The problem with Christians …

images-15Am I the only one to have noticed … ?

Are Christians actually capable of joined up thinking?

Okay, that question is based on a generality and I hate generalities but there seems to be a basis for this one. So, whilst I apologise to those who have received and use the gift of JUT, I do question the thought processes of those who have seem to be incapable of holding more than one thought in their head at any time. This deficit often enables and promotes a belief in mutually exclusive concepts:

  • God is infallible … but he sometimes gets it wrong;
  • he is omnipotent … but he has his limitations;
  • he is omnipresent … but there are places that he choses to ignore;
  • he  is the God of ALL people … but surely, not THEM!

How can this be??

How can a God of fear and vengeance in the Old Testament translate into a God of love in the New … did he change or is it perhaps … just maybe … is it US? Is it our perception of God and God’s will that has altered over time? Are we expecting God to be more like us than we like him?

Centre of all

… or is it me?

Several millennia ago, or so we are told, Moses received 10 commandments from God … 10 rules which were to act as guidance for human lives. But in the centuries that followed those 10 rules were added to such that they came to control the very minutia of life – read the book of Leviticus for yourself and you will see what I mean. 10 rules became 100’s of sub-rules and whilst some of the new ones actually helped (a number of the food rules strike me as a good way to live if you don’t have a fridge and there are also some good rules for avoiding degenerative genetic abnormalities) many went too far. But it wasn’t just the rules that went too far, their observance became obsessive. Ritual cleanliness held a greater virtue than helping someone in need: tithing (giving 10% of everything you had) became an absolute requirement of salvation and not a vision of an ideal. But make no mistake, these extra statutes were of man, not of God.

When Jesus began his ministry he also began to dismantle some of those extra rules: he questioned the food laws, he disregarded the cleanliness laws when he associated with the unclean and the sinners and he demonstrated that it is okay to do work on the Sabbath if that work has a godly purpose. In fact, he went further than that … he said, “If 10 rules are to complicated for you, let me cut the number down to just 2: ‘love God and love your fellow beings’.”

There were no “Ifs” “Whys” or “Buts” there were no “Exclusions” just  … ‘love God and love your fellow beings’ … what could be simpler? And yet … over the last 2000 years what have we done? Well, we have changed those 2 new laws into another myriad of minor rules and sub-clauses and suddenly … we perceive the ministry of women to be inferior to that of men and Gays and Lesbians have been placed in a lower class than oversexed, hedonistic heterosexuals … and the church is surprised when it is increasingly seen to be irrelevant by the masses who have accepted women as equals and understand that sexuality is a continuum and not a bi-polar state that can be controlled by a switch – the controlled experiment on celibacy undertaken by  the Catholic Church since the C17th seems to have proven the latter quite conclusively.

Joined up thinking

Joined up thinking

So, if God IS infallible, why can’t we trust that he has got things right and actively try to discern his ways? If God IS omnipotent, why don’t we just believe that he can do it? And if God is omnipresent, isn’t it about time that we accepted that he IS there with ALL people and in ALL places – even those whom or which we shun?

Why don’t we stop trying to overcomplicate things and accept that we should be loving God and ALL those whom he has created on an equal basis regardless of gender, colour, race, sexuality, disability, malformity, mental capability … and even those who cannot string their thoughts together cohesively? Christianity is fundamentally simple in its concept … why do we continually seek to overcomplicate things? Is it because we see ourselves as the centre of the universe??

Never underestimate the gift of Joined up Thinking!

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No, I am not a Jedi …

Jedi

… I am a Christian and I am male which apparently places me in a relatively small minority in the UK but my Christian journey isn’t anything to write home about. I had no blinding, Damascan revelation like St Paul. Mine was more of an Emmaan journey where faith quietly developed within me and I had seemingly little to do with it. Indeed, I would be the first to admit that I am who I am through sheer coincidence of birth. If I had been born elsewhere I may have been a Muslim, a Buddhist or a Hindu: if I had not had the experiences in my life that I have had I may even have been an atheist or an agnostic … but I wasn’t and I have … so this is me and that also means that I am willing  to listen to those of other faiths or those of none!

I was born in the 1950’s and I attended a church school: I joined the church choir at the age of 8 (for no other reason than I was allowed time out of school to sing at funerals … how sad is that!) and I was bundled off to Sunday School by my parents on Sunday afternoons so that they could have a couple of hours peace and quiet (or so they said … I never did ask and I am an only child so make of that what you will) so there must have been a bit of Christian learning there, even if it was only by osmosis, but at best, at that time I would describe my faith as latent – I hadn’t put much effort in and I wasn’t really getting much out of it – but, for some reason (and excluding a couple of periods in the wilderness that I may tell you about one day), I kept in touch with the church.

I had stagnated! I wasn’t going anywhere! I was just one of those people who turned up each week to take a seat in a pew without particularly asking why! But then, in the 1980’s, I became personal friends with a young vicar and within 6 months he had asked me to become his churchwarden – obviously he knew something that I didn’t!

During our time together, and for the first time in my Christian story, we began to debate. When I started in these discussions I was shooting from the hip – expressing opinions with little real knowledge with which to formulate a case – so I went away to read and learn and to find out more simply so that I could defend my views. Needless-to-say, before long he left the area but my journey had been reinvigorated – the spark in my spiritual life had been rekindled and I had begun to grow – and so I moved on to the next chapter.

Our next vicar provided the space in which that growth could continue. I remained as a churchwarden for a total of 10 years but, during that time, I started to train as a Lay Reader  and this provided a focus and purpose for my studies. I have been a reader now for 17 years but my growth hasn’t stopped. I still question, I still have doubts, I still have theological hypotheses for which I am seeking evidence. I am not a creationist – as a scientist and engineer I have little time for the concept of Intelligent Design and delight in the Theory of Evolution. I am not a literalist – I believe that the scriptural texts need to be interpreted within the context in which they were written and I have come to the conclusion that it is okay to claim to be a Christian whilst still questioning faith and accepting others as they are.

Are there any more out there like me?