One of the things really, I mean REALLY, bothering me lately is religion. As most of my friends know, I consider myself a Christian in the sense that I believe not only God, who created the world and made each of us “fearfully and wonderfully” unique and special but also in Jesus Christ who died and was resurrected to redeem mankind and a Holy Spirit that works through each of us when we let it. I still believe these things but over the course of the last year or so the mechanics of it still eluded me.
I believe I can state what I firmly and truly believe on a number of subjects but I’ll stick to just a couple for now.
I do NOT believe that in order to take advantage of Christ’s sacrifice you have to say some magic words that marks you as SAVED. I do NOT believe that people who disagree with me are going to Hell. I do NOT believe that I am in anyway more special or worthy of redemption than my neighbours whether they are Christian, atheist, Muslim, agnostic, a member of the Raving Loony Party, Labour, Conservative, whatever. I do NOT believe that anything I can do changes the fact that God loves me, and despite being raging mad with Him about many things, this actually does give me comfort. This also includes going to church, doing Good Deeds, or persuading someone that if they do not tick certain boxes they are doomed to eternal punishment worse than anything we can conceive. I DO believe that when Jesus said “No-one can come to the Father except through me” He wasn’t telling us to do anything, He was saying what HE was going to do.
I do NOT believe that being a believer in God, whichever form that takes, gives anyone the right to deride, mock or scorn with different beliefs or politics to themselves. It does not give you a free ticket to Heaven that someone else does not. It does NOT give you the right to forget about showing any basic respect to your fellow human beings.
I DO believe that pretty much every problem in the world today can be traced back to a lack of respect shown by one group of people to another. Whether it’s manifested in racism, rioting, an elitist government that openly favours the rich, a reactionary government that at best displaces and at worst executes the previously privileged elite it has replaced, or invade another country because they have something the aggressor wants. It’s down to seeing another human as less than worthy of respect and dignity. Maybe they don’t even realise they’re doing this. I probably do it too, almost certainly in fact; I know I don’t have much respect for certain members of the government at the moment, or even people closer to home.
Lack of respect also comes across on a micro-level. How we treat the vulnerable – the elderly, children, the disabled, the poor. We see ourselves as ‘decent people’ but what do we actually do to deserve this label? Or is it just that we’re lucky enough to not be in a position where our prejudices are allowed to surface and openly show our lack of respect?
The other thing I know for certain is that I don’t know anything for certain. Right now I believe in God, I don’t see that changing. But if I close my mind to the possibility that I might just be wrong (impossible, I know!), then fundamentalism creeps in, and suddenly I’m better, I know better, I’m enlightened, and there’s about 50 million people who I now have slightly less respect for because they’re not enlightened.
I won’t have any answers until the day I die, and sometimes that knowledge is – irritating, to say the least. I have a great many opinions and no solutions. But I have this one certainty – that respect does NOT have to be earned. It can be thrown away, but respect is a fundamental human right. Without it, there can be no recovering from all the conflicts of the world, large or small; with respect, there is hope.
THAT is the truth.