thoughts on faith, justice, politics and philosophy

Month: November 2012

Subtle Differences

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Hi! Sorry for the complete lack of blogging lately. I’ve had a lot of personal things going on that have meant I haven’t really had the chance to process my deistic musings very well. Here’s a little something…

I have noticed a small shift in my thoughts about God. Six months ago, I would have said that I had very strong faith and very weak beliefs, and that I was frustrated because I couldn’t prove that God was real, existed, cared etc. I think now I would probably say that my faith is weak and beliefs are strong, and that I am frustrated because I can’t prove that God isn’t real. I’d like to explore those two shifts briefly.

Faith / Belief

The shift in strength of faith/belief to the opposite of its previous state is, I think, down to a personal need at the moment to be more sure of the world around me. I have also began to consolidate some of my thinking into decisions rather than open musings. I don’t know if this is a good or a bad thing – I am tempted to think neither. It is just how things presently are. My faith in those beliefs is consequently weak for two reasons:

  1. They are in a sense partially fabriacted beliefs – decisions I have made in part for the sake of making them.
  2. I haven’t yet reached a place where I feel like I can say with strong faith that God is real and loves me. I can say those things with some faith, but it isn’t strong.

Frustration of Proof

It is the other shift in thinking that fascinates me the most. I used to want to prove that God was real. To find Him. To know Him. I eventually all but gave up, and thus my attention shifted to wanting to prove that God was not real, so I could settle on that, pack up my theological things and move to pastures new. However, I can’t do it. I can’t prove that God is not real. I keep finding good reasons to believe in God. Nothing concrete – and maybe that’s the point in all this anyway – but enough to keep me from declaring myself an atheist. It’ll do for now.

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The Gospel of the Status Quo

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It’s funny how good we are at train wrecking the good news of Jesus, isn’t it? Today I want to take aim at the Gospel of the Status Quo.

It’s very easy to enjoy life isn’t it. We all have nice houses, nice cars, most of us have some form of reasonable income, we have friends, hobbies, security and usually the love of our families.

It’s easy to be joyful.

Sometimes we run in to problems decorating, sometimes the car breaks down, we don’t get that promotion, we fall out with a friend, we’re too busy, and our families go through struggles.

So actually, it can be harder to be joyful. When times are tough, it’s not always easy. Which is why we are encouraged by our Christian brothers and sisters to remember we can always be joyful in God. There are Psalms to quote from, interpretations of Jesus to back up the idea – that actually, no matter how bad things are, we can delight in God. We can find Joy in God.

I’m sorry, but that really is a load of complete rubbish. It’s damaging, hurtful and downright wrong.

Sometimes, life, to quote Eric Idle – is ‘a piece of shit’. Sometimes, things are really hard. I’m not referring to the car breaking down. I’m referring to the systematic abuse of our fellow human beings. Trafficking, Unfair trade, sweatshops, mafias, gangs, capitalism. People in the third world often have nothing.

Ironically, those are the people who better understand finding joy in God alone. Because that is all they have to find joy in.

But for us to say to those people, to say to anyone around us, simply, ‘you can find Joy in God and then everything will be ok’ – that’s ridiculous.

I was reading the beginning of Luke yesterday. In it, Jesus says he has come to bring good news to the poor. That he has come to declare the year of the Lord’s favour.

Good news for the poor isn’t ‘its ok, you can find joy in God’, it’s ‘it’s ok, you can find joy in God AND we will get you out of the hell you are in by sharing our lives, possessions and money with you’. That’s what the year of the Lord’s favour was- look it up, it’s essentially communism in action. We only need to read the book of Acts to see this coming in to fruition.

The problem with this Gospel is it requires us to change our lives wholesale, for the benefit of others. No wonder nobody’s up for it…

… It’s what Jesus proclaims though. How can we claim to follow Jesus of we ignore his proclamations?

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Discipleship, Love and Judgement

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I’ve been stewing over some thoughts on discipleship recently. It’s an intriguing idea. For those not familiar with the term, it is a synonym for apprenticeship – of the theological / faith / belief / way to live life variety. It sort of encompasses all of those things, in a way that overlaps. The orthodox Christian line is that we are disciples of Jesus. We also mentor / disciple each other – peer to peer or mentor to mentee.

One of the things that has struck me is the way in which our fear of the world and of ourselves forms our approach to discipleship – especially in the peer sense. When someone we know becomes a Christian, our reaction is often partly centered around the desire to help them understand what is a correct way to behave and what is not. This fails on three counts:

1) We might be wrong

2) God may have a different priority

3) It’s judgemental.

To suggest to somebody they ought to live a certain way is to run the risk of sending them off in the wrong direction. Let’s assume for arguments sake that homosexuality is not the issue it is made out to be. A new homosexual convert to Christianity may be forced to unhealthily surpress their sexuality as a consequence of other’s beliefs.

Equally, and let us for this example assume homosexual acts are indeed sinful, God may have other things in mind. Greed, anger, idolatry, hatred, prejudice – we do not know where God’s priorities lie. We can only project on to others the priorities God has for us, an equally arrogant and misguided assumption.

Finally it is judgemental. As Christians we are so often accused of violating our own standards of judgement. I think this is fair. We too readily tell others how to behave and then break those rules ourselves. Perhaps we would do better to leave the conviction, judgement and moral standards to be executed by God, rather than by one another.

In light of this I have come to the conclusion that discipleship is best done lightly. Instead of ensuring that people behave the same way as us, we should instead teach them to live in such a way that their lives are postured towards hearing the voice of the divine – be that still and small or loud and clear. Discipleship should be about enabling, not telling.

This would move us away from the need to be right, the need to change others to be like us and the need to be of higher moral status than others (let’s face it, that is where judgement comes from – the need to justify ourselves and yet know we cannot). Instead, we can love one another and spur one another on in love to be closer to God and ultimately discover what He has in store for us.

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