“It seems that in these politically correct times we are dissuaded from speaking out. I wonder if next year we might see more signs, proclaiming the true meaning of Christmas.”
It was dark, cold, Christian. I was at midnight mass and my old vicar was giving a sermon on how Christians shouldn’t be afraid of spreading the Christian story of Christmas; which as things stand is getting drowned out in a flood of consumerism…
Every year I go to midnight mass. My other Christian activity, besides crossing x against Christian on work equality forms, is saying loudly “I should check up on the local Church when I next visit you” to my parents which is followed by either a lie in on Sunday or alternatively, just not visiting my parents. This ambivalence towards the Church isn’t a political or philosophical objection. While I take issue with the Church’s at best mixed messages about gay people, women and sex, my own Parish never really said anything on all three topics. It was not enthusiastic but it was tolerant. There is also something brilliantly absurd about singing hymns, solemnly affirming your acceptance of the creed and the latest dogma before saying “see you next midnight mass!” and cheerfully heading off to enjoy gluttony, sloth and a little lust if you are lucky.
This said I still feel a real affection to my local Church and an affinity for the Church of England despite one, knowing how much pain it has caused some of my friends and two, not believing in the resurrection / anything in the bible that doesn’t already confirm my pre-existing bias’s. The Church did good things for me. When I was at school, I didn’t have many friends and some might even say I was bullied. The Church gave me a community of people who helped and supported me growing up. It sparked my interest in philosophy through those longs Sunday school discussions about God and morality. When I no longer needed the Church I gave it up but there still exists a small community of Christians in Hartley who care and ask after me.
But faith like many things is a double edged sword. If the Church gave me a community, its teachings also planted inside me self doubt and a deep sense of shame. Forgiveness it turns out is just as addictive as the alcohol used to grant it. Many of the ideas within the bible are regressive, despicable and we tell children that it is the word of God. But there are some lesson I’m happy to have learned, like the need to stick to what you think is right even when everyone else is against you. I remember my Church as one of few places where people from different generations mixed and spoke with one another.
I don’t think I will send my children to Church, if I have them, or partake in any Christian activities besides midnight mass and equality forms. But maybe, when I have grown too old to dance, I will return to Christianity armed with a few scraps of progressive scripture to do theological battle with social conservatives, enjoy human company and accept forgiveness.
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (perhaps the bible isn’t so bad after all).