Friday, 29 July 2011

The God of small things

Although God created the whole universe and obviously created everything in it, He is also the God of small things and small concerns, the God of off the beaten track, the God that is often hidden from our sight and minds and at the very edge of our consciousness.  As well as being the God of large things, He is also the God of small things! 

In trying to understand God, we often put Him in a box, a box that is usually too small or just cannot hold Him.  As humans, we try to make God in our image, when in actual fact He made us in His image.  If we truly try to comprehend Him, we might be left even more puzzled than before.  Why does God want to be mysterious, why does He often seem to cloak Himself in mystery, so that we struggle to ascertain who He is and what He is about?  In trying to answer this question, and answer it honestly, we might just get closer to the nature of God Himself.

Although God is often portrayed as being part of the Establishment, and part of the power elites, is He really?  Just who did God come for after all?  God is the God of small concerns, small things, forgotten things, He is the champion of the oppressed and the humble, the left out, the lowly and even the despised.  In understanding this, that God often comes to meet the humble and the lowly, rather than the powerful, wealthy and even self-important, we might begin to get to the heart of God’s often unfathomable nature.  He bypassed the wealthy, powerful and very religious Egyptians to come to the almost Stone Age and childlike tribe of Israel.  Even in this, we might begin to understand better God’s character.  He is a God of supreme fairness, justice and equality in a world where often such qualities are in very short supply.  He is a God who can be relied on, and the God of second chances, amongst many other things.

In walking through nature, through hills and dales and even lonely windswept beaches off the beaten track, we might come closer to God in some way and understand maybe for the first time that He is the God of the lonely, of lonely and windswept places, the God of solitude, the God of unspoken yearnings, the God of abstract thoughts, the God of our imagination and the God of places remote and seemingly at the edge of the world.  Wherever we might find ourselves, in the centre of a busy city or miles away from anywhere on a lonely and windswept beach, God is with us perhaps even in the most abstract way.  He will certainly walk with us if we are not too proud to walk with Him.  God is the God who will lean down and listen to us, whoever we are and whatever predicament we might find ourselves in, and He is the God who literally came down to earth as a man to teach us all how to live for Him.

God is the God of our hobbies, our little interests and the simple little enjoyable things we all like to do at times, whatever that might be.  He can give us a new life and forgive our past, He can give us a reason to enjoy our life again and He can wash us clean of our guilt.  God can set us on a new path and give us purpose and direction in our lives, even if we have led purposeless and directionless lives.   God can take any person from the gutter of his or her own life and make them a glorious success.  He is the God of abstract thoughts; He is also the God of stark reality too.

God is the God of the struggling, the unhappy, the unfulfilled, the lost in life.  God is great and magnificent, but He is there for all those who are not so great and magnificent.  He is a mysterious God, but He will allow Himself to be found and understood by all those not too proud to seek Him out.  He will help us if we want Him to help us.  He will make us happy if we want Him to make us happy.  He will give us fulfilling lives if we want Him to give us fulfilling lives, and He will find us if we want Him to find us.  God created us, so He knows us and all about us, more than we probably know ourselves.  He loves us even more than our own mothers, and He cares tenderly for us.  He wants only the best for us and will provide for all our needs.  God is about mercy, second chances, new starts and new beginnings; all these are small things to God and He has the power to enable us all to move onto better lives.

In answering the question I posed at the start of this article, which started with ‘Why does God want to be mysterious…?’, I believe one of the reasons He often cloaks Himself in mystery is so that we will simply want to pursue Him and find out who He is and what He is about.  Listening to people talk about God is one thing, finding out for yourself is something else again.  It is when we try to live on a daily and ongoing basis as a Christian, that God might very well begin to reveal Himself.  And we can certainly ask Him in prayer to open our minds to the reality of God, and just who He is.  It is quite understandable in fact to want to know God and to want to understand Him and even His motives for wanting to be involved with humanity.  Perhaps another reason He may be so mysterious is so that He can quite simply surprise people who have never known Him, so that they are shocked by the reality and truth of God as opposed to the often cosy falsehoods and ill-conceived notions even some very religious people hold about Him.  I sometimes think that organised religion’s view of God is one thing, and an individual’s view who simply tries to walk with Him each day is something else completely.  We are told and even taught so many things about God by often well meaning people, but I believe it is when we encounter God for ourselves that we will truly begin to get to know and understand God, and know and understand God intimately.

