Stephen Bates of the Guardian is a man for whom I have great respect. During his time as Religious Affairs Correspondent for the paper – a post he held for seven years – he was intelligent, mostly fair, well informed and wrote as if the things he was covering actually mattered. He has spoken and written before now about the effects of his work on his own faith and it has not been comfortable reading. He also wrote several books, the most interesting (from my point of view being God’s Own Country, a seriously worrying analysis of some American Christianity.)
Now he has published a brief account of his move towards agnosticism, motivated not so much by theological or philosophical conviction, but by the sheer horribleness and hypocrisy of those who claim to be Christian. He exposes the double-dealing in the Church in making provision for remarriage after divorce (Jesus said ‘no’) while vetoing homosexuality (Jesus didn’t mention it). More to the point, it is not the church’s view so much as the treatment by some in the church of those they regard as being ‘wrong’.
Jesus commanded those who bear his name to be like him, to look like him, to sound like him and to love like he did. To love like he did means loving those who nail you to a cross. The sheer lack of such love to those who are ‘wrong’ surely calls into question the ‘christian’ bit of Christianity.
It is worth reading Stephen’s piece and asking what must change if good people are to see in the Christian community some bit of a reflection of the Jesus we read about in the Gospels.