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Where to now for Christianity?

being my best self beyond war hope kindness listening making choices values Apr 16, 2017

This Easter Sunday, I've been thinking about what Christianity means in today’s world. The Easter focus on death and resurrection that I was taught about as a child seem less relevant today. Over breakfast I read a long article by journalist Paul Kelly about this. He suggests that the status of Christianity as it was for centuries is dwindling. In it’s place is an increase in minority groups having their say, and politics representing this trend.

Where does this leave the individual person? Who do we believe in? Which of the many value sets in our world today do we steer our courses by? Whichever we choose, we can be sure to upset some of the people with different values to our own.

These are challenging enough questions for adults to consider. How must our young people feel?

I think it comes down to how we choose to respond to our everyday lives. For many years I have been exploring the possibility of kindness as the central value of my life, and have created my own definition. You can read it here. This begins with kindness towards myself, then kindness towards others. Did the Christianity of my young years give me a framework for this? I don’t think so. I spent many years of being unkind to myself by not believing in myself; by not allowing myself to flourish at my best; by not supporting those around me to flourish at their best; by making myself small and guilty. The person who suffered the most from this deprived environment was me, hugely. Once I began to ask myself “Why?” I was appalled at the negative voices that ran around in my head when I stopped to listen.

And here was my big clue to my true values. Once I listened to more than that voice of doom, I could seek different responses to my everyday life. Ever so softly at first, a kind voice whispered in the background of the what-had-become-usual negative maelstrom. Here was a voice I could believe in. It began by suggesting ways to be kind to myself. If I did something well, instead of telling myself that I could have done better, I would congratulate myself. I was amazed at how expansive this was. Even more, when I spread this largesse to the people around me, they responded by reflecting it back to me.

Although this might sound simple, I have realised that a happy life comes from actively choosing how I treat myself and others, based on my own values which represent me at my best. This can be hard to achieve in today’s world of incessant messages such as “5 ways to be better” or “the 7 secrets to be liked.” Actively choosing what I listen to is a key part of being kind to myself. In the end only I know what is best for me to be my best.

This is the way of living of my life that I used to look to Christianity for when I was young – the values to live by and make all those choices that make up each day. Christianity has been part of our human world for a long time. Like all religions it has met our human need for a larger story than our own tribes for all those years. Where to now?

As this Easter Sunday draws to a close, I wonder about the current trends of multiple value sets represented by the many groups and religions, and the need to please by not saying anything that might upset any of these groups. What is emerging here? I think about the Christian church in the next street from where I live. It welcomes all age groups and ethnic groups with open arms. Families flock there for the many activities most days of the week. No longer is it a place only for the Sunday sermons. Perhaps in this changed environment to the one in which I grew up is the seed of a new beginning. A place with solid values that respects the right of each of the people who come to make their own choices about their everyday lives, knowing that they can come to the church for support when they need it. It is this permission to make one’s own choices that is missing from many of the groups and religions today.

So perhaps we have been through a long, slow death of Christianity as it once was, for which it has been duly punished by public outcry and irrelevance, and the resurrection of something wiser and kinder from the flames of its pyre. Perhaps this could be the future for all our world’s belief systems as they evolve over time.

I do hope so.

Wendy

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