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Walking The Talk

June 11, 2012

I went to a baptist church last Sunday to catch up with some old friends I hadn’t seen in a while. The service was primarily simple choruses to praise God and Jesus, accompanied by much arm waving. There were prayers in which God was implored to send us all out in power to heal the world and for it not to be  ‘just singing’ and the sermon was based on a passage in Nehemiah, which was the only reading we had.

I got very little out of all this, but had a very interesting conversation with one of my friends after the service. We discovered we had a lot of views in common; we were talking about love in action and how important it is to ‘walk the talk’.

Where we differ is that he thinks he needs God to help him and that he is flawed and sinful and imperfect. I, on the other hand, think that all people have the ability to re-create themselves daily and to grow into better and kinder people, just by the will to behave so. Having once been a believer in God, I can say that my attitude to the world has not altered since I became convinced that God is a delusion. In fact, I think that the belief that I could do nothing in my own strength and needed God, was a disabling philosophy for me. I now say ‘I think I can’ and just take the first step and see where it goes. If I saw few ‘miracles’ as a Christian I seem to see many as a Unitarian – not the supernatural kind, but the small and amazing happenings that follow in the wake of some act of kindness and concern for another and the seemingly limitless power that is in a smile or a hug.

When asking Christian ministers why they are not willing to offer to the community, on a regular basis, some spiritual gathering (or ‘service’) that is geared more to nurturing all present, rather than appealing to the dwindling few who want the old traditions and liturgies unaltered, Sunday by Sunday, I am told that this would ’empty’ Christianity of all its content and that it would be too diluted and so on.

I can only reply to this, that the rich, inspiring and interactive worship experience I receive from  my Unitarian community in Islington seems far from empty to me. It provides much for mind , heart and spirit to feast upon, whereas the Christian service I described at the start of this blog post, was one-dimensional, lacking in variety and extremely boring. I endured it, rather than being moved to participate. I would rather connect meaningfully with the occasion and not to merely be there to meet up with friends after the religious bit is over. 

So many voices within the Church now are speaking and writing that Christianity has to climb out of the straitjacket of orthodoxy and resurrect itself to speak to the modern world with any power. The moral and philosophical debate is moving on away from the Church which seems intent on digging itself into a grave.

Writers like John Churcher, Richard Holloway, Karen Armstrong, Brian Mountford, Tony WIndross and many others seem to be prophetic voices to me, crying in a wilderness. They appear to be attempting to remove barriers to inclusion and to build bridges between faith traditions and secular humanism; struggling to re-focus religion on a mission of right action over right belief.

If I were still a believer in God I would be persuaded very easily that this was God’s call.  It just seems so intuitively right to me, to say that religious folk need to ‘walk the talk’ not merely ‘talk the talk’.

Religious people in Palestine 2000 years ago did not listen to Jesus or the Prophets either. They thought they knew best. It seems that we are in that situation today as well, after centuries of Christianity. 

I feel that the call to ‘follow Jesus’  is no more and no less than an invitation to walk the path of love. Salvation and redemption come through love, not argument and persecution and exclusion. Whether we see Jesus as metaphor or as literally present, what does it really matter? The call seems to be to self -giving love and, whatever we believe about the god question, I don’t see that there is anybody who is outside the reach of that.

Unitarians seem to grasp this quite well. I am puzzled that so many Christians seem to be unable to do so, getting bogged down in whether some account in the bible is historical or not and arguing over the right way to interpret some passage of scripture that was written long ago in different times in another context.

It seems quite simple to me. You go out and you spread some love and kindness around and you don’t tell people what they must believe before they can join your community; you just open wide the door and embrace the world. Such a thing should surely not be so hard for people who believe -or say they do – that  the spirit of Christ indwells them?

I am waiting for the Church to wake up to its call and start the real task of transforming our world with love. While I wait, I’ll hang about with the Unitarians and just get on with doing it their way. It seems to work just fine.

 

 

 

 

 

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