What kind of God don’t you believe in?

15 01 2015

In a recent UK survey by the Huffington Post online news site, more than half of Britons believe that religion does more harm than good.  When you look at the world around us it’s not hard to see why, when aid workers are kidnapped and beheaded in the name of “God” and random acts of terror are planned for the same reason.

I use the word “God” with inverted commas for a reason.  I’ve often found it helpful to ask people who are aggressively atheistic what kind of God they don’t believe in.  Quite often the answer is one who causes wars and persecutes people who don’t conform.  I reply that I don’t believe in that kind of God either.

Which is how this connects to Christmas.  So often in the stories of the birth of Jesus we get so hung up about whether the miraculous bits really happened that we lose sight of the most astounding thing of all.  Unlike any of the other great world religions, Christianity tells the story of God as one who identifies with human beings to the extent of becoming one of them (Muslims find even this  beyond belief) by being born as an utterly dependent baby, in a poor family who shortly became homeless refugees.  The Victorians have done us no favours by sentimentalising Christmas.  Matthew and Luke tell us a story which is only too recognisable in the harsh world of the Middle East today.

The very claim that this is not just the birth of a prophet, but God in person coming into the world tells us immensely important things about God.  A God who identifies with the weak and helpless is not a warmonger or a persecutor, and that means that anyone who claims to be a believer in this God cannot be either.

Religions are not all the same.  Any faith which stirs up violence is not walking in the ways of the God revealed in Jesus.  Any believer who uses their faith to oppress others has ceased to follow Jesus at that point.  That kind of religion is harmful and people have seen too much of it. They need to see something different.

Truth matters, and Christmas reveals the deepest truth about who God is and how we are to be.  So for that reason,

Happy Christmas!

Simon


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