Douglas Bastard's Rants of Rage

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This article was written on 17 Jul 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

He’s talking about God again

‘They really love Jesus.’ Every time I hear this strikingly anodyne phrase, I want to sick up my own pelvis and then club someone over the head with it. Nothing quite sums up the blanket of bland that conventional Christianity seeks to throw over the whole, messy human tumult, or the dancing yet lifeless eyes that many conventional Christians greet you with when you’re forced to grudgingly concede that, yes, you’re a Christian as well.

If you want to experience this, do something which doesn’t fit in with the narrative. Be gay. Be single. Be unhappy. Or, in my case, be depressed. When mainstream Christianity encounters an obstacle, its only choice is to dissemble or ignore it. Say that you’re depressed, and people may choose not to hear you. They may, depending on their denomination, tell you that you’re simply not praying hard enough, that God is testing you or suggest a cure that is openly insane and would be viewed as deluded in any other area of life. Or they may think you’re imagining it.

What they can’t do is engage with the subject. Everyone in Christian churches either lives a life wholly untroubled by things like Being Gay or Being Depressed, or is at pains to pretend they do, with the result that you feel as though you’re trying to explain heads to a Martian who doesn’t have one and is only minimally interested in what it might be like. The message which comes across, loud and clear, is that church is for nice people having nice thoughts about Jesus, not for fuck-ups like you to bang on and on about their personal problems.

I survived contact with three evangelical churches, which I came to hate as fully and as roundly as it’s possible to do, so asking me if I like or love Jesus is freighted with some impressive baggage. The answer is that, yes, I feel called to follow Him, to understand life in a Christian framework and to try and do good, however much I feel like I rather wouldn’t or don’t want to get involved when something bad happens. I find that I’m rising to my feet with a sense of grim foreboding when it does and that, I suppose, is part of what it means to be a Christian.

But do I actually love Jesus, in that wet and simpering way? The answer is I don’t know. It’s very hard to love someone who is clearly better than you will ever be and gave and sacrificed more than you will ever be called to give. You find yourself trailing around in His notional wake, like Robin after Batman, doomed eternally to say ‘Gee willickers, Batman – you’re swell’ without ever doing anything which justifies or repays his interest in you. Any relationship in which it’s clearly flagged up that you’re a tit and the other person is, essentially, God, is going to be tricky.

Milton understood this when he wrote ‘Paradise Lost.’ Satan intentionally gets all the best lines and a huge sense of self-dramatising theatricality which is hugely appealing, while Jesus et al come over as pious Boy Scouts who are immensely hard to like. This is, of course, the point. It’s fairly easy to do evil. It’s doing good that is the hard part. Another titan of my Eng Lit course, Christopher Marlowe, also understood this. His anti-hero, Dr Faustus is supposedly one of the most learned men who ever lived and practices demonology to summon a malevolent spirit. The spirit comes not because of Faustus’ clever spell, but simply because he’s derided the Holy Trinity. Evil is easy, good is hard.

I follow Jesus, and I’m in awe of what He did and I’m aware that any contribution I make will be like piddling in a dry dock and expecting it to float the ship it holds, but nonetheless, I do. It might be grudging, eternally doomed to come up short many more times than it succeeds, I might be the angriest, most intemperate Christian who’s ever lived, driven to horrific rage by other drivers in particular and humanity in general, but I still, ultimately, follow The Big Guy.

And I do so without any expectation that He gives a rat’s arse about me, as anything other would be a pretty shit form of Christianity. ‘Hey, I’m a Christian because I prayed and Jesus gave me this really neat car and a smoking hot girlfriend.’ Really? That’s immensely vile. I’m a Christian because I feel like I’m supposed to be and I’ve grudgingly, angrily and often despairingly humped my notional pack over some fairly horrific terrain in the expectation of I know not what. Don’t ask me why I do it, because I honestly don’t know and don’t ask me what Jesus makes of it all because I’ve got even less idea about that. As Martin Luther, an epically flawed human with a fairly horrific line in anti-Semitism said, ‘here I stand – I can do no other.’

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