Does God side with the rich, the important and the powerful?  Just who does He side with after all?  Does God side with the particularly religious, does He side with powerful and wealthy organised religion?  My answer, quite simply, is that I don’t think God sides with anyone, but will side with anyone who will side with Him.  Even if we have a calling from God in some way, we must take care to live out that calling and try to live honestly each day as Christians; otherwise, we might fool ourselves, we might even fool other people but we will not fool God.  I don’t think that God sides with particularly powerful or wealthy or even especially religious people, even popes and archbishops, unless they endeavour to walk with Him.  I also think that there are many people educated to be vicars, bishops, reverends and priests in all Christian denominations, who might know much about religion but know little if anything about God.  You don’t need to study Theology or be part of the Church hierarchy to be a Christian after all.  What is ultimately needed first off is your submission to God’s perfect and precious will, and finding out what that will is for your life.  Perhaps too a radical change in living your life.  Prayer and Bible study will also be a part of a Christian’s life.  In this way, whoever or whatever a person is, they will be serving God.  And that is a start.

God did create the whole universe, but He also created little moments where we can reflect on Him and His nature and where we can marvel that He takes as much care and concern over one enjoyable moment as He did over creating the whole universe and everything in it.  He is the God of small things, in the end.  He is able and willing to come into anyone’s life, and change that person’s life for the better.  This is regardless of an individual’s past, their circumstances, who they are and who they know, what religion they may have belonged to or what beliefs they may have held.  He is the God of everyone who wants Him to be their God.

He is the God of all our musings, the God of our wondering and the God of all our thoughts.  He is the God behind everything truly good in the world, and He abhors everything truly bad in the world.  He is the God of all good things in the world, and He is the God of all that we are, all that we dream of, all that we hold dear, all that is precious to us and all that brings true meaning into our lives.  He is the God who will save us from ourselves, and He is the God who will save us for something better.  He is the God who can be relied on, and He is a reliable God.  He is the God of big things and He is the God of small things too.

In a world that is more often than not divided in many ways, does God smile on human injustice?  Or does He, at least, turn a blind eye?  The answer to both these questions is no, He does not smile on human injustice nor does He turn a blind eye to it either.  Human sin is a big problem for God, and it is a big problem for humans as well.  It sometimes seems that those who oppress and in any ways exploit other people, do get away with it and even prosper at the same time.  And equally sometimes it seems that those who act justly and considerately towards others and try to live as Christians each day, often don’t seem to benefit from it and even get walked over by other people.  It is a sad fact of life.  As Christians, we must stay true to what we know is right.  In the end, God is our judge, and He will judge all humans impartially for what they have done.

God is the God of unimportant things, unimportant concerns and unimportant places.  He is the God of the one lost sheep.  He is the God who calls from afar, but who is always near.  He is the God of North and South, East and West.  He is the God of the Jews, and equally the God of the Gentiles.  He is the God of Black and White.  He is the God of the rich, and He is the God of the poor.  He is the God of men, and He is the God of women.  He is the God who created all humanity to live in harmony with Him and with each other.  He is the God for you and me.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Hitler, Christianity & God

How does a Christian really study Hitler, and why?  Was Hitler born evil?  Was Stalin born evil, for that matter?  Was what Hitler carried out, the Final Solution, an aberration, something never seen before, or has such evil and unimaginable atrocity been committed before?  Did Hitler have an evil gene?

To answer any of these questions, I suppose we need to know what we believe; whether we believe in a God who created everything, or that life is an accident, a glorious accident no less, but an accident involving evolution.  I believe in creation myself.

