Reflection nine: public faith

It’s a little ironic that my response to my last post coincides with a furore in the UK as a secular heritage organisation (The National Trust)  is accused of hosting an egg hunt in which some of the publicity appears to have replaced ‘Easter’ with the branding of the chocolate egg manufacturer (Cadbury’s). The outcry revolves around what is claimed to be a conscious choice to ‘de-Christianise’ the most important of Christian festivals (although if you actually look at the publicity you’ll notice it mentions Easter quite frequently…and what has chasing chocolate eggs around some rich fella’s estate to do with Easter anyway is beyond me).   If you’ve missed it, you’ve not witnessed the Prime Minister throwing her lot in, along with some poorly advised input from the Church of England as well. You may also have missed a fascinating conversation as to whether Easter is another pagan festival co-opted by those nasty culture changing Christians back in the early hundreds…and therefore those Christians are just getting their comeuppance after all this time…

Sigh…

Not much has changed from when I wrote the original post.  Some Christians fighting battles about things that are more to do with the level of influence Christianity has on culture than anything linked to faithfully following the way of Jesus.  The Anglican church still finds itself mired in the same old controversies – gay priests still denied access to highest office if they’re anything but single and celibate (a condition not imposed on their heterosexual peers); women still experiencing discrimination and barriers – although thankfully they can now be appointed as Bishops (although a significant minority will not accept their authority and view those involved in the ordination of women as ‘tainted’).  Somehow those who are meant to lead others towards the one who included all, at times appear to be the most exclusive. Public Christianity seeking to preserve and restrain.

What also remains is the challenge we must face of what it truly means to follow Christ into every corner of twenty-first century life. 

We must search for answers about how Jesus would have us make decisions about public spending that would benefit the vulnerable and marginalised, about welcoming outsiders rather than fearing them, about seeking unity rather than isolation.  

We must remember that we are all neighbours,all brothers and sisters, all made in the image of God, all bearing responsibility for each other – there is no ‘someone else’s problem’ in the way of Jesus.

We must seek to be a community of Jesus followers who model to all what it means to be guided by kingdom values rather than those of the marketplace.  The latter celebrates the ‘winner’ seeking to gain at all costs, the former the ‘loser’ willing to give up everything to find true life in all its fullness.

We must be willing to give up our ‘wants’ to help meet the ‘needs’ of those who fall by the wayside, knowing just how hard this can be to live out.

We must become a voice willing to critique injustice wherever we see it, to ally ourselves with whoever fights the same battles, reminding ourselves of who Jesus was criticised for hanging out with.  Wherever there are those without voice, we must be willing to speak out.

We must gladly sacrifice respectability and be willing to upset those interested in manipulatingt heir power to maintain the status quo.

We must ask questions that can’t be simply answered with sound bites and promises, but demand lasting change.

Faith must lead to action. Fine words must lead to transformation.

This is as much a personal call to action as a communal challenge.  I’m aware how far off I am on most of these, how much I’d need to change to embrace these ideals. But it must be costly, it must be challenging…or it wouldn’t require faith and the realisation that we can’t do any of this on our own.

My instinct is that when we turn our hands to these things we’ll find the road ahead has already been travelled. We’ll spot signposts erected by fellow pilgrims helping us to know where to go. We’ll see monuments celebrating the lives of those who were willing to fight un-winnable  battles because they dreamed that a better world was possible. We’ll struggle, we’ll fail frequently, we may even lose more often than we win…but we’ll be living by faith.

A better world is possible – that’s what the Chritian gospel is all about. Not just some personal quest for salvation, but the whole of creation redeemed and restored.  This is our calling, our vocation.

That’s the public Christianity that our world is crying out for and deserves. Life in all its fullness.

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