As I start to write this, my weekly blog, I sense that I am at one of those crossroads we come across on our journey through life. I started writing my blog in March, last year and have so far written 70 articles on a wide range of subjects.
According to the statistics provided by WordPress, there have been over 10,000 ‘hits’ on the blog. Some are regular followers, some would be from my email list, some come from Facebook and Twitter, but about half came from internet searches, mostly Google. About 40% of my ‘readers’ are from my home country, the United Kingdom, but I have attracted hits from over 130 different countries. What I cannot tell is how many people have actually read my articles!
I make no apologies for writing from a christian perspective, though many articles do not mention God, or the Bible, explicitly. But I wish to be inclusive in what I write and do not wish to be sectarian or to be seen as sticking up for what is still a minority of the human race. If I am to really follow Jesus, then I must believe that God is for us all whether we are a Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, have no beliefs at all, or even if we are Atheists. In speaking to a religious intellectual, Jesus said, “God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son …”.
Compassion and Justice
If there are two things I feel passionate about, they are compassion and justice. Compassion is not a feeling of sympathy, it involves loving other people actively. Showing compassion for those oppressed by poverty means doing something about it, whether by involvement in improving their situation or by giving money or resources.
Justice too is important. I do not mean sticking up for our own rights, but seeking justice for those who cannot easily stand up for themselves. It means being a voice for the voiceless, a champion for the oppressed.
The battle between conservatives and liberals
I am thoroughly fed up with the battles between christian liberals and christian conservatives or fundamentalists. There is increasing polarisation between the left-wing and the right-wing of christian beliefs, thinking and attitudes.
Being a fundamentalist can mean:
- Having strong beliefs and views.
- Exclusive. ‘Those not with us are against us’ (often based on fear).
- Treating the Bible as a handbook for everything.
- Concentration on sexual ‘sins’, homosexuality, abortion etc.
- Failure to pursue Social Justice often with an attitude: “The poor deserve to be poor”.
- Intolerant and judgemental.
Being a liberal can mean:
- A watering down of our own beliefs so as not to offend others.
- Being inclusive of others with varying beliefs.
- Recognising that truths are contained in the Bible, but not taking it literally.
- Having a more permissive attitude to sexual ‘sins’.
- Strong on Social Justice and sticking up for the poor and oppressed.
- Tolerant and non-judgemental.
Trying to maintain a balance.
When I was younger I was firmly in the conservative ‘camp’. I have been gradually moving to the left and now believe that the liberal wing has much to offer. On the matter of Social Justice, I am definitely ‘left wing’, considering that care for the poor is a part of the gospel. I no longer consider that abortion, although not ideal, is equivalent to murder. My personal belief is that marriage is between a man and a woman, but I would not campaign to impose my views upon a majority who think otherwise.
On a scale of 1-9, where 1 is extreme liberal and 9 is extreme fundamentalist I am probably on about 3. But sitting on the fence is rather uncomfortable and I would like to propose a third way.
A Third Way
When I started to write this blog I wondered whether I should turn to the left, or to the right in my blog articles. But as I wrote the numbered “Ethos” points below, I saw another way open up. In the picture above there are only two alternatives, but imagine a third alternative.
Is it possible to have a strong faith and still be tolerant of other religions and beliefs? Can I stand up for the rights of the oppressed without compromising my own personal beliefs? Can I accept people exactly as they are and still remain true to what God has revealed? The answer to these questions is “YES”, because Jesus Christ did exactly that. As I seek to follow Jesus, I want to live my life as he lived his.
My Personal Ethos
I reject the labels, “Left-wing”, “Right-wing”, “Liberal” and “Fundamentalist”. As I seek to follow Jesus, I will, with his help, try to live by these principles:
- I will maintain a strong faith and personal beliefs.
- I will not be fearful of people holding different views.
- I will be inclusive of all other groups.
- I will not consider myself superior to any other human being.
- I will recognise that the Bible is God’s Word to mankind, but not treat it as a rule book. Believing that God is still speaking to us, I will seek to listen to His voice.
- I will not impose my personal standards and values on others.
- I will seek to love others in practical ways as I have been loved by God.
- I will speak up for the poor and oppressed and I will expose exploitation and injustice.
- I will be tolerant of the views of others.
- I will not judge the actions of others – so long as other people are not being abused by those actions.
I need your help
I would really appreciate some feedback on what I have said, whether you agree or disagree with me. I would also like some ideas for things to write about on my blog. Please leave your comments below.
- What does it mean to ‘Live Social Justice’? (livingsocialjustice.com)
13 thoughts on “Personal Cross-Roads”
Hi George, I too agree with the sentiments here. I have been in a “liberal”, social justice oriented church and found it lacking in faith and belief in the Jesus of history and scripture. I am currently in an “evangelical” church and find it lacking in compassion, commitment to serving the poor and even caring and equipping its members, because it has evangelistic and doctrinal tunnel vision. I feel I want the best of both, and want to leave behind the worst of both.
