I got into a bit of an argument online recently (I wrote a bit about it earlier). I objected to an MP verbally abusing someone and it didn’t go down too well.
Two or three others, also Christians, came to my defence over the matter. All of my comments (I think) and theirs were reasonable, calm, without hatred and none of them mentioned God in any way.
However, we were all described as “religious haters”, hiding behind religion to mask our true natures. I was called a “mad Christian Socialist”, despite my faith and political beliefs not coming into the discussion at all.
How did it come to this? How are we at the point that having a belief in God marks you out as some sort of disaffected, angry mad man or woman? When did a belief in God become a weapon to use against you?
Well, around 2000 years ago, it seems. The reasons for doing it have changed, but the disdain has always been there.
“Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.” (Luke 6:22 NIV)
Jesus knew this would happen to his followers and is very open about it from the start. In his time, and in many parts of the world today, this involves real persecution, imprisonment, torture and even death. There are places in this world where just owning a Bible carries a death sentence, converting to Christianity leads to honour killings and Christian gatherings take place in secret for fear of violent reprisals. It’s almost like things haven’t changed in 2000 years.
Here we are blessed. In the UK, and the rest of the western world, Christianity is the majority religion. We can meet, worship and share our faith openly. In some countries the Church still has a role in the affairs of state (not that I’m really happy with that, but that’s another matter). We are free.
But, we are ridiculed as an anachronism. Out of touch idiots who believe in a big sky fairy who tells us what we can and can’t do. A lot of people won’t or can’t take us seriously as people because of it. We must be weak or deluded or both. We cling to religion as a crutch or a way of justifying our prejudices and outdated values.
How has this happened? In a country where our education system, legal system, democracy, health care and so much more have been founded around Christian values, how are we seen as the bad guys?
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.” (Luke 6:24-26 NIV)
Why, if you live in one of the world’s richest countries, would you want to hear something like that? You’re well off, well fed, have many possessions, friends, influence within the world, so what’s there to be woeful about? You don’t need God to be telling you that! In fact, you don’t need God at all. You’re doing pretty nicely, thank you. You know best.
And that is why faith is ridiculed. That is also why Jesus said what he said. You are not going to experience pain and sadness because you have money, possessions and food, but you will because of the complacency they lead to. Life without God is, ultimately, empty. Once you start telling yourself that you know best, where do you stop? Who makes the rules, the boundaries? At what point do we go from living for others to living for our own selfish needs.
Just look at the way the vulnerable are viewed and treated today. Not as people needing help, but as people who are to be divided into the “deserving and undeserving”. Even worse, there is a default position that they are undeserving and need to prove otherwise. We jealously guard our resources from those who have little or none, unless we are forced, either emotionally or legally, to do otherwise.
The poor and hungry are blessed in spirit. It’s time the rich and well fed realise that and get closer to them, in order to get closer to God. The world is broken. We need to fix it.
I’m not a religious hater. I’m not mad and angry.
I am a Christian Socialist though, guilty as charged. And I’m not ashamed of it.