I don’t believe Hitler, or Stalin, were born evil.  What sort of chance would any of us have if our lives were dictated by something we had no control over?  By their actions, they were evil that’s for certain.  Hitler’s hatred for Jews went beyond anything that might be considered ‘normal’, whatever normal means, but I mean that he was blinded by his hatred to a very great degree, quite obviously.  I’m not saying anything new here.  What could have caused that?  What made his hatred go beyond the norm?  If we say he was born evil, then in some way we are saying that he wasn’t, even partly, culpable for his actions.  If we say he had an ‘evil gene’ then likewise.  I don’t believe in any kind of gene reproducing certain kinds of ordained behaviour; it doesn’t make sense to a Christian outlook.

So what are we talking about then?  Hitler’s Final Solution, his idea of getting rid of all the Jews from Europe, was really the twentieth century’s most terrible point.  It let humans being know, if we didn’t already, that humans can do some dreadfully awful things to one another.  But was this an aberration, something which hadn’t happened before?  I don’t believe it was.  If we look throughout history, perhaps over the last fifteen hundred years or so, there has been to my mind innumerable acts of destruction, total savagery and even genocide now and again.  What happened under Genghis Khan, in his quest to create a vast empire, was nothing short of genocide, and in many places.  Millions are reputed to have died, slaughtered for the machinations of the Mongol Empire.  Then there is the British Empire, that seemingly benign empire created as once written in a fit of absent-mindedness.  Surely the Empire was a good thing?  Well, if we really take a look at it without rose-tinted glasses, I think it can be said that the British Empire was good for some white British people, but very bad for those exploited or chased off land, or in other ways marginalized so that rich people could get basically richer.  Millions of people around the world suffered at the hands of the British Empire, in many ways and for many reasons; some by willful destruction or murder, others through slavery of one kind or another, and others, like in Ireland and India, through famine and starvation, whilst the British effectively had control over these countries.  This is just a small list of calumnies the British Empire presided over.  Then we come to the Armenian Holocaust, which was perpetrated under the auspices of the Ottoman Empire.  This claimed perhaps one and a half million lives during the First World War and a little after.  Other populations were also treated in this way, including the Greeks.  I could go on and on; I am trying to point out that human evil, atrocities carried out by humans on other humans, is no new thing.  That doesn’t lessen the evil that Hitler committed, but I think it puts it in some proper perspective.

If you’re a Christian, you might very well believe that evil has been around for thousands and thousands of years.  And the first sin, that which was really disobeying God, was when Eve took the forbidden fruit from the tree of good and evil.  Whether you believe this as a literal truth, or whether you believe it is a folktale containing a universal truth, or whether you just think it’s a load of cobblers, is really beside the point.  Evil entered the world when humans decided to disobey God; that’s my take on it as a Christian.  If you’re an Atheist, you might find that hard to take, and if you’re on the margins of faith, you might need that clarified or explained a bit better.  

We think of evil as being terrible acts committed against, usually, human beings against other people.  And as a definition of evil, that is pretty easy to understand.  Evil could also be said to be acts which the perpetrator knows full well are wrong, but chooses to do them anyway.  So, knowing comes into the equation.  If you’re a Christian, part of discipleship is to obey God, period.  There’s no pussyfooting with God, there is no ‘let me have just this one sin God, and I’ll obey you in everything else!’; we are either wholeheartedly serving God, or we are not serving Him at all.  Hard for some people, even for some Christians, to take, but I believe it to be the truth.  So, all the sin and therefore all the evil in the world, has its roots in disobedience to God in the end. 

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil represents human beings deciding for themselves what is good or what is evil, and ignoring God’s point of view.  They wanted to decide for themselves, and when everyone else does the same, chaos ensues.  To some people, one thing is good even if it isn’t, and to someone else, one thing is bad even if it isn’t.  There is no standard with humans, so we need a set standard, and God’s standard is the only one that works for all of us.  When people choose to do what they want without regard to God, even if their actions may appear correct and with the right motive, sin and evil can enter the world.

A Dialogue with God

What would we say to God, if we had the chance, if He came down to earth and asked us what we had to say?  Would we be tongue-tied, or would we never shut up?  I’d have plenty to say, certainly loads of questions.  I would, I think, be frank too, and ask Him things other people might not.  But I think God is big enough to be grilled, and He certainly would have all the answers.

