April 2, 2012 by Rhi
I may have mentioned, once or twice, that I’m a Christian. Yup. Paid up, on the list, there every Sunday (and several days inbetween), Jesus is my homeboy, etc, Christian. And I’m not afraid to admit that.
Today, my church took part in our annual Palm Sunday walk. For many years, on the Sunday before Easter, we process down the hill through the street of our little part of Glasgow, to our friends in the local Catholic chapel. After a short ecumenical service, we have a cup of tea and a chat, and make our way home. Then, on Good Friday, they will do the same journey in reverse, and join us for a longer service in our church. The main reason the larger service happens in our church is simply because our building is bigger.
Today, both my own minister, and the Canon down at the chapel, said things which were very similar in their addresses. Both acknowledged the fear and pain some Christians are feeling at the moment, where ideas which they’ve always believed in are being challenged by people outside of the church. They mentioned that some people feel that they aren’t being heard, that they are shouting against an enemy who doesn’t understand them. They feel the very essence of their faith is threatened.
But then, they spoke of our reaction to these feelings. In the later service, the Canon actually referred to some Christians responding to this perceived attack like children throwing toys out of a cot. Both stressed the message of Jesus – he brought a message of love. God does not ask us to judge others. And therefore, we were told, shouting out that yours is the only right way, even if that means denying other people their chance to love and be loved, is not what God would ask of us. God loves all of us, without question.
The thing I’ve struggled most with, growing up in the church, is the idea that some Christians think that what they believe in should apply to everyone. The interpretation that they choose to believe of the word of God is the only one which can possibly be correct. But how can Christians honestly say that they know the truth, when we can’t even agree between ourselves which is the right way forward?
I believe what I believe. And everyone else is free to believe what they choose – with one important caveat. Once your belief stops being about how you live your life, and starts to become about how you think other people ought to live theirs, you begin to lose the meaning of the message. That is when the Christian message stops being about love and compassion, and starts to resemble an attempt to control and discriminate. And then the message is lost. You might believe you are trying to save them, but you can’t force people.
There are many things in this life which I find uncomfortable, and which I feel are an insult to my faith. But I can’t ask others to live their lives based on MY beliefs. This is where I think I benefited from growing up in Scotland, where church and state are separate. The two bodies perform two distinct roles in my life – and never the twain shall meet.
This coming week is Holy Week, culminating in the joy of Easter Sunday where Christians all over the world will remember Christ’s sacrifice for us. I believe he died for every single one of us, whether we believe in him or not. And if you don’t believe in his message, or even that he ever existed, that’s fine by me. I’d be delighted if you did of course, but I won’t stress the issue. I’ll go to church and celebrate Christ rising next Sunday, and you can stay in bed and eat loads of chocolate eggs. And we’ll both be happy with our own ways. Which is more than enough for me.
Happy Easter, everyone.