Saturday, March 23, 2013

Jesus-lite is not for me

Reverend Giles Fraser has written a brilliant piece in the Guardian today that encapsulates in a few words, thoughts that I, in two years of writing a blog have consistently failed to express. Whatever your persuasion, it's well worth a read.

One paragraph really spoke to me -

"And when such people speak of Cheesus they have to wear that sickly smile too. It's that I-know-something-you-don't smile. Patronising, superior and faux caring all at the same time. And if you disagree with them they will pray for you. It makes you want to bang your head against a brick wall."
That was definitely how I felt when I first starting going to an evangelical church. BUT, and that is a big BUT, I came to understand that my reaction told me more about myself than those being kind to me. I felt they were "patronising, superior and faux" but I was wrong. They were the genuine article (in their own minds). If there was one place where I would find authenticity, it was with these people. They really believed!
Even though I have never made it over to their side, I've always felt welcomed and cared for, though, in the spirit of authenticity I have to repeat that I'm an atheist with Christian lapses.
Atheist friends, who are in the vast majority in my life, ask me, "Why do you go to church?". I can't answer with any intellectual rigour except to say that I feel life is generally better when we as a family go.

At the moment, we are living far away from "our church" but to whom have I turned when in need? My vicar.
I don't really believe there is life after death, but I do hope I'm wrong.
I feel that the belief system that I have tried to adopt helps me to be a better person. I know atheists who live more moral and ethical lives than me, so perhaps that just makes me feeble-minded....easier to take a fully constructed mode de vie off the shelf than think one up for myself.
I think this is something that Alain de Botton in his book "Religion for Atheists" recognises. He has come to understand that there are aspects of the community and ritual found in church that are absent from, but would be beneficial in atheist life.
“Differ though we might with Christianity's view of what precisely our souls need, it is hard to discredit the provocative underlying thesis, which seems no less relevant in the secular realm than in the religious one--that we have within us a precious, childlike, vulnerable core which we should nourish and nurture on its turbulent journey through life.” 
I do feel nurtured when I go to church and more importantly am reminded about being aware of others, thinking of others and what I can do for others. This is a fundamental difference with all the "New Age" philosophies that abound. They are, in the most part, about "me"...what can I do for "me" to make me "better". They are, in my view, about going into the self and are self-absorbing.
Returning to Rev. Fraser, he says in his final paragraph, "It can easily transform Jesus into Cheesus, which is a form of Jesus-lite, a romantic infatuation, a Mills and  Boon theology that makes you feel all warm inside."
"The disciples run away, unable to cope with the impossible demands placed upon them. The hero they gave up everything to follow is exposed to public ridicule and handed over to Roman execution. And the broken man on the cross begins to fear that God is no longer present"
Like, Rev. Fraser, I feel this is glossed over in many re-tellings of the Easter story. The Evangelical focus on the resurrection fails, in my view, to address the  reality of the existential crisis that occurred in the days before the crucifixion. I believe that, it is this existential crisis that speaks more powerfully to all humanity and relates to our daily lives. The fact that this was then followed by the crucifixion and resurrection (if it it is true) the real Easter miracle.

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