What happens when a person lives actively as a Christian but continues also to live in a kind of sin, or sinful way, like King David of ancient Israel?  Will God smile at our discretions, or at least turn a blind eye?  In my view, you can’t be both a sinner and a real Christian; one will eventually supersede the other.  In short, you can’t live in any kind of sin and be a Christian!  This is hard for some people to take, perhaps because they are by all accounts decent people, but they have something in their lives they won’t give up.  It could be anything really, anything that keeps them from a full relationship with Jesus.  And, when you get right down to brass tacks, the relationship with Jesus is really what Christianity is all about; a relationship you have 24/7 on a daily and on-going basis.  I think much else we think of as religious can be peripheral to this.

God, why am I poor?  God, why am I unhappy?  God, why am I depressed?  God, why can’t I get a job?  God, why can’t I get good at anything?  God, why can’t I find someone to really fall in love with?  God, why aren’t my friends more interested in me?  God, why do I find it so hard to go to church?  God, why am I struggling all the time, day in day out?  God, why do I have so many questions, and never any answers?  I expect that many people ask these questions all the time, I know I certainly have, and many times.  Some people might think that we shouldn’t really ask God anything, we should just keep our heads down and hope for the best.  For me, this is not good enough; we already have the questions in our heart, and if you’re like me millions of questions, so why not ask Him; who else are you going to ask?  The bloke down the pub?  I’m being serious.  You can ask God in prayer anything you like; you may not get the answer you were looking for, but He has a way of answering our questions, and our wants, in His way and in His time.  I’m not trying to be evasive; to fully understand God and His motives is not easy, and although anyone can approach Him, He is mysterious and hard to fathom out.  If God is the creator of everything we see, and everything we can’t see, then surely it’s a small thing for Him to answer our prayers. 

I have come to the conclusion that, though it’s nice to aspire to better things, get a highly paid job, start a successful business, be wealthy, have the big house in the country, it is just as important in life to find simple things that make us contented; even if that simple thing is watching a sunset, or eating a nice meal, or watching a favourite film.  We shouldn’t neglect simple pleasures because we can always enjoy them whatever our situation, financial and otherwise.  It doesn’t necessarily mean we should settle for what we have got, but I think we should be grateful to God for the good things we already have in life.

Do we bring troubles on ourselves?  I know I have many times; saying stupid things, doing stupid things, treating people disrespectfully, acting stupidly, and altogether acting in ways that brought me only unhappiness or a kind of emptiness that couldn’t be filled.  God, I have been stupid; I have sinned, yet again!  With all the best will in the world, we still slip up and make mistakes.  We are supposed to be honourable, but we act dishonourably, we are supposed to be kind, but we are unkind, we are supposed to be charitable, but we act unfairly and selfishly.  We have the ideal, and then we have the stark reality.  In our dreams we can fly, but when we wake up we can’t; and we have to shave as well!  God doesn’t want us to make trouble for ourselves, or anyone else either.  Some people are walking disaster areas; they do bring trouble on themselves, and then they wonder how, or get upset at the ensuing chaos.  I have learnt by experience that there is enough trouble in life anyway, without making any more.

How different we all are; different beliefs, different colours, different customs, different languages and different foods.  We’re all very different, but we’re all similar too!  I think that we all need to be loved and respected, and we all need to belong too; to belong to something bigger than us.  God created us differently from the rest of creation; He put a ‘super-computer’ in our heads, better than anything Microsoft could make (no disrespect to Bill), gave us a conscience to respect other people, and gave us hands, hands that can create rockets to put people on the moon, oh, and open those fiddly milk cartons as well!  Also, one big difference between humanity and the rest of creation, is that we are spiritual beings, created specifically to be in commune with God; when we miss that, we miss a vital part of our humanity.  You might say quite honestly ‘I’m an Atheist, I just don’t believe in God or any of it to be honest’ well my answer to this is can you honestly look at the wonder and complexity of nature and life, and especially at the wonder of a human being, and say this all happened by accident?

