This is our truth, tell us yours
The post I had intended to write today has been diverted by Carter drawing my attention to this wonderful quote from St Davids last sermon.
Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about.
The theological arguments around faith versus deeds are deep rooted indeed. Some of the most interesting heresies have involved them, and they have been responsible for some of the worst excess, and moral equivocation. The slave owner who claimed faith alone can save, or the gnostics who argued that it was better to sin, so you showed your contempt for the realm of the body, faith and deeds were separated by both, and others to excuse actions that they knew went against scripture.
James sums this up exceptionally neatly;
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[a] is that? James 2 -14 26
Oddly I am reminded of this post by Ally Fogg*. It is actions which show if someone is a racist, it is also actions which show if someone is a Christian. Various on the right struggle with this. There was an invented fury about a pastoral letter Church of England bishops sent recently. Some, it seems, want to maintain a false divide, claiming that faith alone matters, and that deeds are irrelevant. Like the person claiming they are not racist, they just say racist things. Part of the problem here is we have an established church, people think they belong to the group called “christian” because they attend a coffee morning, or a service at Christmas. They rarely have faith, even more rarely have deeds, but are in some ineffable way Christian.
If you point out to them that being born white and English does not a Christian make, they can come over all Emma Barnett. Often these are the same people who claim that the UK used to be a Christian country, when they mean white and english, but that may be the topic for another blog. Whatever the motivations it remains that without deeds there is no faith. It cannot be faith whilst you walk past the hungry, the poor, the outcast? If you truly believed in the words of Christ it would be impossible to do so.
Looking at the piece by Ally I was struck by this quote.
As a good working rule, racist is not something one is, racism is something one does. Most of the time the question of whether someone *is* a racist is an abstracted, philosophical irrelevance. One does not need to delve into Aristotelean or existentialist philosophy and ponder whether the individual has an essence beyond behaviour. Most of the time it is simply irrelevant
So I ask, is Christian something one is, or something one does? For a large part of the population, and at certain times in history, it was most certainly something one was. To be Christian was to fill in the right forms, jump through a few hoops and conform to certain social mores. It need no more affect your behaviour than being a Gemini or being blue eyed. Of course there have always been those who stood against this idea, the Wilberforces, the Frys, and it seems as far back as St David. He exhorted his followers to be faithful, to be joyful, and to act. Not to pray, or to attend church, or any of the things we might expect from a saint, but to act.
He did not even expect his followers to perform grand gestures, instead calling upon them to do the little things. Imagine though a world where we all paid attention to the little things. I, as you may have noticed, spend far too much time on twitter. Doing so I have learnt that certain words hurt. So I avoid those words, not just online but in my daily life. A little thing, which means how I think is changed, how I interact with others is changed, how I view the world is changed.
Very few people are members of Pegida, or the klu klux klan, or go to Syria to fight in a war no one seems to understand. The grand gesture is rare. However daily we can do the little things, the small, often imperceptible things, that make the lives of others better or worse. You dont have to be a Christian to consider this. It is too easy to say “I am a good person” and much harder to ask “what do I do that is good?”
* I say oddly because of course Ally Fogg is an atheist, I hope I have not ruined his street cred 🙂