I had a good Easter, thank you very much. I am a Christian of the Anglican variety – squashy, middle of the road, (I know that makes me sound like a hedgehog with a short life expectancy) and with a high tolerance for ambiguity. You don't hear much about me in the media though. You do hear lots about other kinds of Christianity. This Easter was a time of joy for me, as Easter always is. Jesus rose. Everything was renewed. Suffering did not go away, but my sense of purpose and my sense of life were reborn. At the same time, though, this Easter summed up for me a lot of what is wrong with both my religion and my country.
These are fairly typical. They come round over and over again. There are many Christians who are not like me. Unfortunately they are the ones who tend to get in the headlines. The rest of us, myself included I'm afraid to say, tend to keep quiet and hope they will go away. But they never go away because they have axes to grind. And this meme of Britain's poor suffering persecuted Christians gets an outing in the papers whenever they feel like it. I don't know what George Carey was on when he gave that interview, but he should stop taking it. Or if he wasn't on anything, maybe he should start taking something. The subheading “Christians are being “persecuted” by courts and “driven underground” in the same way that homosexuals once were” was particularly ironic, given the amount of gay bashing that Christians still do. I would like to make clear that my world, including my God, does not fall apart if I see a couple of men holding hands or a couple of women snogging. If they want to get married, that's fine by me. And, as far as I know, it's fine with God too.
Carey talks about a religious bar to employment if wearing crosses is banned. (The actual banning of crosses is itself a highly exaggerated story, but that's just the media for you.) Last time I looked the Bible didn't command us to wear crosses. Some people choose to. Fine. They can still wear them under their clothes or they can wear them when they're not at work. My faith does not need a cross on a pin on my uniform to prop it up. Neither should anyone else's. If they choose to wear a cross, that's fine, but they have no right to insist on different treatment to anybody else. Like too many Christians today, Carey is trying to maintain a position of superiority by claiming to want only freedom of expression.
And then there is money. This “whatever it is costs umpteen billion pounds” trots out over and over again. We are told the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Somebody somewhere made less money than usual at Easter. Oh dear. Somebody somewhere else made more money than usual. A lot of people got a break. The weather was fairly nice for once, and millions of people got a day off, got to be with their family and friends for a little bit longer than usual, and got happier. In my opinion, that's worth a couple of billion. We'd be a lot better off if our media celebrated the fact that we got a couple of days off rather than moaning about the cost.
Our churches ought to be saying that, but they don't. Many of my co-religionists are too worried about homosexuality, as already adumbrated, or too worried about women actually having control over their own reproductive organs (heaven forfend!), or too worried about hiding the facts about child abuse, to say something sensible like that. They are also too bothered about money. When Occupy was at St Pauls, I was angered, but sadly not surprised, that my church should have taken the action it did to try to get rid of the protesters rather than welcoming them. At the time they were doing that, they were also accepting a grant of £40 million to get their stonework cleaned. £40 million. Think how many houses could have been built with that money, how many teachers, doctors or nurses paid. I want to say it made my blood boil, but it didn't. I'm used to it. I just thought, “That's typical”. It's the church I'm in. It's not the church I want to be in. But every journey starts with a single step. This week's step is to start the organisation of Christian Aid Week for the village. Without that money people will die who would otherwise be alive to support their partners and raise their children. I'd rather be talking about that than who has their hands in who else's pants. I think Jesus would too.