A sheltered life

Not a post about guinea pigs, but one about myself.

I am reminded, often, that I must have led a very sheltered life. Not because I don’t understand pain and poverty and illness (though I’m sure I don’t understand it as much as some), but because I am often surprised by attitudes in people that seem medieval to me. I was brought up to believe in that eternal truth – the one that can be found in all the religions that ever were – ‘Treat other people as you would wish to be treated’. I teach a whole lesson on it at school. The kids, some of them, even guess it before I reveal quite what the Golden Rule is. Because it is timeless and it is perfect.

So, why is it, that so many people – especially ones who claim to follow this rule – are so narrow-minded and so cruel? Why is it, that so many Christians believe themselves to be ‘allowed’ to judge others in the name of God, or tell other people how to live their lives? Once, I knew a God who loved people. Yes, He said that I should go out and convert people, but I believed that was because people would be happy with God in their lives. I still believe that, but I’m not so sure that most Christians do. Most Christians, I suspect, tell you about God because it makes them feel superior. They are going to Heaven and you aren’t. You silly, little thing.

But I’ll tell you this. I don’t want to go to Heaven if, when I get there, it is full of judgemental, poisonous people. I don’t want to share ‘paradise’ with homophobes, racists, misogynists, idiots. The Jesus I read in the Bible surrounded himself with women, though they were considered lesser; he invited the children to come to him, when his friends said they were a nuisance; he loved women who may have been ‘fallen’ and men who had dubious careers. The only people he didn’t want to spend time with were those religious, judgemental people who kept telling everyone else they were wrong.

The greatest commandment is this: Love the Lord your God… and love your neighbour as yourself. When the Christian Church gets this one right (and not just in rare cases like my Daddy, or lovely Rowan) I might consider coming back.


6 comments on “A sheltered life

  1. tony says:

    where do you meet all those nasty christians, anyway? all the ones i know – well, most of them anyway – really do behave like they believe if Jesus said do not judge, that’s what they should do

  2. Giles says:

    Tony, they are there and they are the majority. Within Christian circles they might seem like nice sincere people but there is a subtle nastiness and selfishness that is common amongst most Christians that goes hand in hand with the superior judgemental attitude to anyone “outside”. If you haven’t come across it you’re either a priest or someone fortunate enough not be seen as worth receiving their cruelty.

    • sunshriek says:

      I’ll admit it never occurred to me that because you wear a dog collar, you might never come across people like that. But, that must be true, mustn’t it? People are often going to be on their best behaviour with you around, Tony? (apart from the really difficult characters). Your life is so totally intertwined with your job – which I thought I understood, but maybe hadn’t really thought about.

  3. Tony Price says:

    oh giles, i know there aren’t many christians left nowadays, but i don’t really think you can know the majority of them?

    (really sorry about that – shouldn’t have given in to the temptation…)

    the trouble with taking seriously the injunction not to judge, is that it includes not judging people who are judgmental. why not? because when we do, we become judgmental ourselves. it’s the same as not responding to violence with violence – because if we do, we become violent. and not hating those who hate, because then we become what we hate, too.

    this is the wisdom of Jesus’ teaching, and why i love it – and it’s also what makes it so difficult to live out. of course i have never met a christian who succeeds in living it out. but fortunately we don’t have to be perfect to be ‘saved’ – whatever that means – we only have to trust God.

    c.s.lewis has a lot to say about this kind of thing: how the important thing is not to be thinking of ourselves very much at all. don’t beat ourselves up about ‘am i being over-judgmental?’, but spend much more of our time looking at God and seeing his forgivingness, and gazing at that until we start reflecting it ourselves.

    what i love about the christians i know is that i think we are mostly trying to do that. and though we don’t succeed very well, much of the time, it’s a whole lot better than not trying at all. and yes, i do try and grow into that a bit myself, and try and create the conditions in which this small group of christians can practise doing the same.

  4. mimeher says:

    “Why is it, that so many Christians believe themselves to be ‘allowed’ to judge others in the name of God, or tell other people how to live their lives?”

    When you believe yourself right and others wrong I think perhaps judgement has already been made? Or maybe not. I don’t believe in God, but I respect those who do. But that’s because I don’t know what I believe and therefore do not necessarily believe myself to be right. What I do know is that I believe in the mystery of life, and death, and I believe in always trying to explore, ask questions, consider possibilities.

    There’s a lot of bad that organised religion does, and a lot of good too. But I feel that both the worst and the best is done by people, not God. Personally I try to lead a good and kind life not because I believe God wants me to, but because I believe it is the right thing to do – my own upbringing and my own moral sense has lead me to believe this.

    The crux of my belief (in a religious and in an every-day sense) is absolute responsibility, for yourself and your actions, the way you move through this world. If I lead a terrible life it’s not that the Devil made me do it, or temptation, or anything else that exists outside my tiny insignificant brain and heart. It is absolutely no one’s fault but mine. And if I do good and help people in this world it’s because I have tried to and I have wanted to, and I expect no reward or judgment in heaven or on earth. No one, religious or otherwise, has a monopoly on goodness.

    I could be very wrong – in which case I apparently have a one-way ticket to hell. Regardless of how good a person I might be, which seems a bit unfair. But as you said, if the card-carrying Believers who behave in unkind, cruel or sometimes even malicious ways get let in, and I don’t – well, then I think I’d rather stay outside the pearly gates, thanks very much.

    And that’s my tuppence worth. 🙂

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