Sometimes I have this terrifying fear that they’re right. That I need to lose my life so that I can find it, bury my apprehensions, take the biggest leap of faith I ever have –
and become a conservative. I’ve been avoiding it for years, and my gay friends wouldn’t like it, but maybe it’s what I’m meant to do? You see, many of the reasons that I’m liberal aren’t good ones. For example, I don’t want to tell my gay friends that their view of sexuality is distorted because I have a very small amount of faith and I’m not really sure if we should abandon that teaching, so I don’t want to make things difficult for them if I’m not so sure. Also, I want them to like me!
Another reason that I’m a liberal Christian is that I see myself as a political liberal – I want to live in a better world and hate religion that gets in the way of that – anti-Darwinism, Uganda’s soon-to-be homophobic laws and general attitudes that halt progress. I don’t want to tell people that the Bible is a manual to live by or something because if we don’t take it with a pinch of salt, and invoke a lot of ‘context’, then I’m essentially endorsing genocide, affirming that homosexuality is wrong, and finally – that hell is real.
This is the crux for me. Hell has always been the biggest issue in my faith, and believe me I’ve done my research. When I read books like Erasing Hell, it sucks the colour out of life, I just want to cry and do comforting things that remind me of my mother like drinking tea and listening to Radio 2 (until I remember that she’s yet to ‘say yes to Jesus’). That might sound strong, but the idea that the majority of people who have ever lived will burn forever in hell is more than terrifying, it is sickening.
Then I read something encouraging, and deliciously liberal, that makes me happy, reminds me why I’m a Christian, that encourages me to live each day with joy. I’m talking about Love Wins of course, forget all the foofaraw; it’s easily the most important Christian book so far this century.
The thing is, I’d jack the whole Christian thing in for good if only it didn’t make so much damn sense. And actually, Jesus’ words about hell really speak to me – because he juxtaposes them to his views on poverty. Poverty is the one thing I am really sure about – more than 20,000 children still die every day from things caused by poverty, and that’s definitely wrong, a priori. It is so unspeakably evil to allow this to happen, and yet we do – why? Well perhaps we can cite corrupt third world governments, unfair economic systems – and no doubt these play their part, but I want to be a bit more old-fashioned about it. I want to call it selfishness, and I want to call that sin. Sin! Jesus reasoned the same, and he saved his most violent words for those who failed to address the poverty around them. Matthew 25:31-46 is terrifying, as the bit in Luke 16.
What next? Not sure, but this Christianity thing is certainly a lot more complicated than they said it would be, nonetheless I remain certain it’s worth it.