That was yesterday's challenging question!
As we discussed the issue of Syria and the options open to this government as part of a proper response this little gem appeared. Dialogue continued and another question appeared, this one asking, 'Why we had to do anything at all?' And that question, for me at least, answered the first question rather nicely.
You see the reality is that we are not supposed to just 'do' religion but are called to live out our faith and turn it into something that not only changes us but those around us and beyond. In my big black book I find many passages that inform and enable; many bits that challenge me to change who or what I am and to get down and not only make a difference but 'be' the difference!
In chapter two of the book of James (vv.14-17) we find this:
'What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?
Can such faith save them?
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.'
The idea that we Vicars are just 'supposed to do religion' is as ludicrous as having the view that a chef's calling is 'just cooking' or an artist's role is 'daubing'! There's no point creating culinary delights if no one eats them, and in the eating engages with others and builds relationships and is changed. Art done and locked away is dead art - for it is in the seeing and being touched by it, the being moved and changed by it, that the real value of the art is made real.
Religion is a sterile, limited and dreadful thing: It serves only to condemn sinners for breaking regulations, rules and restrictions that no one could keep on their own, or in their own strength. It puts on services and nods at God but goes no further. It offers much as a philosophy or set of beliefs but like culinary delights uneaten or or art unseen, the potential only becomes realised when it is taken into ourselves and allowed to change us.
My role is to open the eyes and hearts of others to the possibilities that God makes available and to help those who can see it make that real. This is part of what we are seeing in fine detail at the moment with Syria but it was there in the needs of the mentally ill, the long-term sick, the jobless, the homeless, the (far too many) NEETs*, the addicted and many other categories of concern that exist in our communities and outside our own doors.
The needs are great and yet in a society which sets the standards that enable the police to police by consent we have the opportunity to define and maintain what is to be considered 'right'. In a society that was once the envy of the world with its National Health Service, welfare system and Legal Aid, we have to realise that we get what we permit the governments (National, County and local) to give us.
But where there are needs, religion that is faith acts to meet them.
Where there are wrongs, religion that is faith seeks to right them.
Where there is sorrow, pain and death, religion seeks to bring love, comfort and healing.
Just do religion? How very dare they suggest that - I deal in change not decay (what about you?)
*Not in Education, Employment or Training - the 16-18 year olds who are merely 'lost'!