It’s certain that all of us at some time in our lives will have trials and tribulations, that we will go through things that we wouldn’t choose and that make us feel miserable or just under pressure. I write about this because at this time I am going through some trials of my own. I feel somehow that through them, God is trying to draw me closer to Him. I have had a serious cold with flu like symptoms and on top of it all I had a painful cough too; no fun at all and frankly I could have done without it. On top of this, I fell foul of officialdom and struggled to sort things out while I wasn’t at all well. At the same time, I am waiting for a breakthrough in my Christian life and have been praying to God for many months now for spiritual help and guidance in my life. It seems I am either suffering or waiting; and sometimes both. It’s absolutely certain that no one likes to suffer, and few of us like waiting for things; we want everything to be good and we want what we want right now. But God, I think, has other plans. ‘My brothers, consider it a great joy when trials of many kinds come upon you, for you well know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance, and perseverance must complete its work so that you will become fully developed, complete, not deficient in any way.’ (James 1:2-4 NJB)
I have written about class and social injustice for a long time, and posted many of the posts on my blog. I feel that God does not want us ever to act unjustly to other people, nor to exploit other people ruthlessly or to simply disregard other people and their wants and needs. At the same time, I admit that I have a ‘bee in my bonnet’ about it all. From time to time, I feel it is necessary to debate such issues, but if we do too much, or take too much on, we can become jaded with it all, and it can become like an albatross around our necks so to speak. It has become a stronghold, and goodness knows, I have enough of them already to deal with! I have anger issues, because I was bullied at school, and I have issues with people disagreeing with me, because I am (or certainly was) very opinionated at times. I believe that anger is very much a stronghold, and even if we think we have a good reason to be angry with another person, or just to be angry in general, it can make us miserable and sometimes we can become the person we don’t want to be. I also have had a problem with women too, as I think many men do, but equally even if we have a good reason to be angry or upset, we can make more problems for ourselves by indulging our anger or our hatred or even our self-righteousness. Strongholds can also be from a root of bitterness, and I confess that at times I have been a bitter person. Strongholds and a root of bitterness do not make good Christians, in fact it can send us off on a tangent, away from God and into our own selfishness and self-importance. ‘For although we are human, it is not by human methods that we do battle. The weapons with which we do battle are not those of human nature, but they have the power, in God's cause, to demolish fortresses. It is ideas that we demolish, every presumptuous notion that is set up against the knowledge of God, and we bring every thought into captivity and obedience to Christ.’ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NJB) Not only can we develop strongholds, we can become like a stronghold, aloof, proud, lacking in decency and wanting to keep everyone at arm’s length, especially if we have been hurt by people in the past for one reason or another. We have to take a chance on love, we have to be willing to be vulnerable even if that means that sometimes people hurt us, or take us for granted or otherwise let us down in some way.
The Christian Right
I have been reading a book called ‘American Fascists’ by a writer called Chris Hedges. It talks about the way some Christianity in the United States has been hijacked by certain people and combined with very Right-wing politics and the belief in unfettered capitalism. He writes earnestly about that he fears that such ideology will take over America and challenge America’s long standing traditions of liberty, freedom, free speech and the desire to live any way any American may choose. After reading some of the book, I have come to believe that we cannot link Christianity with any worldly and temporal thing. Even though my view is that genuine Christianity, the faith lived out on a daily basis, has far more in common with Left-wing politics and Socialism, I still don’t feel that we should particularly link the two things together. In short, our faith as Christians must come first. I confess that I am a Left-winger and have always been so from an early age, and don’t feel that my faith is compromised by my political stance. In the final analysis though, I am a Christian first and everything else second. I believe this is the way God wants me to be. So, I too am suspicious of the Christian Right, and I wonder what their agenda is and what their aims truly are. Perhaps we will have to wait and see.
The Great and the Good
We have just seen a new pope elected, and so far there is a good vibe about him. He is it seems a man of the people and lived simply and frugally in Argentina when he was a cardinal and eschewed the trappings of high office. I’m not a Catholic so don’t have strong opinions either way, but by and large it seems they may have made the right choice. I may add one caveat; one of the problems I have with anyone born to or gaining high office of some kind, is that somehow we assume that they will have the answers to all the world's problems, or suddenly they will be able to solve all the world’s problems. It is, of course, wishful thinking. Many of the faithful seem to invest all their hopes in a new pope, and in England just look at the way some royalists regard Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles; they are treated, along with some other royals, almost as if they are gods and everything they say is of the utmost importance and is filled with significance and meaning. But, you know, at the end of the day, they are only human beings and they don’t have all the answers however much we wished they did. As a Christian, I look to Jesus for guidance and He has all the answers we need. Yes a good pope or a good queen is a blessing to the world, but they are not divine after all.