It has been a long time since I did a blog post. But this last week has raised so many issues that I felt it was time I pontificated, or maybe that should be: ‘expressed my opinion’. This is as much for me to clarify what I think/believe as anything else. About a week ago, I read this by Damian Thompson on The Spectator website. Now, he is not someone with whom I agree a lot of the time, but he wrote this:
“The states where faith is reshaping politics tend to be those whose failure would be disastrous for the West. Yet — and this point can’t be stressed too often — our leaders know next to nothing about world religions, including those whose adherents have arrived on their doorstep. They’d better start learning, fast.”
He’s dead right.
I read theology at university. My main area of interest was the challenge to religious belief in the 19th and 20th centuries. I went to a very old, traditional, university so of course (back in the early 80s) ‘belief’ referred to Christianity. Back then, we decided that God was dead, or, at the very least, in ill-health. Then, I never would have imagined how much religious belief would now underlie virtually everything going on in global politics. Eat your heart out Richard Dawkins. (Btw, I think Dawkins is misunderstood by many. His main problem is that he’s as narrow minded as most religious fundamentalists over the issue of religion, and he has yet to master how to express himself well within 140 characters. But he writes wonderfully well on the subject on which he is extremely well qualified to write, viz, evolutionary biology).
Voltaire wrote “If God created us in his own image, we have more than reciprocated”. We are human. The only way in which we can hope to explain a concept such a ‘God’ is in using anthropomorphic language. Therein lies the problem; because it is a small step between the description of God in anthropomorphic language to the circumscription of God inside the human-centric world view.
But that’s the macro scene. Then, there’s the micro level.
This week, in the media I follow, Vicky Beeching came out as a gay, evangelical Christian. Many will have found this oxymoronic. You have to have had some experience of evangelical Christianity to have some understanding of how significant this is. And how very courageous she has been. I was moved and impressed by what was written about this in The Independent this week and in the Channel 4 News feature. The whole sexuality issue so often features in discussions about religion. It is an incredibly important issue but there is something deeper underlying this. That is, that 'God' and 'faith' are contextually based and understood within a particular world view. The books of the Bible (and the Koran and any other number of religious texts the world over) were written by men, often inspired by God (my own belief here) but by men who had the world-view of their day. We, here in Britain today, have (for want of a better phrase) a ‘scientific’ world-view. So I immediately understood what Vicky Beeching meant when she took on a fundamentalist pastor in C4 News. He advocated an understanding of human sexuality based upon a world-view of a God who created a man and a woman designed to procreate. That is the only reason for sex. (Though I’d like to bet said pastor, well over the age of 50, has not given up sex). He took the Old Testament context and froze it in time to be God's revealed, immutable 'truth'. Contemporary psychological understanding of sexuality indicates something different and surely the Christian message, divorced from sociological and cultural trappings, has to be that love and partnership are about respect and honesty in relationships and concerned for the integrity of the individual (rather than a cognitive dissonance) at the personal level. It’s about ‘wholeness’ not ‘holiness’.