I enjoyed speaking last night at the Aston University Christian Union’s “Big Event” – amazing performances from Yvette and S.O among others.
The CU did a quite stunning job of putting on a varied and diverse event with singers, dancers, performing arts sketches and the mighty S.O! It made me smile that the event had brought these people together to think about the claims of Jesus. A fun night!
I just wanted to clarify something I said in my talk around the question “Where is the love?” as I’m aware that I may have been slightly unclear, or that some of the most challenging things I said may have left people open to a bit of confusion. Feel free to try this more readable description on the question of suffering and God and justice as well, but I’ve just tried to summarise what I said in this post to be a bit clearer on some of the points. I hope that’s okay!
What’s wrong with the world….
Just to remind, I began by acknowledging that all of us – regardless of colour or creed – can see that there’s something wrong with the world. Just as Will.I.Am cries out in the first lines of that song, so do we. I used provocative examples of this from my own experiences in Thailand around the child sex trade, and spoke also about 9/11, chemical weapons, Jimmy Saville, and “Christians” holding “God Hates Fag Soldiers” signs. I acknowledged that all of us – regardless of what we believe – find those things repulsive. Note that at least three of those examples of horrific evil are religiously motivated, and one of them explicitly “Christian”. I was careful to show that religion has caused it’s fair share of the injustice we all hate!
I then concluded that section putting into words my own thoughts and feelings, but that all of us have felt at one time or another; that with all of THAT going on in the world, the idea of a God – and more specifically, a God of LOVE – seemed RIDICULOUS to me.
I then shared that now, though, I am a Christian. A follower, a lover, a worshipper of that very God of LOVE – Father, Son and Spirit, revealled to us in the person of Jesus Christ. That’s a big shift and I asked if I could share how that came about for me.
My journey during that shift revolved around three questions. This is where I may have not been as clear as I could have, so please let me explain if I can.
1) What happens if you take God out of the equation
If we delete God, like an awkward facebook friend, by saying “There can’t be a God because of this suffering”, what happens?
a) The problem isn’t solved
9/11 still happened. Slavery is still happening. It doesn’t solve the problem.
b) A new problem arises
Because of the following three statements from leading Atheists about a universe with no God.
“The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”
“To the dumb question, ‘Why me?’, the cosmos barely bothers to reply. ‘Why not?’.”
“The human race is a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet”
Which led us to our second and most important question…
2) Do we believe that is true?
What I acknowledged as clearly as I could was that of course NONE OF US believe that child rape is indifferent. Not one of us believes that Jimmy Saville’s victims when asking ‘Why me?’ should be told ‘Dumb question…why not?!’. NONE OF US BELIEVE THAT.
My conclusion here was not that atheists think children should be raped!!!! I hope the way I communicated throughout the evening showed that of course I don’t think that atheists are heartless people who don’t care about slavery and rape. I hope that was clear!
My conclusion, though, which in itself is very uncomfortable to hear I’m sure, was that it proves we are not REALLY atheists! Because atheism, in the words of its leading lights, should lead us to deduce that everything is indifferent, that we’re just scum – and yet NOBODY LIVES LIKE THAT OR BELIEVES IT!
I was not in any way trying to attack atheists.
But I was in a big way trying to attack atheISM.
It’s bleak, it’s harsh, it tries to tell my head to believe things that my heart could never believe! And neither can yours.
I’m not saying atheists love child rape!!!! I’m saying people who hate child rape are therefore not REALLY atheists – because atheISM says “we’re scum”, and there’s not one of us that really believes that.
In the face of this bleak worldview, we were left feeling quite uncomfortable and so I asked the third and final question:
3) What’s the alternative?
Here, I asked you: “What if….”
What if you weren’t stupid for asking what’s wrong with the world?
What if the world was never meant to be like this?
What if longing for someone to come and fix it wasn’t stupid?
What if that’s exactly what we should be longing for?
What if someone did come?
What if that someone was God himself in human form come to rescue the world – the world we all acknowledged needed rescuing?
What if you’re feelings of value and worth and longing for people to be treated right was not a trick or a lie but was because you and they were made by a stunning, bustling, vibrant, joyful God of love who knows the hairs on your head he cares for you that much?
What if he promises that one day he’ll come back and finish the job – perfectly restore the world and rid it of all evil and hurt and pain and injustice and tears?
Well…that’s Christianity! Where is the love? Atheism says “No such thing, just indifference” Jesus says: “I’m here. I came for you. You can have me!”
I hope that is a clearer description of what I said. I would absolutely love to grab a beer or a coffee or indeed ANY DRINK (!) with anyone who’d like to chat more, whether you’re in the CU or not. I’d love to know what you think too!