04 Jan Not under attack – just a little bit bored
I was recently asked by someone whether I felt under attack.
They asked because I am a Christian and a Christian Minister. They wondered if I felt like I was being hassled or harangued, accused or silenced in our culture, because of my faith.
I suspect the question was prompted by the recent rhetoric of politicians, both in Australia and internationally, who have warmed to the idea of suggesting that Christianity is under attack. They suggest that somehow people are not free to express their Christian faith because of rabid political correctness.
I responded by explaining that I did not feel under attack. But I did feel a bit frustrated and bored by the level of conversation about faith and religion in our culture.
Rich theology is embedded within Christianity. In our vast tradition, deep thinking and complex and challenging writing engages with the most interesting and salient questions of existence.
Our sacred texts are multilayered, contradictory and breathtaking and invite intellectual and spiritual exploration. This investigation can take a lifetime.
The multitude of strands in Christian prayer traditions, from ancient meditation practices to prayer walking in the bush, are food that offer enrichment for the soul and ways to enter into transformative abiding with the Divine in the midst of messy life.
The ridiculous, costly, liberating challenge to love neighbour and to love self, at the same time, is close to the heart beat of the Jesus way and disrupts common misconceptions about the ‘good life’ in our society.
The conviction that even when we make a shocking mess of all of this, the Divine, the God who pitches tent among us in Jesus, is willing to scoop us up and forgive us, continues to be startling good news.
I would like to have more conversations about these things.
However, while Christianity is reduced to a simplistic two dimensional version of itself, that is about using words like ‘merry’ or not swearing, or is cast as a naive wishful thinking program, both by those in the church and by those who reject the church, we are all impoverished.
Equally, when the defence of Christianity is somehow tied up with implicit, or explicit, attacks upon those who are from different faith traditions, the very core of Christianity is betrayed, tragically, by those claiming to be Christians.
Religion is not the opiate of the masses in our culture. Distracted consumerism, whether it be the consumption of social media, or of material goods, is our society’s toxic and numbing opiate of choice. Political and cultural conversation would be deeply enriched if this was acknowledged more often. For those who recognise their hunger, who cannot pretend to be satiated by the next hit or like, who long to go deeper, who want to wrestle with questions of truth and life, purpose, faith, doubt and the Divine, authentic engagement with religion can provide the spaciousness needed to explore these questions openly and honestly.
This is the Christianity I know and love and it will continue to flow regardless of whether people say ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Holidays’ next year.
Rev Dr Sally Douglas