God and religion have passed me by. Once I was a believer but that changed some years ago. Now, while not as atheist as some, I think I am more Christian than many of those I have known over the years who proudly and loudly proclaim their faith and then behave in utterly reprehensible ways.
What does it mean to be a Christian? It is very simple: to be Christ like. So, to be compassionate, kind, helpful, forgiving and tolerant: a person without bitterness or ambition, someone who believes in justice and fairness, not about status and power, who sees the good in all of us. Jesus Christ, it seems to me, from the Bible stories, was a decent young man, going quietly but determinedly about his business, trying to make the world a better place, unbowed by those oppressive Romans.
Regardless of your belief in the Bible or in Christ’s actual existence, the desire to be Christ-like or Christian, in the ways I have described him, is not such a bad thing.
Sadly over the years some of the most under-hand, sly, scheming and down-right evil people I have worked with have emphatically claimed the Christian label as theirs. Many years ago in a universe far away and hot and dry there was Beatrice who was always doing things that her church thought were valuable and worthwhile, often co-opting things from the school for the church. At work she busily went her own way, not letting anything stop her from doing what she wanted – regardless of the parameters within which we worked. If Beatrice needed something signed off she would seek my approval and I would duly read over her request and sign the bottom of the form. Doing the right thing? No, because she then filled in the space between her last item down to the bottom of the page where my signature seemingly approved the twenty odd items above. Fortunately my colleague in the photocopy room knew both Beatrice and myself and knew that I would not have approved such a monstrous amount of photocopying. It was a sneaky thing to do and would have succeeded without the eagle eyes of Jen. Thus to forestall further exorbitant claims (for anything – Beatrice always wanted money or approval for her many projects) I signed and dated forms right under her writing. It effectively stymied her without a nasty confrontation. Ah, Beatrice, who had to be watched all the time, not to be trusted – so very Christian.
And then there was Meredith. Ah, she was amazing and if I hadn’t had the joy of her as a member of my team I might have applauded the way she knew everything that was happening in the organization, that she spent more time away from her desk causing upheaval wherever she went and managed to upset people with her ‘casually’ careless comments. Yes, Meredith went to church every Sunday and was part of several little groups within the church where she was central to business and spreading the good word. But there weren’t that many good words said by Meredith (or about her) and when she offered to help people were uncertain whether she was going to make things better for them or worse.
I worked in a Catholic school for five years. The kids were great and so were most of the staff. Ah, but the management and the clergy who were part of the organization were something to behold. Lies and malicious intent seemed to be their MO. When I mentioned to a friend how amazed I was at the naked lack of Christianity exhibited by the nuns and priests, she just laughed at me. She was a good Catholic girl and found none of it amazing, just sadly familiar. This was where I lost my faith – working so closely with people who were meant to be the embodiment of Christ-like behaviour, yet they were more intent on damaging people, in maintaining their own power and importance, in being anything but Christian.
Over the years I’ve worked with people who carry Bibles in their bag, who tag their emails with inspirational quotes from the Bible, who tell us how involved they are with their church and what they do to organize and help their church. But these people do not behave with decency and care towards their colleagues. Their lack of compassion towards others staggers me, the way they hide behind their Christianity as if it allows them to brutalize others, as if confession or being with God once a week makes everything they do in the week all right. They seem not to be able to join the dots.
I’ve also worked with real Christians, those who believe in God, who go to their church, who are central to their faith community. At work they do not pronounce their belief; they go quietly about their business being Christians, showing compassion, kindness, care for their friends and colleagues.
For me there is no point in saying you are Christian if you then do not act as one. If Christ is central to your life, then surely being a Christian isn’t something that’s turned on and off when it suits you. I return to my best literary friend, F. Scott Fitzgerald, ‘action is character.’ So, just like in the best stories don’t tell me you’re a Christian, show me that you are. (Images all from The Life of Brian – on Google Images)