Here’s the text of my latest article – from this week’s Newark Advertiser.
I’ve been reading a book.
It’s called ‘The Great Spiritual Migration’ by Brian D. McLaren and it’s about ‘seeking a better way to be a Christian’. If you’re prepared to be a little bit open-minded about your faith, or if you’re exploring faith and looking for a fresh view on what it might mean to be a Christian I can heartily recommend it.
Right at the end of the book is a section on belief, which the author says you can skip if your beliefs are working fine for you. I read it, because I think it’s always worth hearing someone else’s perspective on things. I’m really glad I did.
What McLaren points out is that there are two categories of belief. You can believe that something happened or exists (like God, aliens or Santa Claus for example). But you can also have a belief in the importance of a value (peace, equality of the genders, democracy for example). The question here is not that these values exist, but that you are personally committed to them.
We are in Advent – the period leading up to Christmas. The story of the first Christmas is wonderful. It tells of a virgin birth, angelic appearances and a guiding star – all events that are well out of the ordinary. But the main event is of course the birth of a baby who was, according to Christians, Jesus Christ. Jesus went on to teach and to show people what God is like and how we should relate to God. Jesus’ words and mission remain very relevant to us today.
But what of those amazing events of the first Christmas? How important is it that they are literally true? Do you need to believe that they happened as Matthew and Luke recorded if you are to call yourself a Christian?
Many Christians would probably say yes – but I’m not among them. I’m not saying that it didn’t happen that way but it’s enough for me to recognise that Jesus has given us a unique and continuing understanding of what God wants us to do to lead a good life. His teachings on issues of social justice, inclusivity and peace based on his simple message of loving God and loving your neighbour as you love yourself are what would, if put into practice, change the world for the better. That’s what matters most about the Jesus story. The more people that commit to those values the more the world will become like God wants it to be.
Brian McLaren puts it far better than I ever could. Try and get hold of his book and have a read. If you’d like to borrow my copy you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a very happy and blessed Christmas.