Last year on May 17, Guy Clark passed away. A song writer and a poet, a true Texas Troubadour.
In spite of having been raised Catholic I have always had a very hard time relating to Christianity. But as a hippie I’ve read the works of various philosophers and theologians as well as both the Bible and various works of mythology.
Seems like most religions that have made it to the modern age have an element of behavior towards others at their core. I haven’t come across one that really teaches lie to everyone and abuse your fellow humans. Thou shall not steal or commit murder seem pretty basic and universal. The sort of thing one shouldn’t need to have a God tell them: “Don’t do this.”
I always thought that how one behaves and especially how one treats others was an important part of morality.
Imagine my surprise over the last 20-30 years or so and the rise of the New Evangelical Christians for whom proclaiming their faith (what ever the fuck that means) is all important and as long as you do that it doesn’t matter if you are a lying thief who abuses and even murders people. Because you proclaim your love of Jesus all is supposed to be forgiven.
Lately I’ve been reading about the history of Judaism. We owe much of what we think of as ethic, humanism and even Christianity to the often murdered and abused Jews.
It may come as a shock to many but Jesus was a Jew. Much of his message came from Judaism and the teachings of Rabbis such as Hillel.
Maybe if people are going to call themselves Christians it would highly behoove them to try to actually act more like someone who follows the teachings of Jesus instead of running around proclaiming, while shrouded in ignorance and pompously abusing your fellow human beings.
Maybe if Christians acted more like Christians instead of pretentious bullies people would respect them and their commitment to their religion more.
Reading Thomas Cleary and Thomas Merton might be a good start.
Monday 8 May 2017
I was listening to a radio chat about the bishops’ election message the other day, encouraging us to vote, when I heard something rather startling. Apparently, in 2015, when the bishops last wrote a letter, there seemed to be a danger of them advocating a leftwing perspective. No chance of that this time, although they did daringly mention concern for “the weak, poor and marginalised”. But whatever is wrong with a leftwing perspective? Jesus had one. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on Earth,” said he (Matthew 6:19), and the people of Sodom got into frightful trouble primarily because of their selfish economic behaviour.
I don’t want to sound naive, or corny, but I’ve often wondered how Trump and many members of our current government can call themselves Christians, while trampling on the weak, poor and marginalised, depriving them of healthcare, homes, food, decent jobs and such like, while goggling at the ghastly rich list, out again yesterday, and rewarding those tremendous show-offs included upon it.
Come on bishops, be bold. Promote some real Christian principles, because Anglicans are, according to YouGov, almost twice as likely to vote Conservative as Labour, which suggests that they haven’t quite got the hang of their own religion. And hurry up about it, because the world’s morals seem to be going down the plughole, and we’re beginning to worship the rich again, which no religion approves of. “He is not a believer, who eats his fill while his neighbour remains hungry at his side”, says the hadith, while Proverbs 14:31 states: “He that oppresses the poor blasphemes his maker.”
I don’t want to sound like Dot Cotton, because this is meant to be a secular country, and the church is not solely responsible for, or the only wellspring of, moral values. We atheists also should, and do, have moral values, I promise you. And like anyone else, we succumb to evil, which I did yesterday, by feeling a tiny but immoral spark of joy when I heard that cybercrime is becoming a threat to superyachts and their increasingly boastful owners. “Ha ha,” I thought, viciously. “Serves them right.” And I can’t even pray for forgiveness.