Truth, Certainty and Respect

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.

On God, #1

This post is a bit of a new direction for me, but I felt it was something I should write.

At the risk of putting off some readers, I have to say I am a practising Christian.

Wow, writing that felt like I was confessing to some heinous crime.

When I say I am a ‘practising’ Christian, I know that can be taken in a number of ways. I am practising in the sense that I go to Church most weeks, I pray, I read the Bible, I have faith in a living God and His Son who bought our salvation by His death. On the other hand, I am not a practising Christian, in the sense that I know certain truths and values to be priorities for Christians and I constantly fall short of this. I have yet to fit the Christian part of me comfortably into the external projection of myself, so that when I am with people who do not believe in God, I hide my own faith until directly confronted with a question, but when with other Christians, I am uncomfortably aware of my lack of continuity and commitment. I guess in a third sense, I am practising in an endeavour to improve!

I would also like to make a distinction at this point between myself and some who do claim, rather loudly, to be Christians and to represent Christianity. There are those who take passages from the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, and (I believe) distort them to justify acts of violence, discrimination and hate. I believe that the God I am coming to know more and more has a deep love of people, and is saddened by these acts. I don’t want to go into particular details here, each issue is a discussion in itself, but the fact is that Christianity is based on God loving the world (not just one sector of society) so much that He sent His only Son to die for it. That kind of love just does not match up with the kind of things some people are saying and doing in the name of God or Christ.

Jesus made it very clear that God is about love. His teachings in the Gospel emphasise that people need to show love for each other in every aspect of their lives and use this as a base for their actions – Matthew 22:37 – 40 reads “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.” On the basis of this, we are told not to judge others until we have judged ourselves. Specifically: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged…Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matt 7:1 – 3). This passage is often overlooked by those who are quick to condemn (either verbally or more violently) others for things they do, and I know that I am also guilty of this.

The good news is, it’s not just one way. We have to show love for God and for each other, but we get it back from God in bucketloads. I often find myself trying to sort things that go wrong out on my own, instead of praying about it or asking for help. When I do turn back to God, I feel His love almost as a physical sensation. It’s a wonderful feeling that cannot be described. There are hard times, times when I need to learn a lesson, but I am reminded constantly that God is not abandoning me during those times, any more than I abandon my son when I stop him having a biscuit or sticking his fingers into an electric socket. When I don’t feel God with me, it’s because I am shutting Him out and trying to go it alone. God wants to be allowed to love me, I just have to let Him.