Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Defending the Indefensible

I've had two conversations recently which have steered me into dangerous territory.  In the first one, I think I was being checked out as a representative of Magdalen Road Church.  What sort of people were we?  In particular, since we seemed like lovely people (that wasn't said, but surely it goes without saying), we surely weren't like those 'hellfire and damnation' Christians that you might find across the southern states of the US?

In the second conversation, I was being asked why - why on earth? - a Christian Union would restrict itself to having male speakers.  Surely this is hugely sexist and unethical?  Shouldn't religious people be showing the way forward, rather than perpetuating bigotry?

There are several things about these sorts of conversations which could become awkward.  For one thing, nobody much likes talking about hell; and in the current climate, nobody much likes talking about women and the church either.  Both are difficult.  Moreover, neither topic easily leads you into the main thing which, as a Christian, you want to talk about: the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.

What was difficult about both conversations for me, though, was that I sympathise with the questioner.  I know exactly what is meant by a hellfire and damnation Christian, and I surely do want none of it.  I can also guess why a CU might bar women from speaking, and I think it's defective theology.  I'd love to be able to distance myself from both groups.  The person I'm speaking to wants me to do that too.  In both cases, they are predisposed not to think me an idiot, or (I hope) a bigot.  They are willing me to say that, no, I am not like these people, and in fact my brand of Christianity is much better than theirs.  Which, let's face it, I am at least partly inclined to believe that it is.

But instead I have to stand up for these folks - more than that, I have to show the closest solidarity.  Because they are trying to follow Jesus, trying to understand the Bible and apply it to their lives and their world.  If they've got some things wrong, goodness knows so have I.  I have to reply knowing and feeling in my heart that I am talking about brothers and sisters of mine.  I stand with them.  I don't have to say they're right about everything, but I need to be careful.  The desire to look good has to be suspected whenever it pops up.  I do want people to think well of me.  But if I sell my (to my mind erring) brothers down the river in order to get that, what happens next?  Sell my Lord as well?  It's not so different.


  1. simply put, well blanched.

  2. martin8:55 am

    If I remember correctly, I was asking "do you know about Bristol CU ruling to ban female speakers". You informed me this was bigger than Bristol which surprised me, and then I was using your brain to educate mine as to what is spoken at these events.

    I wasn't trying to label you amongst these because your a Christian. It was a discussion that arose through spending too many hours in the office together.

    1. Too many hours in the office is right. Just so you know, don't mind having the chats at all - and can promise that not everything we say in the office gets blogged.

      Most of it goes on Twitter.