There was a promise made to a commenter at OoL, Steve, that I’d do a post basically expanding on what haiku has now written at NO:
From my experience it is normally the compassionate individuals that are religious, i.e. have a belief in and reverence for God or a similar deity.
OTOH – and again from my [limited] personal experience – relatively few of those who declare themselves ‘Christians’ embrace compassion.
Unfortunately this has been especially true of the ‘born-again’ Christians whom I have met and worked with: they were anything but compassionate, believing firmly in the fact that their being ‘saved’ eliminated the need to show love towards their [lesser] brethren.
That is the core of the dilemma for me. There are really two quite different models. Firstly, that of my mother and aunty, hardly religious people but of that generation which basically went along with the Christian way of doing things. Both were nurses until my mother branched off into mothercraft nursing.
This is precisely the type of person referred to by Cherie when we were at cross purposes on women bishops. Cherie felt I didn’t recognize the quiet contribution of these sorts of Christians but I did recognize that, I’ve seen them, worked with them and “unassuming” is the word to describe them. That’s why you never get to see or hear of their work.
This is what used to be meant in literature by “a fine Christian man or woman”. It did not mean a bible-thumping zealot although that person obviously observed all the festivals and went to church on Sundays. It meant a person upon whom you could throw yourself for mercy, who knew what he was exhorted to do:
 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
This is a powerful message through the New Testament and one at odds with:
1. Me. I’m not a particularly compassionate person and my natural behaviour is to tear strips off and take apart. I can be haughty and disdainful but what you would know if I really was a subscriber is that if you were in trouble, I’d help you. I’d have to help you. Not only that but I’d not let you down.
I’d have to share my meagre supper with you because there is this passage about “feeding angels unawares”. So what I’m saying is that there is a whole range of people of varying levels of compassion and niceness but so many across the range will actually act with compassion if it is the norm, if it is the done thing, if it is de rigeur.
After a while, through sheer habit, an uncompassionate person can develop real compassion, at least to a point and that is the efficacy of a Judaeo-Christian model being followed in the society – always I’m interested in the political ramifications of things and let the religious side remain something between you and your Maker.
Now imagine a dog-eat-dog society where there is zero compassion – the one we increasingly have today.
2. The Crusades, the Inquisitions, the burnings over minor points of doctrine and all of that. Throw in the Catholic paedos and I had a bad experience at twelve with an Anglican minister too.
What can one say? It’s true. They sold indulgences for money in the middle-ages, the established Church was corrupt to the core [see Chaucer and Luther], it was run by what I refer to as Them, attracted by the power aspects and not by the humility and compassion side.
These people might have worn virgin white tunics with red crosses on them or a big hat and walked around in a most religious “bless you, my son” manner but they were anything but Christian. This was precisely what happened in the gospels – this type was railed against by Jesus of Nazareth. He overturned tables in the temple and the whole message was that what was meant to be pure and good had been corrupted.
In the Crusades, in Jerusalem, they were ankle deep in blood. That’s Christian? Where was it ever stated that Christians take up arms in terms of steel and gunpowder? Rather it speaks of the breastplate of righteousness and so on.
Which brings us to the third lot, referred to by haiku at the top – the zealot and bigot. Or the worst type in the eyes of many OoL readers – the self-righteous and I agree 100% with the detractors.
3. The zealot or bigot. I was in the centre of town and a man was standing there spouting fire and brimstone, also telling everyone worshipping a different god – shopping – that Jesus loved them. I went up to him to talk for a moment and he was not normal, let me say that.
His eyes were the eyes of the fanatic and within seconds he’d decided that my way of going about it was different to his, therefore I was some sort of closet heretic. Was there ever a person, apart from the Jehovah’s Witness young men in suits knocking on your door, better designed to turn you off the Christian message and Christian way forever? Or the stern thunderer in the Scottish Church? Or the priests and nuns in Catholic schools?
Contrast those with the gospels themselves, which are simply going on about love thy neighbour, turning the other cheek, giving shelter and help – that sort of thing. The Good Samaritan. Faith, hope and charity. And what’s wrong with that as a basis for society? At least as something to aspire to?
Yet look what it does to most people when fundamentalists get up on their high horses and forget the kindly, compassionate bit. Look what it does to people wanting to see a bit of spine, a few cojones shown by the so-called church “leaders”, wanting them to reject the PC evil and all the isms and to call a spade a spade.
What had possessed that man in the centre of town to be so immune to another human being that he couldn’t take on board legitimate questions? It’s complicated and gets into the very word “possessed”. That’s precisely what is involved here and if it goes a good way, then the person becomes like my mother and aunt. If it goes the wrong way, then it becomes like that bigot in the centre of town and all the other fanatics and misguided door-to-door people.
And I tell you now – I run as far away from that type as I can, as fast as I can. I don’t want to be preached at. Yet I’ve been at church services and the vicar has discussed basically social issues in a non-fundamentalist way, always ending, as is his requirement, with the relevant verses. Fine – he’s presenting it, I can think of it or not, he’ll still shake my hand at the door as I leave. He doesn’t pressure me.
The whole point of John 3:16 is that you are free to believe it or not. In the end, it’s the choice of the individual. I flatly refuse to try to coerce you to believe what I believe – that’s a personal issue.
I’d say that that is different to what OoL does, which is to expose socio-political humbug. To show why something is wrong in society is quite different to forcing someone to adopt your values system.
And I think it’s the right of churches to put a sign in their grounds with a Christian message on it that people can see as they drive by. Why not? What other sort of message should be there – to visit McDonalds or Kentucky Fried? When they start daubing it down the sides of buses though, then I draw the line – that money could have been used for more soup for the poor.
In bad times, people tend to come back to the church. Why? Because they can be sure of a non-NHS welcome, because it is the last hope of many people who find themselves down and out and that can be middle class as well.
Imagine that that was not available at all. Imagine no Salvo soup kitchens, no walking angels ministering to the sick and wounded. Imagine that institutionalized compassion just disappeared because atheist fanatics wanted that vague and all-encompassing term “religion” suppressed and governments wished to be the only care-providers – or witholders if people didn’t knuckle under?
Many times it’s been said that Christians don’t hold a mortgage on compassion and it’s true. Four people helped out in a big way in 2008 when I was in trouble. One of those took me in at his place and he is no Christian – he’s an engineer [let’s discuss that one another time]. Yet the net effect of his actions were very much the same as what a church could be expected to do and I have offered to put him up if he needs now. There’s a sort of gruff, non-religious compassion that goes on outside of religion but I’d suggest that it still contains a remnant of the old traditions from another time, much as he might deny it.
Now, contrast all of that with the NHS nurses. There is something so desperately wrong, is there not? Something rotten and sociopathic in the people who are brought in to provide care?
I’m not arguing that you become Christian – that’s your personal business. I am arguing that those Christian values are brought back in to planning and staffing but it’s not going to happen because this was no accident – this was designed by those very forces I’ve written on how many thousand times.
It was written about by Benjamin and Adorno, two of the most evil muvvers to walk the earth – to ruin everything to the extent that people will cry out for socialized provision and to think they’ll also get, along with that, socialized, godless, state-instituted PC “compassion”.
Do you want to live under the “dictatorship of the plebs”? Andrew Mitchell might have much to say on that. On the other hand, the natural, non-coercive “brotherhood of the plebs” is a different other animal and not the way the EU has bastardized Beethoven.
This was the second of an unplanned two-part series.