There has been a lot in the press lately about David Cameron's extolling of his Christian faith. Some eminent humanists have accused him of being alienating and divisive for suggesting that Britain is a Christian country, though none of these clever people have grasped the irony of their own divisive letter writing. Why is the word 'Christian' so offensive? A Christian is simply a follower of Christ and therein lies the problem. Christ wound up the religious and legalistic folk in his day, just as his followers wind up (to the letter) the religious and legalistic folk in the present, for following (admittedly often lamely and sometimes admirably) that teller of the truth, Jesus Christ. There is no religious zeal more potent than that I have seen in atheists such as Richard Dawkins or Peter Tatchell, whom I once went to talk to as he demonstrated outside All Soul's Langham Place. He insisted to me that "You Christians hate homosexuals." I assured him that 'we' or at least I and the 'we' I knew, did not. "Well your leaders do then," he said. I assured them, that 'my leaders,' who are not Anglican (so perhaps not recognised?) did not hate homosexuals.
There is a lot of confusion in the public arena about what Christians actually are - and some confusion in actual Christians too, but we are all evolving Mr Dawkins! - science not being incompatible with religion (another confusion!) by God's grace (and the indwelling power of The Holy Spirit, but let's keep things simple). As far as I could tell at the demonstration mentioned above, the hatred was not coming from the Christians, and so it has been, down the ages. I spoke to Peter in a loving and peaceful (I hope), though frank way, I felt genuinely sad, apologetic and somewhat puzzled (though I am not ignorant of the debate) that he felt like this. After this brief exchange he complained that I was in the way of the cameras. I invited some of the placard carriers to church - they haven't been yet. Perhaps if we sat down together more often and got to know each other better that might be a start. One of my dear friends who is in a lesbian relationship told me that she was abandoned by her church after she met her girlfriend. This is very sad. There has to be a way forward for all of us who seek to follow Jesus – He is The Way forward.
Back to Christians winding people up. Why do people get so hot under the collar about Christians? Is it because Jesus made it clear that He was God and then set about proving it - fancy! Instead of giving a plethora of 'God' options - why would He? I suggest that Christians are often roundly hated because they tell the truth of and about Jesus Christ and refuse to entertain other options - why would you if you felt you had discovered the truth? Christians believe Jesus is The Truth, so why bother with 'untruth' offensive as that may sound to followers of not The Way, though they are entitled to their choice and not vilified for taking it - given, in the main, that they are reasonably peaceable (though hypocrites and bigots are to often to be found in their ranks and all sorts of sinners too), but then Jesus came to save sinners so they are welcome, besides Jesus did provide a way out of sin. Did you breathe while you read that gasp of a sentence? Christians are often a 'soft target.' Given they believe God is all powerful they do not feel they have to defend Him (or indeed themselves) - as say, the Muslims do. How annoying that they will not fight back! An extra bloody nose for that too.
Back to the whole human family. Deep down we are surely all looking for truth as long as we are reasonably sentient. It is what we look for in love, in justice, in peace. It is what we seek in all high art. It is the noblest quest, the deepest depth we are likely to ever dive to, though many run from it - because, the truth can sometimes be uncomfortable. Often a lie, a 'let's kid ourselves a bit longer,' is more palatable and less confrontational than: The Truth. The truth is often baldly offensive, it, like Jesus, offers up no other option, and as such the truth can strip one naked in its glaring light that shows up ‘the flawed’ - as of course we all are. Let us stop being arrogant and religious and let us believe the truth as we see it without condemning one another. For those of us who are followers of Jesus, our fulcrum of understanding is Jesus and his death on the cross for our sakes. Let Him be the one who shines the light on our hearts in order to gently expose, correct and heal. Let us encourage one another in the process, as we are all flawed yet uniquely made with inimitable potential for understanding and progress.