Have we forgotten who God is?


The recent debate over the introduction of an alternative liturgy for the baptism services in the Church of England seems to be the latest move in a trend towards making Christianity fit in with society.

As Christians around the world fight for the right simply to own Bibles and worship without fear of death, here in the UK, we are seemingly preoccupied with making Christianity palatable to the masses. The problem is, that in seemingly 'dumbing down' the Christian faith, we risk distilling the presence of God into a 'one size fits all' figure created in our image, rather than the other way around.

In essence, we run the risk of drifting away from its core truths and teachings.

Faith isn't only about attending church once a week and ticking that box off our 'to-do' list until the following Sunday. It is about finding out what God is doing in the world and getting involved. Jesus made it clear that in following him we take up our personal cross (Mark 8:34) which in reality may mean discomfort, challenge and 'dying to self'.

Does it matter that Christianity is not 'trendy?' A cursory glance at media headlines on any given day tells us that values like love, compassion, kindness, fidelity and forgiveness are not necessarily prized in today's world – they don't make good press.

To see the true heart of any society we only have to look at the way in which it treats its most vulnerable. A plethora of foodbanks, the rise of payday loans companies, people working two jobs to make ends meet, increasing levels of depression and anxiety, families who must choose between heat or food and sometimes woeful healthcare – these are just some of the symptoms of a deeper malaise.

Jesus did not temper his words to attract more disciples. At the end of John 6, having listened to some particularly difficult teachings 'many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him' (John 6:66).

Have we lost sight of who God is?

In his book 'Sacred Reading', Cistercian monk Michael Casey describes a lack of reverence as 'an indication of deficient understanding'. If we truly grasp even a fraction of God's greatness, we cannot help but be in awe but rather than pointing others to God and getting out of the way to allow him to do the rest, are we in danger of putting our own stamp onto faith?

Relative wealth may lead to complacency in faith and as a result we may resist a call which takes us out of our comfort zone. The apparent 'dumbing down' of Christianity carries the risk of allowing us to remain in that zone while reassuring us we are doing all we can.

Our society is becoming increasingly secular. The concept of God is widely ridiculed but for Christians that represents an opportunity. Christianity is often at its strongest when swimming against the popular tide. If we truly love our neighbour as ourselves, no matter who he or she is or what their background, colour or beliefs, there is our starting point.

It isn't about rewriting liturgy. It is about inviting the whole world in to experience the redemptive love of God. Perhaps we may all benefit from re-reading the New Testament, absorbing the teachings of Jesus and see if we too will remain with him, or find what he asks of us to be too difficult.

God is worthy of our reverence and awe and until we rediscover that reverence Christianity in the UK and wider western world may well continue its downward slide.