the problem with…

I’m a fan of The Guardian newspaper. I tend to choose it as the way in which I consume information about what’s going on in the world. I like the writers and their worldview. I like the willingness to critique the mainstream. But I’m not a fan of the way in which anything to do with faith is discussed in its otherwise excellent Comment is Free section. Not the main posts, but the commentors on posts. It saddens me the way in which matters that are important to billions of people in this world are dismissed by those polarised perspectives who aren’t able to listen to any other perspective than their own.

I’m not a fan of extremism or fundamentalism in any guise, be it religious or secular. I believe in dialogue, I believe that those with different views can learn from each other. I also believe that is far too simple to ‘build a straw man’ of your opponent, painting them in a particular way because of the worldview they subscribe to.

Those of you who read my blog will know that I’m a Christian. I believe in the story that has been playing out since the beginning of time. I believe that Jesus is the way, truth and life. I believe in the bible, although might read it in a way that is different from some of my brothers and sisters. Im not a 7 day creationist, and am deeply comfortable with the idea that story or allegory contains just as much truth as ‘factual’ accounts. I believe in heaven and therefore hell, but think too many Christians get carried away thinking about what happens after death rather than focusing on what God calls us to do in our world today.

I wrestle with issues that those who have the most negative view of Christianity think that all Christ followers subscribe to. I’m not sure whether a traditional ‘Christian’ perspective on sexuality is where I stand. I hate the misogyny that besmirches too much of the Christian church. I am embarrassed by the horrors that have committed in Christ’s name over the 2 millennia since his death.  Theologically I’m more N.T. Wright that John Piper.

I’m a leftie, and reject the inherent conservatism of many who shout loudest in defence of public Christianity (or Christendom). I couldn’t give a monkeys if someone is allowed to wear a cross around their neck at work or not. I’d happily see the church disestablished. I am deeply ashamed that in America Christianity has become portrayed as the domain of the gun-wielding, anti-abortion, reactionary Tea Party…but am also deeply excited that President Obama reflects a different Christianity, one that people like Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo and latterly Shane Claiborne have come to represent.

My world view isn’t small, I don’t know everything about my God – I don’t think I ever will or ever claim to. I’m comfortable with the tension this often brings – enjoying the way in which this means I have to critically engage with issues rather than simply do what someone else tells me too. Mystery is vital, truth doesn’t reject this.

I also know how often I fail in my own attempts not to judge or point the finger. Christ’s command to forgive is incredibly hard to follow. But, then, faith was never meant to be easy.

I say all of this to show the huge variety of belief and tradition that being a ‘Christian’ can represent. Of course, one could choose to highlight the worst elements…but then so could one about any belief system…including atheism. I recognise that atheism too is a broad stream…that not all atheists are like Richard Dawkins or even Ricky Gervais. I know that extremism is always a minority, whether in Christianity, Islam, or yes, atheism.

Let’s not write each other off without listening first. Let’s not make assumptions. Especially of Christians – most of whom are people who think deeply and wrestle every day with what it means to live a life that reflects Jesus.  We aren’t monachrome.  Diversity and a wide stream is what we’ve always been about…believe it or not.

Thus endeth rant…

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