The Jesus I don’t want to know
This won’t be another Climate Camp post, I promise. But is does need to begin with something which happened as a result of Climate Camp: my being interviewed for the Heaven And Earth show, which went out on BBC1 last Sunday. After the bit where I was shown, there was a studio debate between three people and the presenter. The person I want to discuss was not Bruce Kent, though I have to say he did a wonderful job representing the NVDA-inclined Christian.
The man in question (they were all men) represented an organisation which aims to spread Christian values (usually a bad sign, I find). Listening, the impression I got was that these Christian values were politeness, total respect for the state and the norms of society, and ‘decency’, whatever that is. I was struck by the extent to which this was a religion of the respectable, the Jones with whom others try to keep up, etc. The kind of Jesus who wears deodorant to somehow validate his message. Frankly, it worried me as much as it filled me with revulsion.
This is the myth about Christ that much of the church in Britain has been running on for decades, if not centuries. Jesus appears, not as a penniless rabbi from Palestine, but as the ultimate example of polite society; a well mannered and well-presented being who treated people exactly as etiquette required. This is not a Jesus who strives to stand alongside the margins and to approach life with gritty honesty.
More over, it is clear that showing deference to those higher up the social ladder than yourself is part of this, as is trying to conform to the ways of those near the top, as if that ladder somehow leads to heaven. In my experience, it leads in a direction mostly away from heaven: rarely have the highest in society been the best examples of Godliness, those that have have usually gained their ranking through church involvement.
Personally speaking, and with more experience than I’d usually like to admit, I find the whole charade of polite society really grating. I’m required to cover over who I naturally am. Not to challenge it or change, but to pass it off as acceptable, dampening down the bits which might upset others and pretending I’m something that I am not. Its a bit like painting a rusty drainpipe does nothing but hide the rust with something a bit more flashy. We are taught to ignore injustice, show deference to those who trample on us, value the ways and attributes of those who do most to damage our world.
To me, Jesus challenge is that he didn’t compromise when he met with the rich. He didn’t hold back, he let rip into them, and yet he showed the poor respect, while still speaking their language and still opening himself up in honesty, never hiding anything. That said, he never really had much to hide.
I’ve written this across about three different ‘sittings’, so I’m not sure it hangs together, or that it says what I want it to say. I guess what I’m getting at is that real, deep-down, honesty and integrity are more like Christ than anything which the ‘gospel’ of good manners offers us. It might be a bonus in some cases, but in others it would be helpful to discard these surface-deep values for gritty honesty that doesn’t shy away from upsetting the comfortable and nice and well-to-do of our society.