Picking up a pen and writing is something I’m reluctant to do when it comes to the spiritual side of life. The word Christian hits the page. Half my audience switches off. I don’t blame them. I’ve written before about the bad name we give ourselves. How much it frustrates me. I wouldn’t mind betting most people could tell a tale or two. Bigotry. Hypocrisy. Insensitivity. Moral one-upmanship. Inflicted in the name of a man whose whole philosophy was love. Beginning and end. Love your enemies. Love your neighbour. Love God. Period.
The internet’s been alive this past week or two with debate about an American company called Hobby Lobby. I’m a simple woman. And English. I know nothing about these people. The grounds for their decision to deny insurance cover for contraception to their female employees. Or the complexities of the American legal system that upheld their choice. So far as I can grasp, they consider certain types of contraception to be contrary to their Christian beliefs. Or more accurately, they consider paying for these for their employees to be contrary to their beliefs. It’s OK to invest in and profit from the same types of contraception apparently. It’s also OK to make a profit by exploiting workers in other countries. China for example. Where people earn less than $10 a day. Where the one-child policy can still lead to forced abortions. So … exploitation and profiteering are Christian. Paying for contraception isn’t. Like I said, I’m a simple woman. I’m obviously missing something here.
Of course, if you’re a wealthy businessman in Middle America, China must seem a very long way off. You probably don’t give much thought to the suffering of children in the factories producing the plastic trinkets that make you rich. Recent research suggests you may even believe you’re entitled to a better life than they are. The asshole effect Paul Piff calls it. His research, quoted by Anne Manne, explores the way wealth enhances our sense of entitlement. The rich really are more likely to exploit. To cheat. To hold the poor responsible for their own circumstances. To be unable to grasp the effects of their behaviour. It seems wealth insulates us from our own humanity. No wonder Jesus said it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle …
Jesus. As I’ve said, I’m a simple woman. That’s why I think I’d have got on well with Jesus. He said a lot of fairly straightforward things. Love your enemies. Do not judge others. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Don’t worry about food and clothes. Do to others what you would like them to do to you. God blesses those who work for peace … None of it rocket science. Not a word about contraception. Marriage equality. Women bishops. One or two things about children though. Don’t hurt them. Don’t exploit them. Become more like one. That kind of thing. He didn’t seem all that struck on the profit motive either. What was it he said about God and money again? You can’t serve both of them at the same time …
Simple instructions can be really hard to follow. We like complex. Detailed. Heroic. Thou shalt NOT … Something we can debate. Find loopholes. Did he really mean that? Love your enemies? What’s that all about? I mean, these are bad people. Surely I’m allowed to hate them? Not even a little bit? Sell your possessions and give to the poor … Look, I worked bloody hard for this lot. Don’t tell me that woman begging on the street in Dhaka couldn’t get a job if she wanted. Disabled? No compensation? Less than two pounds pound a day? You’re joking, right? Oh … you’re not.
Jesus is all about love and forgiveness. We might argue about the practicalities. How do you show love? That’s all in there too. Do to others what you would like them to do to you. I’m guessing wildly that wouldn’t include controlling you. Judging you. Exploiting you. Manipulating you. Abusing you. Putting religious dogma ahead of your medical needs. No-one gets it one hundred percent right of course. And I’m not exempting myself here. Do not judge … I’ve done a fair bit of judging in this post.
Despite the negatives, there are so many people out there expressing love for others in their own creative ways. I’ve been privileged to meet a good few. I missed Mother Teresa herself by a matter of weeks, but the community was still loving the dying and destitute when I visited. One25 loves and accepts vulnerable women. Operation Restoration brings hope to street kids in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. People Against Poverty is passionate about alleviating poverty. Saint Mark’s Community Café loves the community of Easton in Bristol. Serving food and more, regardless of people’s ability to pay. Small projects. Love shown in practical ways.
This morning a friend shared a video on Facebook. Just one man feeding hungry people in Bangalore. Going against the flow. Living a life of love. I don’t know about his religious inclinations. He may wear a Christian label. He may not. Whatever the dogma, I’m pretty sure he’s closer to the Jesus I know and love than some of the people who do.
I’m blogging to raise funds for a charity close to my heart. I’ve given up NOT being a writer for 125 days in support of One25’s work with vulnerable women in Bristol. If you’ve enjoyed reading this, you can find out more about what I’m doing by visiting One25’s website at http://www.one25.org.uk/. You can also support them by visiting my fund raising page at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=JeanMutch where you can make a donation and suggest an idea for a short story or a post on the blog. Thank you.