Considering our shared prejudicial inclinations I shouldn’t be taken aback when friends or family hold completely distorted views about my beliefs. I had the entertaining experience at a family gathering the other day of being told, by a friend of my sister Karen, how being in America has caused me to “change” and how my beliefs were oh so exclusive, quote, “what about the Buddhists, Hindus and Jews?”. I got the uneasy feeling that this person thought I had adopted the views of some messianic cult but quite clearly hadn't the foggiest idea what I believed.
These bemusing encounters with red wine sozzled party companions raise questions about how we break through barriers of prejudice to uncover truth? Challenging a comfortable, diverse and tolerant view of the cultural mandate is hardly going to be popular in a world of "lifestyle choices". However, I will persevere,
The phrase, “people avoid sin to avoid Jesus” is useful. The doctrine goes that as long as I live a moral good life, give to charity, help old ladies across the road and don’t kick the cat, I can avoid all this exclusive Christian repentance nonsense, that says I am rotten to the core, wicked from my mother’s womb and unless I start afresh it’s hopeless and I am on the path darkness, destruction and the eternal, conscious torments of hell! In rejecting this uncomfortable worldview I can continue to blame environment for the behaviour of my offspring and I don’t have to face our inherent proclivity to wickedness, selfishness and sheer naked stupidity.
The last thing people need invading their ‘circle of self deception’, otherwise known as ‘like minded friends’, is someone saying your wrong, turn around, go back to where you started and try again. We tend to live our lives doing our best to avoid pain and facing the truth is not an ordeal many are willing to face. Reorientation, turning away from a comforting worldview, experiencing a profound heart change will be painful and takes time, effort and compassion to recover from, if you ever do. How much easier to avoid the surgeons knife than face the trials of rehabilitation? We have worked all our lives to get either power, approval, comfort or control and being asked to just let them go, to most people, is incomprehensible. Are you most people?
The other day I was cycling through the delightful Gloucestershire countryside and I found myself on Painswick Beacon. I sat on a bench and the morning sun penetrated my soul. From this high place I looked out towards the Black Mountains of Wales and I thought wow! Wow that’s awesome. I rushed home and at the first opportunity, asked Jo if she’d take a walk with me and invited her, as you guessed, up to the Beacon. I was not disappointed as she took in the beauty and we shared in the delight of the wow moment.
The point is that I do not go to family BBQs, or anywhere else claiming to have the truth. The truth does not belong to me and I cannot sell it or gift it. However, I can invite people to journey to the Beacon where they can experience the wow moment for themselves. Don’t you see? Haven’t you had a wow moment and been desperate to share it? What if I had arrived at the bottom of the hill with Jo and she had said to me without going to the Beacon, “it’s an ugly view.” Imagine a gift of great beauty being rejected by someone you love. It's bewildering, nonsensical, disappointing, I only want to show you, it's up to you how you respond once you've had the opportunity to see.
The conversation I experienced at the family gathering was much like rejecting the beauty of the view before even looking. The world is saying to us, ‘don’t climb the hill, we have ideas, philosophies and perspectives that provide you the truth of your choice’. ‘Take whatever you want, you are free, you are a winner, you can be all you want to be’. We are told that the hill view is exclusive, it’s elitist. Don’t you dare climb that hill for the wow factor will ensnare you, you’ll loose your freedom of choice. One of the great attractions to choice is that you can change your mind. If your spouse doesn’t make you happy, get a quick no fault divorce, if your girlfriend won’t sleep with you, dump her, you’ll soon find one willing to exercise her freedom to give her body away on the cheap, I did.
We are not loving our children by casting them adrift into a hostile ocean with no way of navigating, with no truth by which to measure the perspectives and ideas they will be bombarded with as they journey though life. There is right and wrong, there is truth and there are lies. You cannot love people with lies. Before rejecting the view, just take a look, it’s beautiful.