Do you know this, or do you assume it?
I’ve been reading Christopher Hitchen’s book, “God is Not Great,” and I’m familiar with some of what Richard Dawkins’ thought is based on some interviews and lectures I’ve seen on TV. These authors – as well as a few others (eg. Sam Harris) – are popular these days.
I am the first to admit – as I have in previous blog entries – that the church is not without fault. There are hypocrites in the church; I know I’ve been in positions before where I’ve said one thing and done another (and, without meaning to justifying myself, I think we’ve all been there). There are things that don’t make sense in the Bible – why do some faithful Christians speak adamantly about Jesus being born of a virgin and then having a bodily resurrection?
It seems to me that, when people are quick to leap on the faithful as being misguided and believing lies, they are making assumptions about what Christianity is – and, more generally, what faith is.
If one says something like “prayer is when you do nothing, but still feel like you’re helping,” or “it’s nuts to have to fear a wrathful God in order to be good,” or “if it can’t be proved by the scientific method, it can not be considered real,” they are expressing great ignorance about what faithful people believe. These are assumptions that speak about the faith in such simplistic terms they are missing the point of it; and yet our culture seems to operate on these assumptions, allowing people to claim an expert opinion on something they, apparently, know little about.
While I may be coming down hard on an atheistic perspective, I’m also conscious that people within the very broad Christian tradition might make assumptions about me, also a “Christian.” I would want people to get to know me better before they would, for example, want me to sign a petition to teach “intelligent design” in the public school system. I’ve enjoyed reading a blog that exposes, with good humour, “Stuff that Christian Culture Likes” and that touches on many of the things that are assumed within the very broad Christian tradition.
Christian faith – when practiced in a thoughtful way – is not about conditions and being scared of a supernatural being. It is about living in a way where we are considerate of all. That means, we consider the experience and feelings of others – whether they are the same as ours or different. It means that we consider that all life is sacred, and so we take time to honour life and give thanks for life. It means that we consider how we – each of us – are part of a greater, inter-connected web of life. I think these apply to Christianity, but probably also to all the other great faith traditions of the world.
Specific to the Christian faith, we might lift up these primary marks of the faith: being generous, showing hospitality, not coveting, not being vengeful, and observing sabbath rest (credit: Walter Brueggemann, based on Paul’s letter to the Romans).
Yes, there’s prayer. Yes, we believe in God. No, we can not prove it by the scientific method. But we know that life is because we are. …and so we pause to reflect on the gift of life at regular intervals, and we lift up occasions that are special in peoples’ lives to celebrate, lament, grieve, and reflect on it all. This year, Pentecost Sunday is May 23rd. On Pentecost, we give thanks for life together and a spirit that drives us all.