One of the things that challenges me is just how do I fill in certain bits of my Facebook Profile page…in particular the bits on the Info tab called “Political Views” and “Religious Views”. I used to define myself as politically ‘moderate’ and religiously as an ‘unconventional Christian’; somehow I can’t own those any more, and it’s caused me a lot of mental aggro.
Let’s start with the political stuff. Moderate is probably just an excuse for “I’m really not that involved or interested in politics so I’m not going to commit myself.” It probably reflects my age, and to some extent how self-centred and politically lazy I’ve become too.
I’m following the debates and promises of the various parties as we approach another general election, but find it difficult to disentangle the way through the web of past failures and future promises, coupled with our adoption of the cult of personality even among our politicians. I can see it will be a tough call for whoever forms the next Government.
So do I choose the competent Chancellor who made the mistake of following possible the most charismatic and latterly hated Prime Ministers of the recent past, the slimy Eton/Oxford Grad who preys on our fears of the state we’re in (neither of whom seem to inhabit the same world as me), the nice, boy-next-door who did soooo well on the telly, the Scottish Nationalists (I live in Scotland remember) who impress me with what actually appears to be a people-before-policies way of running this country but who “don’t have a chance of influencing Westminster politics” (so the Lib Dem and Conservative leaflets tell me – I’ve met the local SNP candidate and like him a lot!). This begins to sound more like a series of X-Factor or Britain’s Got Talent than an election.
So after much thought, I’ve changed my political views to: DISAPPOINTED BUT HOPEFUL. I hope to goodness the next Government prove me right!
I think I’ve been a bit wary of the label “Christian” for a while, which is probably why I tried to soften it a bit with the word “unconventional”. Before the doctrine police come to get me, let me emphasise I am not ashamed of Christ, I’m proud to be known as one of his followers. It occurs to me, that the early followers of Jesus didn’t use it either, preferring the much more dynamic “Followers of the Way” until the term “Christian” was coined in Antioch. Even then, the New Testament doesn’t seem to use the name much (3 times, I think, twice in Acts and once in 1 Peter)…
I’m reading a superbly disturbing new book on Pilgrimage, by Charles Foster (*1), and something he wrote clarified things a bit and inspired this ramble (a well chosen word).
“Phyllis Tickle has noted that every few centuries the church needs to hold a rummage sale to clear out the accumulated rubbish; the non-essentials; the clothes that seemed to be a good idea at the time but turned out to be ridiculous; the gadgets bought because of a salesman’s silver tongue but which, far from being impossible to live without, proved pointless or dangerous.(*2)
It’s high time for another clear-out. Let’s build the pile high. There are two obvious things to chuck out. The first is the ugly, alien, proto-Germanic name “God”…And fast behind “God” should come our name, “Christian”. The Bible’s not particularly keen on it, and the brand is fatally, irredeemably stained and compromised. A recent survey in the United States asked respondents what they associated with the word ‘Christian’. “Anti-gay” was the most popular response, followed ignobly by “judgemental” and “hypocritical”. “Christian” has to go. We’ve wrecked the word.”
While I’m not sure how far I go with him, there is no doubt that to many people “Christian” is not a nice word, not because people reject Jesus but because they’re less than keen about the way some of us Christians behave.
So, I’ve changed my “Religious Views” entry to “WALKING WITH JESUS”. This seems better to me, partly because it leaves people with no doubt about who I’m following and partly because of the challenge that it presents me with. It means that if I’m walking with Jesus I need to keep my eye on Him, to make certain I don’t miss a turn He takes, or wander off on a path of my own.
I hope I can keep up with Jesus as he walks…although I have a sneaking suspicion he might just be prepared to walk at my pace when I need Him to.
*1 Charles Foster, The Sacred Journey, 2010, Thomas Nelson, Nashville
*2 Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence, 2008, Baker Books, Grand Rapids,