Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Case for God – an evening with Karen Armstrong

Last night I attended a public lecture at St Paul’s Cathedral in London.  The event was free and it was lovely to be back in this beautiful building again.  The lecture was part of a series entitled The Case for God and the particular speaker last night was the writer and former Roman Catholic nun, Karen Armstrong.  I have read many of her books and was anxious to hear her speak (having missed opportunities before).  I have to say the sound wasn’t particularly goodin St Paul’s and I really had to listen hard at times.

Karen began by explaining that after her experience in orders she wanted nothing more to do with religion and for about seven years that was the case but that her study brought her back.  The act of writing and trying to see/feel what that person felt helped.  Her idea of religion (a man made term) is at times very different from your average person and explains that for her finding God is more about the ‘ah’ factor, the silence, the listening to music, art.  This I can relate to.  She also said that it is something you have to do like learning to swim or drive, not something you can learn from a book and that the whole point is in living compassionately.

She answered questions from the audience and these threw light on other areas, such as prayer which she feels aren’t answered by God but that prayer is helpful to us to express how we feel.  She admitted that she was useless with prayer which as a nun was rather a disadvantage but that the plain song, the singing (she also said she couldn’t sing) helped her greatly.

Asked about what to do if someone looses their faith she replied ‘leave them alone!’  Don’t try to feed them theology, doctrine or tell them what to do but let them find their own way.

Karen spoke about all religions, our lack of understanding of them which of course can lead to disorted ideas and that what most people know about Islam could be written on the back of a postcard.  She also spoke about the early Christians and their view of things.  There were some things here I felt she was a little dismissive of like the different Gospel accounts and her thoughts on the ressurection which she describes as a myth (something that happened once and still is) but too vague for me.  The trinity Karen said was something taught after baptism, a sort of contemplation.  Again I felt this needed more explaining.  She went on to say that worship was good but that she didn’t see God sitting ‘up there’ revelling in the praise.  God is someone we cannot ever know or understand.  Karen said that when we speak about us being made in God’s image we project ourselves onto him and think he is like us.  Just as each of us is different God encompasses us all.  Karen said that she doesn’t understand herself so how can she understand God.

The Bible, said Karen, should not be taken literally, as in the creation.  I must admit I became a little confused here with her explanations, not helped by the poor sound quality in St Paul’s.  I think she meant that it was constantly evolving.  She described Jesus as a bit of a rebel with a temper who upset people, that he spent his life doing what we should do, stand up for the marginalised, go to those who need us.

For myself I would have liked a bit more about the relationship of Jesus to the father.  Karen admitted that as a child she found Jesus  a bit frightening.  For me, I struggle with the relationship between Jesus and the father, yet the Holy Spirit I accept!  Ever since I was a child I’ve been confused over who Jesus was and when I prayed I went straight to God, missing out the middle man!  I still do that.  There are parts of faith I cannot quite piece together and reconcile.  I wasn’t really expecting all the answers last night.  I know some of Karen’s views from her books and I know others don’t agree with her.  In church there are parts of the service I find hard…one prayer I will not say and the Creed, well I say it but I wonder do I believe all this?  Sometimes I feel like taking the doctrine out of religion because I don’t find God there but in other things in the world and I do believe that at the end of the day if you do for others what you would expect them to do for you then you doing what God expects of you.

 

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Hanging on

I was reading a magazine yesterday and the person in the article sounded just like me….many doubts.  In the second paragraph was a reference to the book James that says that if we choose to approach and draw near to God, he in  turn will draw near to us.  This seemed strange that I read this now.  For the lady who wrote the article she hung on and she once again experienced the feel of God close to her.  So I am hanging on too.

Struggling with doubt

I’ve not posted here for ages….sorry.  I’ve been struggling with my thoughts about God, faith and all that.  It’s something that’s been bugging me for a long time now and really has hit lately, leaving me unsure of what I believe, even to the point of trying to ignore it.  My prayer time has gone out of the window and God and I are hardly on speaking terms.  It’s not something one wants to admit to and I don’t really have anyone to talk these things over with.

My own church, I feel, is weary in itself.  With an aging congregation those who used to do things are now unable to continue, so certain things we used to do have just gone like The Over 60’s, coffee mornings, some uniform organisations as no leader could be found.  Recently a social was cancelled due to lack of interest!  My own group is suffering too as older ladies are now looking after the grandchildren.  It’s a struggle to keep everything going and sometimes it’s just a lack of enthusiasm.

I thought about moving to another church as I don’t seem to find any spiritual help where I am but all my friends are at the church I attend and there isn’t another church in my town I’d prefer.  Do I stick with it or bus into the next town, which then eats into the day so much more?

Our vicar announced on Sunday that the Diocese is in financial difficulties and our Deanery will eventually lose about three vicars and several parishes will have to merge/share.  This happens in the countryside already and now it is hitting the London suburbs.  What our vicar said made sense (I can’t go into all the ins and outs but I actually feel a little more hopeful).  We will be linked with another church in the next town and our vicar suggests we get to know them.  My group already has a link with this church as we are all part of the same organisation.  The ladies from their group are a lovely bunch and their church is beautiful.  I see possibilities and I think it will do our church good.  Changes can be a good thing…..it may actually put some life back into our church.  What we need is nice young curate with ideas!!  We need to be ‘out there’.  I find our church very insular.

So what about my faith?  Well, I’ve just read the book The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel.   The author uses his skills as an investigative journalist to ask questions of professional people in order to gather evidence of the existence of Jesus and the claims he and others made about him, his life, death and resurrection.  The book answered some of the questions I’ve had and his case is very compelling.  Did it help?  Yes but not completely and I still don’t know why!

What it did do was help me figure what I do believe which is that Jesus did exist and that he was crucified.  I believe he believed he was the son of God…..why would you put yourself through this otherwise unless you were mad and he wasn’t that.   I’m still not sure what to make of the resurrection.  If it wasn’t true then it’s all a farce.  I don’t think it’s that.  The evidence is pretty compelling and I feel I should believe because what other reason would there be for people to say what they said and die for it.  No one would die for a lie…..very few would be willing to die even for a belief (I wouldn’t, too much of a coward).  What would I die for?  My children probably.  I was talking to a friend who had been present while her daughter gave birth.  I said I wasn’t sure I could do that…..I couldn’t watch her in pain.  I would rather go through it for her!  So, the answer is…..you would do it for love.  Jesus gave up his life for us because he loves us.  That is what it’s all about.  So why do I still struggle to accept things?

I’m a very confused person!  When I did the Biblical course someone asked the tutor about whether there were two God’s the one in the Old Testament and the one in the New because they seemed so different.  The tutor said ‘well’ and shrugged his shoulders.  While the course was fascinating I felt my faith unravelling and it left me with more questions than answers.

Have I given up on God?  No (and he will never give up on me….yet why do I hold on to this when I doubt so much else?!)  This blog is the place I can offload these feelings and thoughts.  I don’t know why these doubts have come now when it took me so long to come to God in the first place, having searched in other places for a ’home’.  There is nowhere else better, no alternative I have found since.  It still feels right and I still get drawn back when I ‘leave’ for a while.  So, I am hanging in there at the same time hanging in with my church and hope that soon I will find the connection again.