If you come to an idea of faith as “first of all an intellectual assent” (Thomas Merton); or if you think of it not as a state of mind at all but as “being seized by Being itself” (Paul Tillich); or if you think of faith as primarily “faithfulness to an event” (Abraham Joshua Heschel) in the past in which you or even all of humanity was, in effect, seized by Being; or if you construct some sort of “inductive faith” (Peter Berger) out of the moments of transcendence in your ordinary life; or if you feel that faith is wholly a matter of grace and thus outside of humankind’s control altogether (Karl Barth); or if you feel, as I do, that every one of these definitions has some truth in it—then you are still left with this question: Why?
A. M. Stroud III, a former prosecutor in Louisiana, expresses regret for the role he played in sending Glenn Ford to death row in 1984. “I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” Stroud says he presented dubious evidence from a forensic pathologist, precluded black jurors from the trial (Ford, since exonerated, is black), and ignored the fact that the appointed defense attorney had never before tried a criminal or capital case. “I . . . hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford,” Stroud said in a letter to the editor of the Times of Shreveport. “But, I’m also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it” (ABA Journal, March 25).