Every human community struggles with difference and divergent opinions. We self select massively: if you don’t believe me just have a look at the average school playground- the parents that is, not the children. Better still: look at the people you associate with and call ‘friends’.
I have a dream that the church is called to be different: a community of love and acceptance where there are radically different people and opinions that sometimes clash. But where there are clashes, there is a committment to forgiveness. I dream of a community of openness: the only place on earth where the unsayable can be said without ostracism.
I am part of a fb group called ‘UK Methodists’. I have never contributed: perhaps I should. A few days back, someone called Carol Williams posted a prayer of such raw honesty that it made me gasp. Whether or not I share the same opinion does not matter; the openness is incredible:-
“Dear God I don’t believe you exist any more but if you do, it doesn’t really matter whether I believe so, does it? Why should you mind what my life has brought me to? Maybe you even had hand in it, you in whom I no longer believe. Maybe, as I was once told, you have never let go of me, though I have found it helpful to let go of you. I perceive in the world nothing at all that persuades me that you are there.
I can find many other explanations for things that happen and don’t need a hypothesis that includes you. So sorry, God, but that’s how it is right now with me, though I guess you don’t really need me to tell you that. If you are there, I am sure you understand. And you will know that my heart is full of love for the world your followers say you created.
You know that I respect the natural world enough to live with care for it; that it is ‘sacred’ to me; you also know that I try always to live with compassion for others and to be kind and seek the common good. I don’t do it for you, of course, or for any hope of some eternal life in heaven, as I just don’t believe we survive bodily death; I do it because it seems the best way to live for anyone who wants a more just and peaceful world, as I sincerely do. My unbelief in you cannot alter the fact of your existence, should you truly be there, as others insist.
So, if you have placed me in this place of scepticism, that somehow I may serve you better, I thank you, because that would be an answer to some long ago prayer. The glass is so dark I can’t see anything in it but the darkness is strangely beautiful. Sincerely, Carol’.
Someone said to me in a review a couple of weeks back ‘You are the only minister I have met who allows me to express doubt’. I didn’t find that uplifting, more deeply saddening. Yes I believe in Jesus and the church as the community that gives witness to Him- that really excites me. What makes me despair is a community that chokes doubt and doesn’t allow heart rending voices to have their say ‘cos I think God values honesty….