When the sun shines, optimism soars; when the dark clouds gather, optimism evaporates like the morning mist! Well, if not exclusively and literally true, I feel, at the moment, here in northern Europe, this is reflective of what is happening currently within our populations and in the news streams. In that case, this is reflective of what is happening currently within our populations and in the news streams. The backlash from Covid 19 lockdown; anger that unimaginably desperate people are fleeing to “our” shores to escape war and unbearable misery; that there could even be a debate about children going hungry; that senior government officials could use anti-asylum-seeker rhetoric, so extreme as to put dedicated lawyers lives at risk; that a teacher should be decapitated in the course of his work, no matter what his motivation, is just too much to comprehend.
I fear that, at the moment, at least, we are in a society that has lost the singular faculty of empathy, betrayed by a language of toxic and insular, egocentric navel-gazing. Those of us, who claim to know anything of the nature and generosity of God through what we believe to be revealed in Jesus, should be among the clearest and most eloquent of voices raised to redress the imbalance. And yet, what, in reality, do we all too often insist on making our issues of supposed importance?
You see, the problem is, our religion, indeed pretty well all religions espouse the virtues of compassion and forgiveness but sometimes, nevertheless, tend to look for a convenient caveat.
Of course, we all recognise how psychologists have explained the need in human society for group identity and belonging, together with a need for certainty and meaning, of which identity is a crucial component. However, our Religion, our Faith, we claim, transcends our psychological predispositions, our innate, inherited egotism, that we might expect something radically different of ourselves.
Sadly, as I experience it, there are two types of religion: dogmatic religion and gentler, spiritual religion. Religion, generally speaking, maintains a necessity for dogmatic expressions, which make us comfortable in establishing that all too important group identity. Unfortunately, this often promotes an attitude, which says, ” We are right, and everyone else is wrong”. It becomes a case of beliefs and attitudes based on absolute rules laid down by religious authorities. That others have deeply reasoned beliefs becomes seen as nothing more than a deep and personal affront.
We might ask, “How can religion generate both such inhospitable violence and, on the other hand, encourage acts of great altruism and justice?” In short, in our hearts, when we really open them, when we embrace our faith and allow that Spirit of our God to show us the possibilities of Grace, we can embody the principles of
compassion, welcome and forgiveness to the highest degree, and realise real life worth living, for everyone.
Let us together, then, so far as we have the strength and opportunity as Christians ‘in the pew’, stand against acts of savagery carried out in the name of dogmatic religion and dogmatic politics, and quietly and purposefully embrace our spiritual fidelity to express our espoused higher motivation.
We are people, and we must remember we are talking about people. Real people like you and me. Same desire for a good life, same sensations of warmth, love, tenderness, passion, loss, pain, suffering, despair, desolation!
O God, who is there to speak for the unheard, if we, who know you, remain silent?
God bless you all.
Love as always,