I was wrong

I was having a chat with my son about Christianity recently. We were both religious in our early years but are now atheists. We have however had enough contact with Christianity for us both to regard it as "a good thing". More precisely, we agree that in our present time of all values and rules being seriously challenged, Christianity provides guidelines for behaviour that can guide us safely through the large and small decisions of modern life

I certainly experienced that personally. I was 17 in 1960 and the 60s was another era of all values being challenged and all customs questioned. It was a great era of drug and alcohol abuse and sexual promiscuity -- "free love". Many young people went off the rails in that era and were permanently damaged in various ways. I particularly member the vagueness of mind and speech of pot-heads.

But I was by that time already firmly ensconced in a very evangelical form of Christianity that demanded adherence to Biblical standards of behaviour. And I enjoyed it! I knew who and where I was and what to do and not do. I had certaintly and fellowship. It is still a warm memory. And to this day I do try to live a Christian life, even if I no longer share the religion behind it.

So I came out of the 60s in the army, with a degree, in good health, with substantial savings and with no addictions. I was of course teetotal. And there were various female persons whose company I enjoyed. I became an atheist at around 19 years of age but by then Christianity had been good to me when I needed it.

My fundamentalist background still influenced my thinking in some ways, however. In particular, the Church of England has always had a weird fascination for me. It is about as opposite to Christianity as I had known and practiced it as could be. It had the form of a Christian church but seemed an empty shell by my standards. What kept such a strange institution going?

In particular, their permissiveness towards homosexuality seemed simply anti-Christian to me. There are such strong and repeated condemnations of it in the Bible that I had to regard the C of E as a pretend church, a pretend form of Christianity, with a higher value for "bells and smells" than for the Bible. Central Christian doctrines of redemptoion and salvation were mentioned by them only in passing and then with some embarrasment. Someone once said that all you need to be an Anglican is to have good taste and that seemed to sum it up to me

But I now think I was too hasty. My son pointed out to me that attitude to homosexuality is only the tiniest part of the Christian message and that in other ways the C of E and other mainstream churches did still preach a lot of the Christian message. They have helped keep some awareness of Christianity alive. In particular they actually took the Christian message to homosexuals. So even in a diluted form, receiving the Christian message did create an awareness of a set of guidelines that could offer a way through the totally challenged values in modern life. I now see the C of E as missionaries -- missionaries to non-Christians and wobbly Christians. I now think they do a good work and can even forgive their "bells and smells"


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