Now, I like to think I’m a pretty reasonable kind of guy. Maybe I’m not, maybe I’m just deluding myself and I am in fact one of the more obstinate and unreasonable people. But that’s what I think and what I’m allowed to think. No one’s actively stopping me from doing that, yet. But there are those that might want to stop me doing other things because they think that it interferes with them in some way. Take religion. I’m a bishop, of sorts, I’m still not going to explain how I came to be one and what precisely it involves and it’s not all that relevant to my point, but nevertheless I’m a bishop and I believe in God and I understand that one Christ’s many instructions to those that follow Him and His Father is to strive to live our lives in every way to be like him. I don’t always manage that. I’ve spent a reasonable amount of time today swearing to myself at the impossibility of getting duck legs in this city. I’m making Cassoulet tonight and I need them. Maybe it would have been more Christian to simply go “Hey, ho, I can use breast instead, at least I’m not actually starving, I mean one of our bishops in Thailand is being persecuted by the local authorities get a sense of perspective.” but still, duck legs, it’s not exactly a big ask, is it?
Anyway, fella tweeting under Cristina Odone’s blog said that Religion must be marginalised. I wondered at that and at his apparent fondness for freedom and questioned him on it. As I see it, if marginalisation is to be put on something then this implies that an external restriction must be applied to the behaviours of others. Christian acts are the very stuff of Christianity and if they are to be pushed aside, as marginalisation implies, then the Christians themselves who would be performing these acts would also have to be pushed aside and as such their freedoms would be affected.
There then followed a very twittering conversation wherein I tried to get him to elucidate and he repeated his comments and (dis)beliefs at me. Not to much avail on either side, it’s twitter I didn’t expect miracles.
Part of the problem here, of course, is that it’s very hard to talk to anyone with whom you have a fundamental disagreement. Approaching an issue from diametrically opposing views is bound to result in collision unless one goes chicken. In this case I did, for two reasons. Firstly I could see that we were going nowhere fast and secondly I needed to ring my local Italian deli and check whether they have cannellini beans (they do).
On this going nowhere fast, I could also see that for my own satisfaction a blog made sense (and here we are!)
As a religious sort of chap I often find it hard to talk to Atheists, when discussing with anyone it helps to be able to empathise with their position. It’s hard to empathise with anyone who starts off about “Sky fairies”, “Bronze age” and the “idiocy” of my beliefs as an opener. And yet empathise I must if any headway is to be made in such a debate, even if they are unwilling to do so themselves!
Now, I can understand how for an Atheist faced with religion in modern society it can be like a vegan faced with a bacon double cheese burger. Everything that they have rejected is encapsulated therein. But at the same time they ought to understand that our societal structure is very much grounded in religion, it has been part and parcel of the lives of ourselves and of our forefathers for thousands of years. Rejecting that and leaving the structure can only leave some of us impoverished. Is it alright to impoverish some to the perceived betterment of others?
Now I’m not going to take the tack of “Oh, if you reject all religion then you lose your moral code” that some would here. It’s stupid and childish, I went through a crisis of faith myself a few years ago and I didn’t rush out and knife anyone.
But if you are to say to Christians or anyone of any faith “OK, you can be religious, but don’t do it in front of anyone”, then all acts of Christian charity just get binned. Various religious based charities, replete with good works, would have to shut down. If a vicar helped an old lady in the street he would be chastised. It’d be nuts.
But at the same time, as Christians we need to accept that there are those who simply do not want to share out beliefs. How should we treat these people? Well we should treat them as we treat everyone, with Christian understanding. We’ve been told to spread the Good News, but these people have already heard it and have rejected it, the only person who hasn’t would be a hermit and you don’t get atheist hermits. Repeating the Good News to them is probably as tedious to them as them going “Oooh, sky fairies” is to us, and as puerile. They’ve heard the Good News, they aren’t ready, maybe they’ll come to it in time, maybe they won’t. Pray for them (but not too overtly, no one has been badgered into true belief ever.) And when they start laying into us about how our beliefs stomp all over their freedoms (but apparently completely changing our way of life for them doesn’t affect our freedoms in the slightest) try to talk to them as long as you can bear it and then turn the other cheek (make up some excuse about beans or something and get out of there).
You know, if someone had mentioned this sort of thing to the Council in Bideford then maybe Clive Bone wouldn’t have been moved to his frivolous “Oh I’m offended” lawsuit.
Still, we have to take the hand we’re dealt and move forward.
Go with God. Bless you all.