Treat people as you would like to be treated yourself!  If we only all heeded those words, and acted on them regularly!  In practise, it simplifies everything.  There’s no clause there to not include anyone like poor people, or black people or gay people or whoever, it means everyone!  It’s plain and simple and you don’t need to add anything or take anything away.  It is godly simplicity at its best. 

Christianity in England can be too middle class quite frankly, as if every Christian has to live in the suburbs, sing hymns on Sunday, know the vicar and take tea with him now and again; and that’s the be all and end all of their Christian life!  Many people don’t fit into this, they’re not nice and middle class and white living in the suburbs; and it seems that Christian men (and some women) are emasculated partly because of trying to live up to a stereotype that is false anyway.  What If you’re working class and from a council estate and don’t fit this stereotype as a Christian?  What then?  I believe it’s time we got real and we really looked at the gospel again and again if need be; it’s time we decided to be real people, and not playing a role, however ‘nice’ or convenient that role might be.

If you believe that humans were all created, then that automatically means that life is sacrosanct.  If you don’t believe that life was created by God, but just a glorious accident, then where does that leave us?  If there’s no God, then ultimately there’s no morality, or real need for morality.  If there’s no God, then there’s no good or evil, everything is then relative, and boils down to human choice; and humans have a knack of making very bad choices.

So we’ve spoken to God, we’ve asked Him everything we could think of; what answers will God give us?  When will He answer, and in what way?  Who do we think we are, questioning God?!  Well, I believe that with a healthy belief in God also comes healthy questioning; don’t we all want answers to our questions?  So, we can boldly approach God and put our questions, our worries and concerns, our ambitions and anything else that is on our mind too to Him, I believe.  God is only a prayer away.

God, Depression & Suffering

I have suffered, I have had many bouts of severe depression, and I am a Christian.  How can we reconcile our, sometimes awful, suffering, with a loving and nurturing God?  Can we be critical of God, or is it, more than likely, that we just don’t understand the nature of suffering, and likewise we don’t understand the nature of God?  I certainly believe in life that so many of us go around not seeing and not hearing much of anything, even though the truth may be all around us.  We misinterpret, we half-read things, we believe something just because someone down the pub tells us, and then we wonder why we are confused, or we don’t seem to know or understand anything much!

It is true that suffering, all kinds of suffering, seems such a very large part of human life and experience.  No one escapes it, and regardless of how fortunate and affluent some may be, or alternatively seemingly unlucky and poor, we all at times suffer, for one reason or another.  In some cases, and for some people, suffering seems such a part of some people’s lives, that it is almost a part of them.  I can speak only for myself here, but when I was severely depressed, which has happened many times in my life, it seemed almost a part of my nature.  I now believe that I was mistaken in this; no suffering has to be endured lying down, so to speak. 

Some people might say, and honestly say, that if you are a Christian, why did God let you suffer?  It’s a fair question, and one that I will do the best to answer.  I don’t believe that any human, whoever he or she is, is immune from suffering.  We all suffer, for any number of reasons.  Some things we bring on ourselves, others we have no control over; a person loses their job, they feel down, they start drinking heavily, their life unravels, they lose any self-respect they might have once had, their marriage falters, and, suddenly they are almost a different person, in a lifestyle not of their choosing, and perhaps depressed as a result.  So, why have I suffered depression?  I believe, with hand on heart, that the beginnings of my depression started when I turned my back on God!  Yes, I know, if you don’t believe in God, that that answer seems a cop-out at best, and just nonsense at worst!  But hear me out; I don’t write this to win you over to God, and I don’t write this because I am trying to outdo atheists, but simply because I believe it to be the truth.  If you have a calling from God, it is irresistible.  In other words, if He wants you to become His, for whatever reason, you really don’t have a say in the matter!  I have learnt the hard way, even when I didn’t want to know God at all and tried to put Him ‘behind me’, that it is better to heed that calling!  If He created the whole universe, and everything in it, who are we to stand out from His call.  Anyway, I did, I was a rebel, like so many people in life can be.

I made my own problems then, and became depressed as a result.  I was, on and off, severely depressed for many years; I was in the wilderness.

