Sunday, 15 April 2012

Living gladly

A link to today's Sunday programme in which Colin Coward (Changing Attitude), Mike Davidson (Core Issues) and Lynda Rose (Anglican Mainstream) discuss the "Ex-gay bus ads".

If, like me, you are increasingly sickened by what you hear and reaching that tipping point where you wonder if you wouldn't rather walk away from it all - then I suggest you read and absorb the passages below on Christian maturity and how to honour God. They reflect on the generosity and empowering nature of God's love for us with real wisdom and insight and may help you to enjoy this beautiful sunny day with a sense of gladness for that love and grace.
“It’s a gift to joyfully recognize and accept our own smallness and ordinariness. Then you are free with nothing to live up to, nothing to prove, and nothing to protect. Such freedom is my best description of Christian maturity, because once you know that your ‘I’ is great and one with God, you can ironically be quite content with a small and ordinary ‘I.’ No grandstanding is necessary. Any question of your own importance or dignity has already been resolved once and for all and forever.”
                                                                                                                           (Richard Rohr)

“The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.”

― Julian of Norwich


  1. Suem

    Thanks for this – it reminds me of a section in the monastic Rule of the community where I was a novice. ‘A sign of maturity in a monk is that he sees himself as equal with all men – saints and sinners alike.’

    Great care is needed in how we understand ourselves, our place in the world and our relationship with our neighbour. As I am sure you are aware, I can be rather caustic in my relationships: I don’t suffer fools gladly and can be very blunt with people when the situation requires it. However as I have gotten older, I have toned down my acerbic comments (except on blogs where some people just ask for a broadside with the drivel they write!) and tend to tread a little more carefully when negotiating conflict. In part this is just the process of maturation, but is also rooted in the revelation I had about my rather forthright personality. I realised that I had little comprehension of the effect of my words on others because I was lacking in self-esteem. In truth I didn’t believe my words had an effect on others because I didn’t think others took much notice of me. I am now fairly convinced that many who are rude and forthright suffer from a similar poor self-image and therefore can’t always gauge the impact of their words and deeds. Of course this is not a universal rule – there are many who purposefully seek to hurt and wound with their words and deeds – but in the main, I think we hurt others through accident rather than design.

    However, I am convinced that devout religious belief can be a means of self-magnification and lead to an unhealthy self-obsession. One of the less attractive side-effect of soteriological religion is that there is a temptation for the believer to think a little too much of her/himself and his or her place in the world. This can even work with negative aspects of faith: ‘I’m so sinful’ can translate into a curious expression of pride! This is augmented when the believer believes they are so important God is watching everything they are doing! ‘What I do is so important, God died for me...’.

    A fellow PhD candidate and I were discussing our primary research a few months ago and noted that in many of our interviews with believers (my friend’s research involved Muslim women’s groups and mine, faith based charities) there was substantial evidence of self-obsession veiled in piety. We both interviewed a good number of converts and these followed the usual ‘conversion narrative’ – events taking on special significance, the feeling of being drawn to a certain place etc. – things being arranged for the benefit of the believer! This was the same for both Muslim and Christian converts (and as academic studies of conversion attest, the religion, sect or denomination is immaterial, the key elements of the conversion ‘story’ are the same for many individuals). Beyond conversion this notion of the events of an individual’s life being planned and having special significance for the believer endured. I am afraid I can see echoes of this desire to play centre stage in the Rohr quote above – even humility can be subtle form of self-gratification if it is enacted to make the self feel better about the self!

    I mention this because I think there is much in the present ‘Advertising on the Buses’ debacle that has little to do with Christianity. Rather we see egos clashing and insecurities and self-interest paraded as piety and badges of orthodoxy. In reality what we are seeing is tribal and wholly auto-reflexive. It is ‘me, me me...’ all the way with many of our Christian chums – it is a pity many can’t see it themselves – but many outside of the churches DO see it and it is what put many people off religion. When I read or hear of the debates around topics like the ‘Ad on the Buses’ campaign, I think the only real causality is the Christian Gospel itself (as Stuart noted yesterday)... Alas our friends at AM can’t see that, which perhaps tell us all we really need to know about them!

  2. I think that you are right, there is a lot of self obsession veiled as piety in the Christian life. There is also a lot of egotism in non Christian lives as well. None of us are immune from this. You are certainly right that all of this gives faith a bad press.
    Anyhow, I had a lovely afternoon walking the dog!

  3. Perfect post Sue and great Rohr quote and I like Peter's astute comments too.
    I had the radio on and switched it off because of the vindictive homophobic drivel.
    Wasn't it a beautiful day ? I'm glad you took your dog for a walk. I sat outside and read !

  4. Blessings on you and yours. I wonder sometimes what on earth non church-goers make of Christians with our seeming obsession with the gay question. Yet we have to set it right so that gay people are simply accepted and welcomed as part of the body of Christ.