Wednesday 8 July 2009

Talking about going public...

Sometimes people seem more than willing to make a public declaration of what they believe (or don't believe). Sometimes this is achieved by being unwittingly invited into one end of a phone conversation.

As I sat reading my book, enjoying my latte, another customer in the cafe who was sitting a couple of tables away answered his phone. His end of the call went something like this:

"Hello....yes, that's right.....sorry, who is this?.....No, I'm not interested.....No, I've tried this stuff before and it doesn't work for me......Well the whole idea of spirituality, it's kind of like one of those pyramid schemes....No, I don't need to..............."

I was intrigued and very curious as to who was on the other end of the phone call. Religious groups and pyramid schemes??? Could this be some sort of indulgences for the 21st century?

Anyway, the phone call ended with the guy giving a brief summary of his feelings towards religion which amounted to "hating organized religion because it was so closed minded."

Obviously that's not a new statement. It's been said thousands of times before. But as a person of faith with a few minutes to spare I decided to ask myself the question as to why so many people think and feel that way.

Firstly, lets get out of the way the notion of appealing to the fact that the church you or I might belong to is pretty disorganized anyway. I don't think this would help. But I can't help wondering in an ironic way how much thought and open minded analysis is actually put into making a blanket statement about such a huge, historical movement?

However, I think I understand what he was probably saying between the lines. It would be quite easy to list a handful of issues that many people would accuse "organized religion" of being closed minded about - although they probably mostly revolve around sex: who can have sex with whom; when can you have sex; what happens after you have had sex; and so on. But I can't help thinking that these and other topics are, at best, secondary issues in matters of religion and faith. If we were to take a moment to look at the primary issues I think the perception of closed mindedness could be dramatically brought into question.

Speaking from my religion - Christianity - at the heart of my faith is an ascent to these beliefs: that somehow out of complete and utter nothingness a supernatural personality, that we have come to name as God, spoke, and life and all that it means to be alive came into existence. Then several milenia latter following numerous attempts to figure out life (to varying degrees of success), this same divine power in some incredible way (God only knows how) was enfleshed and stood on the dirt that he had created. Many of us came to know him as Jesus the Christ. Then after a few years of preaching, teaching and just being, many influential people thought of this Jesus as espousing a far too liberal view of faith and had him killed. But that's not where the heart of my faith ends. (Get ready, folks. This is the point at which it turns mind blowing.) Within a short weekend that dead god-man was resurrected - not like some sort of ghostly apparition, but full on flesh and blood! And not only that, but this resurrection was a sign of a future event guaranteeing that we too would one day, somehow (there's that word again) also be resurrected from the dead!!!

I can't help thinking, how much more of an open mind do you need to believe something like that?


Snot Head said...

Good point! You are right about this not being a new statement. It rings around all over the world. I think the real problem is that we are close minded to sin. Sin is sin, and people, inlcuding myself at times, don't want to feel as though we are being controlled or told what to do. We are asked to behave in a certain way and given the choice to do what is right or what is wrong.

Many people are walking around with serious burdens and much guilt. However, they would never admit to that guilt. They certainly don't want anyone calling them out on those misdeeds and extra baggage, so it is easier in general to say that we, those who "practice a religion," namely Christianity, are not open minded to others so as to keep themselves safe, so to say.

I wish you had the opportunity to tell this man exactly what you told us here. People really need that understanding that no one is perfect. You cannot judge Christians based on a few misguided meetings. People are only missing out on a wonderful perfect love by not understanding that it is not about is about God. God is the true example of love. It is just too bad that more people don't know that.

That's our job, though, to teach. Your blog is a great place to do that.

Cosmo said...

Thanks for taking the time to reply to my thoughts. Yeah, I wish I'd made more of an effort to speak to this guy. I tried to catch his eye as he finished the call...perhaps I should have done more.

It's interesting what you say about 'sin'. Ages ago I started reading a book called Atonement for a 'Sinless' Society, in which the author suggests that the idea of 'sin' is lost on most people and perhaps we should speak more in terms of 'shame' within contemporary culture. To my shame I have yet to finish the book so I can't elaborate more!

However, a view that I do think is of great value is the understanding of the word 'sin'. In Greek - the language which most of the New Testament is written - the word is 'hamartia', which means "missing the mark" and not something to do with breaking some list of arbitrary rules. In other words, to sin is to not live up to the potential of what it means to be fully human, created in the image of God. If this is the case I may be the worst sinner around.

Unfortunately for some it is in missing that mark that lives can slip into increasingly dehumaized behaviour.