We need goals in life, and we need a vision too.  Without a purpose, of some kind, humans stagnate.  And we should challenge the limitations that are set for us, whatever they are, sometimes unwritten limitations.  The Class system imposes division and unfairness on many people.  Likewise racism, and many other basically unjust systems that ‘function’ in the world; could that be dysfunction?  Is this why so many people in the world are dysfunctional?  Is there a better way than all the enforced animosity in the world between Black and White, rich and poor, West and East, North and South, Atheist and Christian, them and us?  Do we have to live in opposition to everything and each other?  Do we have to compete against everyone?  Or, is there another way?

The disparity in the earnings between those at the top like footballers, judges, actors and politicians to name but some, and the people at the bottom has got progressively wider over the last twenty or so years.  This creates a kind of yearning for those who are poor to get on in any way they can, to be rich themselves, with the accompanying chaos, envy and vicious competition that this creates.  Is this a good thing?  Shouldn’t we all aspire to better things?

What’s the point of being a Christian if you are just going to be like everyone else in the world?  Shouldn’t we challenge class systems, racism, injustice of all kinds and any form of intolerance?  And perhaps instead of pointing fingers at everyone else first, we could start with ourselves.

Sometimes life has no meaning, when bad people prosper and good people go to the wall, and we struggle to make sense of it all, all the injustices big and small and the unfairness in life too.  Seemingly also suffering can have little meaning either; we suffer, and that’s that.  Or is it?  For a Christian, suffering might be telling us something vital, even though we might fail spectacularly to see this.  I can speak for myself in this.  For years I was lost to depression and for a long time I didn’t ask God why.  Coming to terms with my depression meant coming to terms with God.  No suffering is ever easy to endure, but if you were like me and didn’t have God in your life as well, this obviously made it worse.  I can’t really say why I turned my back on God, it just sort of happened.  I had my spell of rebellion and my time languishing and drifting from here to there aimlessly in the wilderness, but thankfully those days are over now.  Of course, my life isn’t perfect now and I have my ups and downs like most everybody else, but the serious depression has gone for good; I just don’t suffer with it anymore.  I attribute this to getting my priorities in life right; God is at the centre of my life, where He is very much meant to be.  Also, I am more moderate in my activities, I drink but never now to excess, I don’t smoke, I don’t abuse illegal drugs of any kind, and perhaps as importantly I am now realistically positive rather than unrealistically negative.  I was so very negative when I was depressed, as I think so many people can be when they suffer with depression.

I believe the harshness and injustice of the Class system in Britain can be, to some degree anyway, a reason why many people in life don’t have goals and a genuine purpose in life, why they might drift, and this ultimately impacts negatively on a person’s life.  Of course, I am not saying this is so in every case, we are all individuals after all, but that in general such division can by default create injustice.  It is obvious that in virtually every society in the world that there will be an elite of some kind, that is probably wealthier and more powerful in any number of ways than the majority of people perceived to be at the bottom.  I don’t think that is going to change any time soon, but the question begging to be asked is, if we benefit unfairly at someone else’s expense are we adding to this injustice?  For a Christian this is a very pertinent question.  If we help continue or create any kind of injustice, I believe sooner or later, God will bring us to task; in short He will very probably punish us for such things.  Not everyone of course who might be wealthy or even politically, or in any other way, powerful is creating problems for other people and I believe it is quite possible to be wealthy and powerful and still be a good Christian.  But history, even very recent history, has taught us that now and again some wealthy and powerful people can act unjustly and corruptly.

I believe that in some cases that the unfairness of many societies obviously impacts on many people within those societies and does help create a climate of double-standards that leads to people being side-lined and in some cases creating the basis for illness and depression that some people suffer with.  That illness or depression can then have serious ramifications for a person’s wellbeing, their life chances, their outlook on life, their relationships with other people, their marital relationship, their chances of getting work, and so many other things which can be affected.  Depression does have a way of impacting very negatively on a person’s life; I can speak of this only too well.  Saying that society creates depression because of its double-standards is perhaps too simplistic.  I think that depression of itself can have a number of causal reasons, and some of these might be very personal reasons pertaining to a specific individual.  And just what is depression?  That’s another question entirely.

