaven? A hell? I tried to avoid having to answer these kinds of questions because I was afraid anything I said about God would be taken literally, no matter how much I tried to argue that I didn’t mean any of it that way. In certain company I might not talk about religion at all. A number of close friends are openly hostile to any idea of not only organized religion, but any kind of spiritual worldview at all. Sometimes, when I am staying over at a friend’s house, or even my in-laws’, I find it impossible to say, “Excuse me for a while, I have to say my prayers.” I can think of nothing more embarrassing. So I find a time, often when everyone else has gone to bed, and I sit on the floor in the dark and pray.
Scott knew when I asked if he believed that I was asking if he had doubt also. I was not asking if he was in perfect communion with a higher power, not asking if he was “born again,” not even asking if he believed God appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai. I was asking if he looked for the sacred in his life, if he had encountered holiness. And then when I confirmed that I believed too, we didn’t speak explicitly about faith for a long time after. It was as if believing in God was simply a state of being, like our age, where we were born, the names of our parents. Our faith wasn’t something to talk about. For perhaps the first time in either of our lives, it became simply a way to talk to each other. It was colloquial. It was slang.