23 December 2014
The question that presents itself today for me, much more on an experiential level than merely on an intellectual level, is this: How do I remain authentic as a believing Christian in a hostile environment? By hostile I mean an environment that loathes any mention of “religion” or any hint of religious subjects, equating such with pushy door knockers promoting their brand of religion, or with “insane” suicide bombers killing innocent civilians at random, or Bible bashers threatening with the flames of hell.
Religion has become the new evil, due to real evil being committed in the name of religion or under the guise of religious pretence.
Some clergy has proven to practice paedophilia, certain Protestant ministers to advocate acts of terrorism or less overt warfare on Catholics, and vice versa, religious misguided groups have committed unspeakable acts of cruelty and barbarism on those whom they singled out as “evil” or in order to force them to convert to their brand of “truth”. Almost every day now, we hear of some heinous crime committed in the name of religion.
Is it any wonder then that we as professing Christians are viewed with suspicion and even dislike?
The world, who knows no difference between the peace imparting and life-giving truth of Christ’s gospel and His mission while on earth and fanatical, barbaric and violent forms of religion, is more and more adamant that, as John Lennon sang in “Imagine”, the world is a better place without any form of religion, just “a brotherhood of man”.
“Love not war” was the cry of the Hippie movement in the 60’s and70’s. I quote from Ashbolt, Anthony, ‘Go Ask Alice’: Remembering the Summer of Love Forty Years On.” Australasian Journal of American Studies 26(2007): 35-45; and Sankot, Margaret and Smith, David. “Drugs Problems in the Haight-Ashbury.” The American Journal of Nursing 68(1968): 1686-1689: “…the hippie movement was established on the ideals of optimism, liberalism and pluralism; it was founded by beatniks that simply desired to experiment with new things in their search for life’s meaning. In the early years, drugs were used as a means to an end, whether that end be greater artistic craft or deeper emotional feeling. There was an innocence and an idealism about the hippie movement in its early years. The summer of love (1967), with its crime, sickness and moral vacuity shattered this innocence; it showed idealistic hippies across the globe that utopia was impossible. In short, the summer of love was where the reality of everyday life crashed into and badly damaged the idealism of hippie life.”
“The reality of everyday life” should really be changed to say “the reality of human nature”, in my opinion.
Although Lennon’s expressed idealistic values appear good; history over and over has proved that mankind has no capacity to achieve such outcomes without supernatural intervention. Peace, without the Prince of peace is utopia. Unity without the unifying agency of the Holy Spirit is unachievable; truth without God’s revelation is unattainable.
Communism was another ideal of equality for humanity but corruption, greed and murderous attempts to submission soon marred its original intent.
Ideologies, political systems and philosophies hailed as in the best interest for mankind have come and gone, yet man is showing the usual traits of greed, selfishness, depravity and imperfection which have plagued mankind from the start.
Peter said it succinctly in John 6:68 when Jesus asked his disciples if they too would turn their backs on him: “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.”
I believe that we as Christians, more than ever, need to take our partnership with the Holy Spirit very seriously and cultivate it daily through prayer and practicing walking with Him. All we do and say, in His name, needs to be done under His guidance, for these are testing times! Natural favour towards Christians has dissipated; we operate in an environment which is trying to muzzle us in many different ways; through the dictates of “political correctness”, through the branding by hostile family members (potentially the most challenging environment for a Christian!) and so-called “friends” and acquaintances, in our neighbourhood but also in the work environment.
Where once we thought to use every perceived opportunity to “witness”, now we best do so only under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In order to do this, we need to have our radar in constant working mode and to have our faculties fine-tuned, through practice, in recognizing and hearing His voice and His promptings. What is our priority? Our agenda or His? And if it is His, do we switch it on and off, at our will and pleasure? These are the challenges and questions I need to consider at present.