Then we come to the most important question; what is God’s answer to depression?  I personally don’t think God wants anyone to suffer in any way, but the stark fact is that all human beings do suffer, some terribly, some moderately and some mildly.  But the one fact we can’t get away from is that humans suffer, in all kinds of ways and for all kind of reasons, and for perhaps seemingly no discernible reason at all.  We can suffer because we feel let down by life in some way or are frustrated with our progress in life, for whatever reason.  There may in fact be myriad reasons why any particular individual does suffer.  But we suffer, and we don’t want to!  The Bible talks about peace, peace pure and simple; and most of us fall so far short of that peace that it seems laughable.  I believe God’s answer to the worst kind of depression is ultimately the only answer, the only real solution to the problem.  If He created us, then He knows us more than we know ourselves.  Asking God to help us with depression is the beginning of a journey, the beginning of a process that starts with our submission to Him and helps us to understand Him and our place in the universe, just who we are, what we are about, and why we might suffer.

So what is depression then?  I have come to believe that serious depression, that which affects a person on a profound and life-changing level, is no mere illness like a common cold, or like a sprained ankle, or anything which has a simple solution.  For me, depression can be a spiritual malaise, that might ultimately require a loving Creator to put right, along with getting our priorities right in life.  For Christians, that means putting God first and very much at the centre of our lives, and asking Him quite simply to heal us.  God has the power to heal us, but we must work with Him too.  What has taken us years to get into may not be cured overnight.  It is, I have found, a process, which will probably take time.

So, the reality of life is that we suffer, but God can aid us in our quest not to suffer, and in so many other ways too.  

The Class System

The Class system is one of the worst things about Britain, or should that really be England?  The notion is that someone who is posh and rich is better than someone who is common and not rich; and it often goes unchallenged.  If you are royalty, you are seemingly at the top of a pyramid, the most superior, the most worthy, the most intelligent, and so on and so on.  The Class system has made England a third-rate nation and a laughing stock of the world.  If we challenge the idea of racism, then why not the prejudice, bigotry and nonsense of the Class system?  Is it a cosy falsehood, cherished by some people because it makes them feel better, or more worthy, or more superior?  And just why would anyone want to feel superior anyway?  What’s all that about?  I personally don’t feel the need to feel superior to anyone else in my everyday life, why would anybody want to?

There are deeper issues here too.  I believe that when people, as individuals, or nations as groups of people, build societies on such skewed philosophies as racism, class, religious intolerance or whatever prejudice it might be, those nations are living basically a lie, and because of this hypocrisy and double-standards may flourish.  And this in societies such as England which proclaim to be modern egalitarian democracies!  And Americans might point fingers at the ‘quaintness’ and backwardness of the English Class system, and feel a sense of pride because they are more modern and egalitarian, but mention racism, and they will invariably go quiet.  So the English are not the only ones practising hypocrisy and double-standards.

As a Christian, I have thought often about what such systems mean to God.  Does He promote divisions between humans?  Does He smile on the idea of class in Britain, or racism in America?  Is it God promoting such injustice, or can human beings do that all on their own?!  Do some people use religion to justify their own intolerance, racism and bigotry?  Is Christianity in England all its cracked up to be?  Are people really loving their neighbours when they tacitly agree to division or racism or class differences?  Don’t we all know in our hearts that being on the receiving end of such prejudice, whatever form it may take, is ultimately bad and limits our progress and our happiness in one way or the other?  It also impacts on society, in ways seen and perhaps in ways unseen.  If we blithely accept injustice and what amounts to institutionalised prejudice without being particularly concerned, we are then basically living a lie, and our whole societal structure can be built upon that lie.  If we accept it in one area, we might then accept it in others.  What if English ‘Christianity’, that one very much with an institutionalised hierarchy as one of its core principles, is also built on that lie?  What then?  Is English Christianity, in part at least, a kind of sham?  A counterfeit Christianity no less?  Can anything built on injustice really last?

