Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Why Religion Still Makes Me Cross, Part 10: Go In Peace to Love and Serve...?

Anglican congregations rise to close their services with a hymn, and so they are already standing tall – perhaps invigorated by the imminent prospect of coffee and then Sunday lunch – when the Reverend exhorts them to “Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord”. But I feel obliged to exclaim “by Jove, isn’t that rather a lot to ask?”, having established (see parts II, VII, and VIII) that the Lord of the Bible - in His transcendence - cannot be anything other than unknown in every strict or verifiable sense. Good luck to individuals who undertake to guess what kind of “service” He wants, especially if they hope to come up with an answer and achieve a consensus; pity them, given the persistent inability to agree (ranging from petty bickering to out-and-out discord) which explains why religion makes religious people cross!

So then, with no solution, no resolution, and therefore with no clear Way to serve Him in sight, why do Christian solders march on? They’re hampered to the point of being ineffectual – incapable of coming together to choose between a frontal assault and a pincer movement, or even agree on which hill to take in the first place – so why don’t they demob? Well, perhaps that’s mostly because there is a security that comes with the expectation of a pending capital-T Truth; that can appear to outweigh the insecurity associated with the inability to define that Truth now, or agree on the Way to realise it. Unless… it could be that all the schisms and long-winded disputes conceal a hidden purpose: the Anglican Communion alone − without even needing to enlist other sects, or make anything of their divergences − may one day create enough hot air to fill a giant balloon so that they can float to Heaven. Why else sit there in General Synod and, straight faced, situate antagonised arguments about the “problem” of homosexuality alongside moral debates concerning poverty and climate change?

Another thing, the Godhead doesn’t need serving, or praising, or prayer. He’s ok, up there being sung to sleep every night by heavenly hosts. Surely He’s big enough to take care of Himself, and I see no reason to single Him out for special treatment just because He’s rumoured to be Older, Wiser, and more Powerful than the rest of us. (The that Humans are ‘lesser beings makes “Humanist” start to sound like a form of discrimination, like “sexist” or “racist”! Are Christian’s “Humanist” in that sense?) No, if we are to serve at all lets stay focussed on helping one another, because life isn't easy for us mortals. (Not that we can care for each other without also caring for ourselves, for no one would be happy and all our efforts would be wasted if everyone were to confuse “goodness” with misery and self-sacrifice!)

Of course the mystery of God is still there – distracting, perplexing, and generally getting in the way – somehow secure within a cultural milieu which politely accepts long-standing fallacies. Clearly I don’t like it, and yet you know, for now I do myself some favours if I can accept and come to terms with it, rather than become angry or demoralized (and as such ineffectual). Life goes on, even though we cannot be sure that life will offer us what we want, or anything at all: we cannot be sure that life will always give us secularism any more than health, money, or status, just as Christians certainly cannot be sure of God or Heaven. But I say to you: there is still always meaning in what you can give or offer – through your attitudes and actions – and in the love that you (uniquely, like no other) can feel or create even if the harshest and most hopeless circumstances. That’s everything, and that’s enough.

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