Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The Faith of my Fathers

One thing about my recent spirituality kicj which has been different from past spirituality kicks is that I seem to have come to terms with Christianity. I no longer feel like I have a problem with Christian people just because I didn't feel happy with Christianity as a child. I no longer have a problem with Christianity as a whole. I can happily go into a church and have been to my first church service (except weddings etc) since my teenage rebellion.

When I was a child I went to a school that had been set up for the children of missionaries. Many of the staff were very Christian and the school was a safe place to life and practice their faith. As such Christianity was all around as I grew up. Assembly every day. Religious Studies was treated with the same seriousness as Maths or English. Organisations such as the Girls Crusader Union had a home in my school. I was a Girl Crusader and oh how that makes me cringe now I know a little more about the Crusades.

For all this religious zeal, the people seemed no better or worse than people elsewhere. Some in fact were downright unpleasant and no amount of believe in love and turning the other check ever seemed like it could change that. The history of Christianity seemed to focus only on the parts where Christians had been persecuted or the love message had suceeded. The whole bible was looked at, however I now think that the parts chosen were the nice parts, the parts that fitted with the nicey nice goody two shoes-ness of it all.

I couldn't accept it. I couldn't find a church where I felt that faith was truly the motivating force in the community. Of course I now know that I was missing the most important part of it all, community. People of no faith could quite happily be accepted in a church but sharing of faith is deemed necessary these days. When I was young, people went to church whether they believed or not, it was something they did as a community, together.

By being given a choice in our religion, we have turned away from Christianity but as a result we have lost much of our community. Obviously there are exceptions and Christian communities haven't died but the number of vicars in the UK is dwindling. Church congrgations are dwindling. Most vicars look after several churches and the childhood memory of visiting my local church each week is now an impossibility in most places.

The other thing we are slowly losing is our traditions. The political histoy of christianity shows that local communities imbued chrisitianity with their own traditions and meanings. A recent series on the BBC called 'Around the World in 80 Faiths' has shown that Christianity differswildly around the world. Much of what Christians do in some countries looks very other to me with overtones of Judaism, Paganism and a million other local traditions and variations and memories of long lost local faiths.

There seem to be two threads in the history of Christianity, the political thread and the mystical thread. The political thread is that started by Constantine's (a Roman Emperor) taking up of Christianity and using it as a political tool of unification and as a justification for the just war. This continued through Great Britain's move away from Celtic Christianity, the reformation, King Henry the Eights creation of the Church of England, the religios troubles of Ireland and it continues to this day.

Originally Christianity was a fringe faith where they really did practice being poor and loving thy neighbour. Constantine derailed all this. When the Roman empire fell, Roman Catholicism did not but it did retract it's reach for a time. Christianity remained in the British Isles, in particular in Ireland at first. The Celtic Christianity was much more mystical and reverted back to it's followers being poor and a much more basic interpretation of the Bible.

The Irish sent out missionaries to the rest of the British Isles which by this time had been invaded by the Angles and over run with paganism again. Mostly these missionaries reached the Celtic areas of Britain, such as Cornwall, Wales and Scotland. At this time the Roman Catholics reappeared in England bringing law and writing and belonging to a community of European Christian nations. This community drew Britain away from Celtic Christianity and towards Catholicism although much of the celtic areas of Britain have retained a different feel to the England.

I can't forget that my fore fathers have been Christians for generations now. They followed the traditions that I was bought up in. They bought to their faith all the things that their families taught them. The Christianity they followed contains the seeds of their earliest faiths. Christianity is mine. My community. My traditions. My religious sites since my ancestors first began to worship. Why should I have to turn my back on all these because I can not believe in the God of the Christians or condone some of the acts of Christianities history caused by it's link to politic?

It is all my heritage, every last bit of it. But my faith is my own.

1 comment:

  1. i feel like i can identify with some of your emotions.. the thoughts.. some people won't like what we think..but we have to be honest and be true to ourselves.

    (from Reflections)