Douglas Bastard's Rants of Rage


This article was written on 08 Jul 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

The fun world of the non-mad Christian

For the first five minutes after I say that I attend Quaker meetings and subscribe to Christian values, I have to issue a series of caveats. No, I’m not homophobic. Yes, I support gay marriage and think that gay people, married or otherwise, are eminently fine and acceptable in the eyes of God. And yes, I support access to abortion and think that making it illegal is the act of a monstrous, fascist society which hates women. I have to do this because so many Christians think things which are either vile or quite stridently mad.

This is what has pushed me to take a break from voluntary work for a few months to give myself a break from all the lunacy. One of the leaders recently said that, when she moved into a new house, she was left some statues of Buddha by the previous owner. She threw them in a skip. The next time I went out with her, she said that she only listened to worship music because most popular music contained satanic messages. When the people who are supposed to be on your own side come out with things like this, I start to despair.

When I was doing similar voluntary work in London, one of the other volunteers said that the Earth was only a few thousand years old. I said that I really didn’t want to get into an argument and she said that was because I knew she’d win. I’ve heard other comments about gay people which are so wrong that they cross the boundary between being incorrect and walk cheerily into a town called Hateful. This is strikingly similar, in fact, to other views I’ve heard expressed towards the police stopping and searching black people for the flimsiest of reasons. We think this, and if you don’t, you’re on the side of evil.

The effect of these is cumulative. One errant comment makes you jerk, to quote PG Wodehouse, like a gaffed salmon. But repeated idiocy makes you start to think that the organisation that you’re a part of is a stranger to reason and best left alone to say disconcertingly unhinged things to people of a similarly like mind. I’m tempted to turn up wearing a pink foam cowboy hat, a rainbow wristband and a t-shirt that says I LIKE BUMMING, but it’s too much effort and nothing saddens me like the way their faces and smiles harden when they’re confronted with a SINNER. 

They assume they’re talking to a like mind. If you thought we were all secretly being worked by hamsters pulling little levers and thought that you were talking to someone who also thought that we were worked by hamsters pulling little levers, you’d talk about hamsters pulling little levers with no fear of censure. You wouldn’t sidle up to the topic obliquely, but would talk about it like an established fact. And so it is with them. Of course being gay is evil, music is satanic and the Earth is three years old, because you and all your friends think so.

Except I don’t and I’m starting to find being bracketed with these idiots too depressing for words. I know I have to be, because the church as a corporate body has done so much bloody harm to people and is responsible for untold amounts of misery, so if I’m going to confess to having a faith, I also have to take what comes next. It comes with the turf, and I understand that, however irksome it might be. I don’t get to feel as though I’m connected to something bigger than me, which is rather lovely, and not expect some fairly major responsibilities to accompany that.

There is, however, an argument that I’m supposed to tolerate these people with ‘different’ views and just shrug if they aren’t mine. No. That’s an abnegation of responsibility. If you’re a Christian and you’re not crackers, you have an obligation to be visibly Not Crackers, if only to prove that not all of you are hate-filled windbags. And furthermore, I don’t tolerate things like racism or xenophobia when they’re expressed to my face, so why in the name of Charles Dickens should I tolerate it when it’s expressed by someone who feigns piety?

The answer is that I shouldn’t. The problem is that when you’re doing voluntary work, you can’t start arguing with the other volunteers because that makes the time you’re with them interminably long and also detracts from what you’re doing to help the people who are the focus of the voluntary work, which is the reason why I don’t say anything. If you’re going to be with another volunteer for hours, you don’t start the evening by saying that putting statues of Buddha in a skip is like an Arsenal fan shitting in a Fulham beanie, because you’re in for a very long and difficult time. So we are where we are. I’m having a break from this, because too much maddery is bad for the soul and, for the first time since I started doing it, actively trying to find a way of volunteering in a different way.

Suddenly, being Christian starts to look like the thing it isn’t supposed to be – an exclusive club that zealously self-polices. ‘We’re Christians,’ the idiots say. ‘We think this about gay people, we think this about other religions and we don’t expect to be contradicted.’ Go through life with that attitude and all you’ll ever meet is people who agree and those who can’t be bothered to argue for fairly well-founded reasons. And in the meantime, congregations get smaller, pews are empty and churches turn into pubs. Just don’t ask why, because as long as people like me have to issue caveats about our faith, that faith is dying on the altar of its own irrelevance.

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