There have been a couple of areas where my beliefs have either changed or been upgraded over the past years. Moving to Spain has been an enriching experience, though leaving behind certain connections and contexts in the UK has also been challenging. Getting embedded in a land and its history inevitably opens up fresh perspectives, and coming into a land that a) holds some keys to the release of the Pauline Gospel, b) has submerged aspects of that Gospel of freedom under myth and religion and c) held on to the alignment of religious and secular power – epitomised geographically in Escorial, ironically the place where many evangelical and charismatic gatherings take place! – has provoked fresh thoughts. (Now that sentence was way too long, what it could have said was: living in Spain has provoked fresh thoughts.)
Two crosses ~ two Gospels ~ two Gods?
I have certainly come to believe there are two crosses. The implication is that at best we have a variation on the Gospel as a result… two ‘Gods’ might be pushing it too far.
Two crosses – the Constantinian one that can be placed on the sword and shield, or placed above Franco’s tomb or placed on war memorials as per the Knights Templar’s cross does not, for me, stand for the cross, nor is it a variation of the true cross. A means by which the powers could take life being transformed into a means by which we can take life in the name of the life-GIVER is not a variation on a theme but a perversion of the true cross. A few posts back I posted a video of Dani Mateo dancing at la valle de los caidos, where two years ago we went to pray. His dance has not been appreciated by one and all, but he has been clear that this is not a dance of disrespect about religion saying that there are Christians who do not accept the cross there and its symbolism as the true cross. Count us in Dani!!
We are about to travel to take the first step of repentance with respect to the expulsion of the Muslims. This is not about ‘reconquering Spain’ for God. Spain belongs to Jesus, through creation and redemption. For those of us in Christ we are told to see that there is a new creation. If anything this will be a step of repentance with respect to a false conquering. That is not to lay blame at the feet of those who went before. I find that Scripture lays responsibility at the feet of every current generation, for how they respond in their generation and how they respond to what has been inherited in the land from previous generations.
There are major implications on which cross we believe in. Success, legislation and if need be imposition seems to follow the one. The other takes us on a path of servanthood and seeking the release of others. Of course the reality is that we probably all as followers of Christ adhere to a mixture of both crosses. However, what we focus on will shape how we seek to outwork the Gospel…
Two Gospels? That is a tough one to answer. I tick the ‘born-again’ box but struggle with / object to the approach that objectifies people as potential gospel fodder, that manipulates friendships for that purpose. I have to come close to thinking that approach (whatever the ensuing words) is another Gospel. I vacillate on which side of that I come down on – a variation or a different Gospel.
Two Gods…? First I need to accept that I do not have a true picture of the One true God. And any deviance from a true Jesus-image where my God becomes a non-Jesus looking God I have to accept as false. This is why I do not accept ‘allah’ as presented by Islam as ‘God’. The true God is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, who as exact image reveals him. Nuancing this though means I do not have to believe that all Muslims using the name ‘allah’ are not connecting to the true God, nor do I rule out the possibility that those who inject ‘Christian elements’ into their proclamation of God are in touch with the true God. Hatred, violence, and a ‘dehumanisation’ of others justified in the name of God / the Christian faith not only does not reflect well on God but does not reflect God at all.
The aspect of dehumanisation is definitely been an upgrade for me. I wrestled with how an atheist could have values that shaped them. ‘Good’ atheists can have values and they might manifest in terms of creation-care or carrying a conviction about justice. I decided that if anyone can see someone else, walk in their shoes, desire their well-being that they have a strong basis for values. Believing in God calls me to carry values for those around and beyond me. The OT laws are a strong evidence of this. The Jewish faith was not a ‘tick the box I have done my Sabbath duty’ kind of faith. It was to be deeply impacting on their society and beyond.
I am not an atheist (hope no surprise there!!) as I have had too many experiences and view the world with too much mystery as to be one, but have deep respect to those who are by honest conviction. If they also ‘see’ humanity they might be denying faith in God but they are in part seeing as God sees. There is a unique claim attached to humanity… the image of God. If a person, with or without faith, can truly see others, there is only step further they can go. They can see Jesus the one and only truly human. This value, of seeing others, has become a hugely shaping factor in how we believe God judges what is done. Even when it is done not in the name of Jesus I would believe this makes a contribution to the age to come.