I’ve had it in mind for some time to write the definitive opinion piece on Christian faith for people who are wary of ‘religion’. This is not that piece. These are just questions that it occured to me to reflect on, this Sunday afternoon. Although I hope they will provoke a response my reflections are just that. Mine. They don’t carry any more or less weight than yours. My apologies in advance to anyone offended by what might seem to be some frivolous observations.
If you are still reading, that is at least a start!
Is Christian faith subversive? . . . . Absolutely and utterly! I for one, wouldn’t have it any other way.
If it were not subversive and completely counter-cultural I would not still be a Christian. A set of platitudes about ‘doing unto others’ I can get anywhere. I have no time for religion that is based on feel-good stuff, or meeting standards of behaviour, or lists of things we need to do to get to Heaven.
My faith has nothing to do with rules or commandments, and nobody I know has a ghost of a chance of getting to what they imagine as Heaven by their own efforts, as shocking as that may at first sound. My faith has everything to do with seeing the world through different eyes; eyes that have been opened to see things that matter. I’ve tried, but I can’t distill the Gospel into a sentence or two in a way that satisfies me, so how am I going to satisfy you? If you want to know what the Christian Gospel really says, reading one or more of the Gospels in the Bible is a good place to start. What it really says may be something quite different from what you had thought it said.
Do ‘Christian faith’ and ‘religion’ go together? . . . Yes and no. Some of the most deeply spiritual Christians I know wouldn’t see themselves as being particularly religious. Some of the most religious people I know, I would not rush to describe as Christian.
Religion is about outward observance of rules. It is about buildings (churches) and about power structures. Religion has its uses. It’s not necessarily good or bad, but it has only a passing association with what Christian faith is all about. Religion concerns itself with matters like church membership and public morality. Maybe this explains the widespread popular resentment against ‘religious’ people trying to interfere in others’ lives?
Some Christians may focus on attending Sunday services and on the life and work of the church. Some may base their lives on an intimate relationship with Jesus and not be too concerned with the corporate church. Others may hold religious observance and personal faith in some sort of balance.
Does religion have anything to do with faith in God? . . . Here and there, yes. Religion is rules and structure and procedures; all outward stuff. Religion is what humans have done to formalise doctrine and keep people in line. Faith is what goes on inside a person.
A person with Christian faith may or may not be deeply religious. Although they are frequently used as if they have the same meaning, the two terms really talk about different things.
If the Christian story has been rejected early in life, is there any point in revisiting it later from a more mature perspective?
. . . I believe so. This doesn’t only apply to religion or faith. What we reject as a teenager may or may not be based on juvenile understandings. Some things we can only really appreciate with the benefit of experience and wisdom. Ideas we dismissed as a teenager can often make new sense when seen through adult eyes. To use a trivial example: Going through life with a mental image of Heaven as a place up in the clouds where people play harps and where a white bearded God sits on a throne seems a little sad to me. I am often amazed or amused (not sure which) to hear adults using childish caricatures of spiritual concepts to explain their rejection of ‘religion’. We throw off many of our adolescent understandings and perspectives as we grow to adulthood. Why should we not take time to look at spiritual concepts through adult eyes?
I don’t know where all that came from. I just sat down to think about my own faith and it started from there. Thanks for reading.