Up until now I think my most overused word is ‘together’ – I think I am going to replace it with ‘becoming’. Here are three reasons why:
Today, I was overhearing a session with women who have experienced domestic abuse of various kinds. The depth of pain was really moving, the courage inspiring, the hope and determination humbling. But many of those women were very clear that although they were survivors – they are still becoming survivors. They had much to work through and much to regain but they knew they were on the way. They spoke about joy, laughter, the beauty of the world and the goodness of people as discoveries they were making. These women were being supported by Breaking the Silence – a fantastic local Birmingham charity.
Last Wednesday I was at a screening of a wonderful film called Why Can’t I Be Sushi? Through the eyes of two young girls it explores the issue of the Sunni/Shia divide in Islam and asks if it is possible to be simply Muslim – neither Sunni or Shia or both Sunni and Shia. Some of the scholars claim this is just not possible – because the groups hold conflicting beliefs it is not possible to identify with both. In the Q & As after the film a young student suggested that the word becoming might make all the difference. He said: if we were to say we were becoming Muslim and we were not definite yet about all aspects of the faith – could we then hold the different beliefs in tension. Hmm.. I thought, perhaps that could help us Christians too approach areas of doctrine and practice over which we disagree.
Last night in church we were discussing the Archbishop of Canterbury’s new book, Dethroning Mammon. The book poses a huge challenge to Western Christians who are by and large part of a system that encourages us to spend money, save money and invest money before we think about giving it away. Many of our systems gear us up to earn money, to buy what we need to live independently and then to spend more money on greater independence. For example, the richer we become the further our house is from our neighbours, the less likely we are to travel by bus in a shared space, the larger our garden the less need we have of a park. We have no need to borrow anything, we buy the services we need and pay professionals to advise us on our fitness levels, our diet, our emotional wellbeing and our beauty regime. As we get richer we may choose to purchase our education and our healthcare separately from our neighbour.
Mammon tries to keep up all apart and Christians aren’t excluded. Perhaps we are becoming Christians.
It’s nearly Lent and we are starting to think about repentance and penitence. During the Ash Wednesday service we will be marked with a cross and exhorted to turn away from our sins and follow Christ. If we were already fully Christian – surely we would have already turned from our sins and already be following Christ. Our liturgy understands that we are becoming. Even more than that, perhaps we are becoming together.