There’s only One way of life…

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I was watching The One Show tonight (Yes,  I watch The One Show. Get over it.) and the star and writer of the marvellously funny Rev,  Tom Hollander,  was on. He had mentioned the ridiculous amount of plastic carrier bags polluting the Atlantic Ocean and,  in connection with an item on scientific innovation, suggested that,

“Science is destroying the planet,  so maybe it can help to fix it too.”

And I thought, yes! Science is destroying the planet!  This ‘great force for reason and good’ is actually a force of destructive,  ruinous evil which will be the end of us all!

Let’s look at the evidence. Science has given us guns,  nuclear bombs and chemical weapons; instruments of great suffering and mass killings.

Science has given us vehicles and factories which belch out greenhouse gases,  changing the climate and choking the vulnerable.

Science has given us the race to create so much new technology that we strip our planet of its natural resources,  leaving our children or grandchildren with a barren Earth.

Science has allowed us to create working practices which sacrifice services and jobs in place of efficiency and profit

Science is evil.  It has destroyed lives,  jobs and our world. 

Hasn’t it?

Of course,  it hasn’t.  Science is,  more often than not,  a force for great good.  Medicines saving lives,  communications bringing people closer,  the ability to predict and survive disasters,  cleaner and safer energy,  the list goes on and on.

Science is clearly not evil,  but some people have chosen to use it for selfish or evil means. They have twisted its intentions and practices for their own ends with no regard for the good it can do.

The same goes for religion. It is a common argument that religion is a force for evil.  The scourge of the world.  The cause of all of its ills.

This is also patently untrue. Religion has,  of course, and continues to be used for great evil. Wars,  torture,  oppression, murder, abuse of power, mental and physical abuse and brainwashing are just some of the evils carried out in the name of religion.

They are not,  however,  the reason for the existence of religion.  Religion exists in order to help to bring peace, order, love and salvation to a chaotic world. It exists to bring people closer to the higher power people call God.

Religion has been used to create organised health care,  mass education, peace work, the fight against poverty, campaigning against human trafficking and many other great things. 

The fact is that religion,  in itself,  is neither good or evil.  Science,  in itself,  is neither good or evil.  How people choose to use these tools determines how we view them.  People choose to be good or evil.

It’s easy to focus on the bad points of something you disagree with and call it evil.  It’s easy to focus on the good points of something you agree with and call it perfect. The fact is that very few things are either bad or good,  it’s purely how we choose to use them which determine that.  Where religion is concerned,  only God is truly perfect.  His followers aren’t,  which is why so much evil is done in his name.

Jesus commands us to love, be peacemakers, show forgiveness and help the poor,  sick and vulnerable.  He also calls out those who don’t do any of these things and asks us to do the same. We can’t stop evil,  but we can help to shine a light on it,  and on good,  and help to point people down the right path.

We need to take responsibility for the actions of human beings,  rather than  blame concepts for evil.  And we need to find a better way,  the right way,  to run our lives and the world.

We have been given the way by Jesus,  and we can do our best to follow his example.

Lent Day 30: John 1-2

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I love science. I love the way it has unlocked so many of the mysteries of the world and the universe. I love the advances we have made in technology and medicine in order to improve people’s quality of life. I love the way it is constantly tested and challenged to ensure progress for correct theories and that wrong ones are stopped in their tracks. I love the fact that it is evidence based, constantly proving to us new ideas and discoveries and expanding the boundaries of human knowledge and achievement.

I don’t love the way that it has been set up as some sort of antidote to God, and vice versa.

I’ve always felt that science and “religion” (for want of a better word) are two sides of the same coin; science explaining how things are and religion explaining why things are. One is based on rigorous testing and evidence, the other on faith, interpretation and observation.

Science cannot explain what gives something beauty. Why a flower is pretty, a piece of music is exciting or a piece of writing so moving.

Today I have visited Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. It’s a reconstruction, opened in the 1990s, of what the original is believed to have looked like. It is a stunning wooden structure with an open, thatched roof and the most beautiful artwork on its permanent set. It has been put together because of a collective love of theatre, particularly the works of one man who wrote in the 16th and 17th centuries and whose plays transcend all others in the English language.

But what makes that so? Why do Shakespeare’s writings survive and thrive 400 years after his death? Why is he so revered?

The main reasons are, firstly, that his use of language is so wonderfully creative and beautiful. So many of his words are used in every day speech (see the picture at the top). He had a way of writing that brings joy, laughter, sadness, anger, fear, power, love and so many other emotions to life.

That’s part of the second reason, the way he is able to explain so much of the human condition through his writings. Whether it’s the hopeless love of Romeo and Juliet, self worshipping pride of Richard II, the descent into depression of Hamlet, the ruthless ambition of MacBeth or the patriotic heroism of Henry V, Shakespeare was able to show us everything as it was, allowing us to feel sympathy, even for characters who committed awful acts as he paints a vivid picture of what internal and external influences drive them.

But all of this is taken on trust. None of it can be repeated under laboratory conditions because we all react differently to each other to different events and we all react differently ourselves depending on our state of mind.

We simply can’t explain why something we see, hear or feel affects us in a certain way. We can explain, as I’ve attempted to do, why Shakespeare is so endearingly popular, but not why he is more so than other writers or why some don’t like his writing at all. Ultimately it’s down to something too intangible to fully explain.

That’s how I feel about faith, about God and why the start of John’s Gospel sums it up so perfectly for me. It is written in such beautiful language, explaining Jesus in a way which makes sense, but I actually can’t explain. I can explain how he brings light in the darkness, helping us to see the world as it really is. I can see how he was there at the beginning, as part of the creation of the Universe.

But I can’t explain how he is God and is in relationship with God. I can’t explain how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all God, but are one being as well as three. I can’t explain how,

“Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.” (John 1:16 NIV)

I can’t explain it, but it makes sense to me. Even though I can’t quite make sense of it. In much the same way as Shakespeare explains humanity in a way in which I can explain by dissecting the words and actions, but can’t actually make sense of what that spark inside it all is which gives his writings such life, so the same is true of John’s writing. It is beautiful, moving and explains the nature of Jesus as divine perfectly, I just can’t tell you why that is.

And that is faith. It’s why faith and science are so different, but not incompatible. Some things defy explanation, because they just don’t need it. They simply are. They just make sense, and that’s all we need to know.