 I’m trying to open your eyes to the possibility that much of English society could be built on foundations of partial-truths, half-truths and even downright falsehood.  Any system is nice and cosy, if you’re placed at the top or even comfortably in the middle somewhere, but reality really hits home if you are at the bottom, or perceived to be at the bottom.  And perception is what we are talking about; are we saying these distinctions are real and natural, or are they faulty perceptions that are created and imposed cynically to allow some people to prosper and get on, while denying the same chances to others, for whatever reason?

Is Christianity in England about nice and respectable middle class people being a bit religious and finding God because they are nice and respectable and middle class?  From where I am standing, I think some of what passes for Christianity in England is exactly about this; nice people being even nicer because God recognises their niceness! You may honestly say, is this so bad after all?  Maybe it isn’t quite frankly, but if that’s all Christianity boils down to, nice people being nice, then it’s a bit of an empty bag.  What happens if you’re not particularly middle class, or you haven’t been particularly nice, or you just don’t in any way fit this kind of stereotype?  Isn’t Christianity for you then?

Many people, who benefit because of the injustices of the Class system, might say that they are good Christians; but I have found in life that it’s often not what you say, it’s what you do that really counts.  Many people might say they are Christians, but often their actions can be anything but Christian.  And the problem this creates can be manifold; it makes people who are not particularly Christian think that Christians are hypocritical, it can create a false sense of respectability in people who are not really respectable at all, and it can reflect badly on God too!  This type of hypocrisy, which it really is, can be part and parcel of organised Christianity, which can be more about pandering to a stereotyped version of Christianity than it is about really living as a Christian.  It seems to be true that some of what passes for organised Christianity just isn’t reaching out to many Christians.  Why should this be?  And what is the answer to it?

I believe we need to look closely at just what we are supposed to believe, and try to get to the heart of faith, a real living faith for real living people!  Maybe if we are honest, honest about our societies, honest about ourselves and our needs, and honest in our yearnings for a living faith, a faith that challenges us and causes us to rethink just what it is we think we know, we might find ourselves in a better position.  We might just find then that we are living truthful lives, and not in any kind of cosy falsehood.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Christianity (and anything else that I am interested in!)

This is my very first post on my very first blog! I am a budding author and have been writing for years, on and off so to speak. Although my writing is mainly centred on Christian issues, especially on connecting with God in a real and living way, I also write about other not particularly Christian things occasionally as well.

As any writer will tell you, it is not the easiest thing in the world to get published!  And I hear that writers in the Christian field are up against a very saturated market. But, I'm in for the long haul; I have no illusions about being an undiscovered genius, I'm just a wordsmith plying my trade.

So, in having the greatest desire to write, but in being frustrated at the sheer hard work it is to get published (even to get published on a website) I have decided to put my work up on a blog, for the whole world and his cat to see!

I am a Christian writer for the most part, and a writer who is a Christian. Much of what I will post here will be Christian-themed articles and ideas, and sometimes I might even put some of my photographs up with articles too.

I don't beat around the bush, and I am quite frank in my observations, especially about Christianity in the UK. However, I am not being controversial for controversy's sake, it is for a reason. I want to open up debate about many issues surrounding Christianity, debate which for me is at this time seriously lacking at times. I want to discover a real living faith that is applicable to very modern people. I sometimes think Christianity in England is more about social class, and a certain kind of niceness and respectability, than it is  about a life changing, and life-enhancing, walk with Jesus on a daily and ongoing basis. If we reduce Christianity just to niceness, then we can make it one-dimensional.

I can be serious, a bit too serious when I write about issues that I am deeply interested in, but I do have a very good sense of humour and I like to laugh, a lot in fact! So, occasionally I will put in some witty asides too. Maybe they will make you laugh; and then again, maybe not.

I want to publish things that make people think, provoke them and even make people angry; in just the way Jesus did in fact.

So, over the next few hours, days, weeks, months and years, I will be regularly adding my posts, thoughts and ideas here; I do hope you enjoy them; seriously! Oh, and I might put a few of my photos here now and again too.

T Childs. 2011.