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January 31, 2011

31-1-11 … and *seventhly*…

31-1-11 …and *seventhly*…

This: a remark reportedly overheard on a tour of Oxford Colleges in the Summer holidays: two resident dons, deep in conversation as they passed by the tour-party in a courtyard:-
‘…and, mm, ninthly…’

“Myth # 6 – I’ve done too many bad things for God to accept me.
God loved the world so much that He sent His only Son to die a cruel death for the sins of the world. That means that He died for OUR sins – past, present and future. That means ALL of them. That is a promise from God Himself and God can’t go back on a promise, because He cannot lie. God is not surprised by our sin. He knew we would do the things we do. Jesus was a friend of sinners during His time on earth. They are who He came to save. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus paid a heavy price to allow you a relation -ship with a holy God. But we have to personally accept the free gift of salvation. ”

“Myth # 7 “Christians think they are better than others.”
In reality, real Christians realize that the only difference between them and the next person is that they are forgiven. That’s the big difference between someone who is a real Christian and someone who is not – simply forgiveness. I know that as a Christian I will still sin – do things that offend God – but I know that those sins have been paid for by what Jesus did on the cross. All I need to do is confess those things to God (agree with God that something is wrong) and they are forgiven. I can live in the light of forgiveness and not guilt. That’s GOOD NEWS. That doesn’t make me better than anyone else, just forgiven. Some might think that I can now do anything I want, but why would I want to hurt someone who has done so much for me.”

The last of the Myths.
#6 is a retread of #4.
#7 is a cosmetic gesture of humility in contrast with the assertions of the previous myths.
Are Christians as a whole more gifted with wisdom, compassion, altruism or even agreement amongst themselves than any other random sample of the population? Does the profession of faith guarantee better behaviour? Clearly great and heroic aid and advocacy are undertaken in the name of Christ, which serve to mitigate the organised abuse of power and privilege and sanctimonious mean-mindedness purportedly sanctioned, sometimes as ‘obligation’ under authority of The Word.
Certainly the Christian believes that s/he has struck the necessary bargain and as a result has the unique opportunity to converse with the one true God and assurance that all his/her sins are therefore forgiven – those confessed and those committed in weak human ignorance. The entire premise of this leaflet is that unless you accept the User Agreement no amount of conscious effort to be a merely ‘good person’ will suffice. The non-contract holder can never be good enough and is in fact electing to be banished from salvation for thus causing infinite offence to God. The Service User agrees to do his/her best with the assurance that right or wrong, infinite forgiveness is assured because s/he is more than merely good.
Does this suggest that the Christian is better than the infidel? Hmm, yep… certainly looks like it. The Christian author of the leaflet has already stated that on his own terms he’s kicked away any mitigating ‘excuses’ I might offer on Judgement Day because I’m not struck by the irrefutable logic of his argument. Note the use of the lower-case pronoun in that sentence.
One very good reason for not labelling my faith – and by strictly rational terms I do entertain certain ‘magical’ metaphysical thought, maybe closer to philosophical aesthetics than Bible-bound faith – is that to declare oneself Christian is to inherit a range of inhumane and plain daft conviction held by others claiming to act in the name of God, by Christ’s grace. Hmm, well, yes, Christian possibly, but not like those Christians.

The leaflet goes on: “Now there are other myths that I could go on about and I imagine that you are surprised that I read your mind so well, but all people think basically alike.”

OK, you tell me. How well did you read my mind? I can only judge by the quality of the answers if my thought-process is so transparent.
The Myths – in this context, widely-held misapprehensions – comprise a FAQ, not an exercise in uncanny perceptiveness since ‘all people think basically alike’. Good, then we can all agree. The inspiration may be divine but the arguments presented are clearly man-made.

At this point, I took a break and pulled a crossword book from the shelf – one of several left around the place. Inside the back cover, not an obvious place to look, I discovered that this is the book I had in hospital last year, distinctive because in spidery handwriting I’d listed 27 possible inclusions in a Gospel Set I’d considered putting together with my guitar-buddy, the author of the leaflet.
Out of sentimental affection for the certainties of my Sunday School faith and out of interest in working up fresh and fetching arrangements for faith-communities and as a collection of religious folk-music for non-affiliates, I’d listed pieces I knew my friend would enjoy, playing to his musical strengths and personal vocation.
They include Ancient And Modern hits like Crimond, Immortal Invisible, How Sweet The Name Of Jesus Sounds, Love Divine All Loves Excelling; Old Time gospel-tent rousers I Will Fly Away, What A Friend We Have In Jesus, Down To The River To Pray (I have a special affection for Doc Watson’s version), Wade In The Water and – ‘my’ song in the circs – Ain’t No Grave Gonna Hold Me Down; and contemporary takes like The Byrds’ Turn Turn Turn, Johnny C’s When The Man Comes Around, Judy Sill’s Jesus Was A Cross-Maker, Edwin Hawkins’ Oh Happy Day and Willie Nelson’s My Body’s Just A Suitcase For My Soul.
I’ve done a medley of Randy Newman’s God’s Song and He Gives Us All His Love segueing into the Depeche Mode/ Johnny Cash Personal Jesus in the past without any twinge of conscience before God but I’d refrained from doing it at my friend’s acoustic club in case sensibilities would be – needlessly – offended.
Now I’ve read through the leaflet I feel less inclined to appear to endorse that ministry.
Was the chance (should I say ‘chance’?) discovery of The Gospel Set God’s way of reminding me that He is still there? A reminder that I was inclined to be inclusive? His prompt to pursue the project regardless?
I guess it all depends what you mean by…

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