A little while ago, a fellow political blogger asked me why I hadn’t written about my faith. “After all”, said the blogger while sipping a cocktail, “you do say you’re a Christian on your blog.” I felt a little chided, though I’ve no doubt that wasn’t intended. So why haven’t I blogged about it? Well, some people (even apparently educated open-minded ones) treat me differently once I mention my faith. There are different reactions of course. Some will get a look of terror that I’m about to proselytize, evangelise or otherwise convert them. Some produce looks of derision and start to proselytize, evangelise or otherwise convert me to the true faith of Richard Dawkins. But a larger number do a subconscious leap to decide that, as I’m a Christian, I must be anti-abortion, homophobic, pro-marriage, right-wing, illiberal, creationist, and maybe a bit stupid. Having reached this conclusion and passed judgement on me accordingly, they then fail to engage with me in any substantive way. So I tend not to mention that I’m an Anglican Christian too often, rightly or wrongly.
Anglican worship comes in many forms and can be quite complex. A simple way of explaining it is to say that there’s a sliding scale, with traditionalist Anglo-Catholic (Romans aren’t the only Catholics) with lots of incense and ceremony at one end and Charismatics who speak in tongues and lay on hands and are seen as being a bit ‘happy clappy’ at the other. At the same time, there is a sliding scale of ideology with community-minded socially conscious fairly liberal people at one end, and the homophobic, creationist, conservatives at the other end. Counter-intuitively however, it’s the Anglo-catholic traditionalists who are the liberals and the evangelical Christians who are conservative.
As far as worship is concerned, I find the catholic tradition difficult and stuffy and it makes it hard for me to enjoy worship when I’m in a catholic church. I am filled with joy and happiness in an evangelical service, and can really feel the presence of God. That may sound strange to someone who isn’t religious, and if it makes you uncomfortable, I apologise. However, my religious philosophy is much more liberal and socially involved than most evangelical ministries. Evangelical Christians emphasize the teachings and authority of the Scriptures over the institutional authority of the church itself. In other words, the Bible is the word of God not of man, it is literal and infallible. In order to defend this belief, they draw a line in the sand and pick a test issue. They could have picked Matthew 5-7 (the Sermon on the Mount) to say ‘thus far and no further’ but they didn’t. Unfortunately, the Christian right have chosen Leviticus Chapter 18, verse 22. If you don’t know the Bible (or indeed West Wing), these are the fifteen words out of 783,137 of the Bible which tells us homosexuality is a sin. This leads to the Church campaigning against gay marriage, gay adoption, gay priests, gay rights, gay…. well you get the idea.
In recent years, for similar reasons, there has also been a resurgence in creationism. Creationism, in this case, being the belief that the Genesis story is literal truth. This inevitably means that the church then denies evolution and Darwinism. I find this immensely frustrating because, as a history student, I know that at the time of the publication of Origin of the species, the Church’s reaction was very little at all. They didn’t go out of their way to big it up, but they didn’t rush to deny it either. That’s because at that time, the mainstream church believed that the Bible was an allegorical explanation of God and spirituality. I have frequent disagreements with my vicar, who is a founder member of both the Christian Institute and Reform as well as leading light of the Christian conservative right in the UK, and am constantly searching for the right church. My faith and worship is a constant battle often made harder by people who misunderstand what a Christian is. Not too long ago, I was studying to be ordained. I turned my back on that because of these ongoing struggles and fights, and that sometimes saddens me. But I still believe, and I soldier on daily with Christ as my guide and with joy in my heart as I see the beauty of God all around me every day.