Flickr photo by Thor

My Values-Driven Life Calls Me To FāVS

By Steven A. Smith

Those who know me well may be a bit surprised to find that I have chosen to write for SpokaneFāVS (Faith/Values/Community), this wonderful digital news site. More accurately, I have been allowed to join the site’s stable of writers, welcomed by Executive Director Tracy Simmons.

Steven A Smith

Tracy is FāVS founder and a former colleague at the University of Idaho. Her site is one of the most respected hyperlocal digital news sites in the country. Its growth during the pandemic is a testament to its writers’ production of quality news and opinion.

But there is that term, “faith,” in the site’s name. People who know me know I have precious little of that, at least in the spiritual sense.

I was raised in a Jewish household, first in Portland, Oregon, later in Eugene. My family was not overly religious, at least after we left the vibrant Jewish community in Portland when I was 10 years old. But my father was religious, and he hoped I would be, too. It did not follow.

In part my loss of faith came about because I was a child of the ‘60s, so preternaturally anti-establishment. In part it was because I was a journalist, professionally from about the age of 16. A journalist is, by nature, is an inconoclast, a skeptic. The old journalism cliché, “if your mother tells you she loves you, check it out,” is also a truism. To the journalist, it is always a case of “prove it.”

In terms of religion, no one has ever been able to prove it to my satisfaction. Spiritually, I reside somewhere between agnosticism and atheism but with a fair dash of secular Judaism.

I have always bridled at the notion that only people of faith can be moral, that agnostics and atheists cannot possibly live moral lives absent a belief in a higher power. As a skeptic, I believe to my core that no one person, no one group, no one faith, has a lock on absolute truth.

I do believe in values and a values-driven life and so maybe there is a place for me with FāVS.

As a journalist, I long advocated values-driven journalism based on principles of community. A values-driven journalist has a commitment to truth insofar as truth can be determined. A values-driven journalist has a commitment to democratic systems that enfranchise all citizens. A values-driven journalist has a commitment to give voice to the voiceless and to defend the defenseless. A values-driven journalist has a commitment to news and information that helps citizens exercise their citizenship.

Writing about personal and professional values is my sweet spot, I think. And that will be the focus of my work for FāVS. I hope to write about the intersection of values and politics, the intersection of values and journalism, even the intersection of values and faith. I may do some reporting. But at this point in my post-retirement life, I feel a compulsion to opine, something I could not do as a professional journalist or public-university academic.

I hope the work I do produce will provoke. I hope to generate conversations that should be happening in our community but are not, the sort dialogue necessary to a vital, vibrant civil society. And I will always welcome your suggestions and ideas. Let me know what you think.

If you appreciate this column, please support us by becoming a sustaining FāVS member or giving to our COVID-19 Reporting Fund.

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[…] I laid out my columnist ambitions in my first FāVS column on July 5, 2020. As an atheist writing for a site that deals with religion, I told readers I would focus on values more than faith:  […]

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