Your ethos reflects many of these concerns. Go for it!!!
George. It’s always refreshing to hear people speak so openly and honestly. We can learn so much from people who share from their place of being. I will agree with Martin that you have much more to write about but it will come from your heart. As you seek to be true to your ethos you will find that the writing will come from deep within. Bless you in your journey and I look forward to learning more from you.
Thanks Lee-Jane. You struck a common theme from feedback here, and via emails that my writing should come from my heart. I will be true to this and write from deep within. I know there is more to come. Blessings to you.
Follow your conscience always.
I’m really pleased to read this and glad you’ve had the courage to post this and other things recently. I agree with your principles. Even a well thought-out liberal position can be far more blblical and Christ-centred than it seems from the outside, but there are also similar third way positions that you might find worth looking at. Have you looked at any of the works of Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Richard Rohr, NT Wright, Marcus Borg, for instance?
Thanks for your comments. I have read much by the first 2, and heard of the others. Looks like I’ve more reading to do!
I’m active in local politics, and I get weary of ranting.
People not of “my party” are deliberately and maliciously wrong, they are disgusting, to be jeered at and denied a hearing. They are [loony left | racist fascists] (delete as appropriate).
No one is allowed to be sincerely of a different opinion.
Toleration of and respect for those who have different opinions is replaced by a demand we all agree to approve of everything equally (lest we be judgemental) or a harsh condemnation of anyone reckless enough to say sorry, much as I respect your right to hold your views I honestly think you are wrong.
From the Christian fundamentalists and from the Right I hear views which may uphold biblical morality on sex (or maybe not) but ignore the far stronger teaching on abuse of wealth and power.
From the Liberals and from the Left I hear “solutions” which are either glib and badly thought through, or too obviously grounded in the speaker’s personal hangups or worse, in their personal ambition.
Consider for example the financial crisis.
Both sides blame the other lot for what they did in power. Both explain with practised sincerity that the problems that came during “our” time in office are entirely the responsibilty of the Banks or of the Euro.
One side has no options beyond mindless austerity for everyone except the wealthy, the other no options beyond mindless expenditure we plainly cannot afford.
No-one (least of all the left wing in power) asks why the wealthy have become so much more wealthy.
No-one asks why is industry not growing faster, if the rewards to the wealthy can be justified. No-one asks how can small UK companies compete when they must pay company tax, yet their bigger international rivals demonstrate almost daily that for them taxation is voluntary.
Yes I would prefer a third way. One that joins compassion with intellectual humility and honesty. A way where our rulers don’t all come from Eton, and where Prime Ministers don’t leave power with vast wealth somehow legally accumulating around them.
I too used to be involved in local politics and understand completely the ‘us’ and ‘them” thinking. Failing to understand other points of view is greatly damaging to us all. We can understand and accept other peoples opinions and beliefs without compromising our own. So often it is fear (of our own side as well as the other side) which prevents us valuing others.
What is true of politics is also true of religion(s). Fear of being labeled a heretic. Pouring condemnation on people with different views and morals. God accepts us and loves us all unconditionally. I look forward to the day when his representatives here on earth do the same.
I am sitting here wondering why I like this so much – perhaps because it is so honest.
If this is you at a cross roads, junction, watershed or whatever you want to call it, then I am pleased you have got here. It means there are good things to come from the pen of a man who is prepared to be so honest.
I agree with you on how following Christ has become more about morality and regulations than knowing the One who loves this world.
I like your third way which I dont think is liberal ( though if you are a right wing -fundamentalist, you probably need saving) but is the way of Jesus.
Non of this means we will not have to exercise discernment or be called to make a judgement, or make tough decisions in the face of what we believe the Gospel of the Kingdom is about but this does not mean we become judgemental.
What should write about – well I think there is more to come from your heart. Some of what you have written has been what you think you should right. I think you turned a corner here George.
Your recent article showed a picture of a young girl, headed “not for sale”. I think you have more to say here. The picture did not really say it right…the fact is these kids ‘are for sale’, for just a few rupees ( pennies) man can destroy these little kids lives.
When I started writing this article I was not sure where I would end up. You mentioned a book about Francis on Sunday and I downloaded it and read the first part in the afternoon. I alternatively laughed and wept over the first chapter as I identified with the pastor. My faith has been bashed, but just when I think it is going, I find it again, stronger than before.
My deep desire is to get people thinking, and talking about these things. As I wrote what was on my heart, a new way really did open up for me. I sometimes think that I am not a very ‘spiritual’ person, but I am determined to really follow Jesus and really love, understand and accept every single person in this sad old world as ours.
George, thank you. You have expressed most eloquently exactly what I have felt in my spirit for a long time. The facebook rants of late have become tiring and it is so refreshing to hear of someone seeing people individually and valued. I am going to take your ethos and use it as a base to write my own, and then be challenged by it daily as i seek to be more like Jesus. Thanks
Thanks for the encouragement Ursula. May you receive much wisdom as you work out your own ethos.
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