I grew up in a Christian family. Christian primary school, Christian secondary school, Methodist church on a Sunday (with Sunday school aka lots of collages and a few biscuits…), Christian camps during summer. My family weren’t as forcefully religious as some, in fact they weren’t forcefully religious at all. My parents brought me up with Christian morals and values, but never ever forced Christianity upon any of the three of us. They didn’t even Christen or Baptise us, they chose to dedicate us instead so that we could make up our own minds about whether we wanted a relationship with God once we were old enough to make such a decision.
It’s fair to say, though, that I grew up pretty well-versed in Christian culture. ‘Oh my God’ was never said (bloody hell was though once Mum slipped once when we were in the car and then decided our ears had been suitably un-innocenced…), Christmas and Easter were family events, sex before marriage was strongly advised against etc.
I am very grateful that I grew up in this way in some ways. Some things I could have done without (Christmas ‘posh’ outfits? No thanksss), but many things I’m really grateful for. I’m grateful that I was taught to love my neighbour as myself (I only wish I’d better learned how to love myself). I’m grateful that I was taught that everyone was equal and I was no better or worse than anyone else. I’m grateful that I was taught not to judge people. I’m grateful that I was taught so many Christian morals and values because whether I have faith or not, and whether my brothers have faith or not, I think they can be good things to live by.
All that being said, I’m unsure about religion. Mum was deeply religious and that was evident until the day she died. It brought her a lot of peace. One of my brothers is religious, he goes to church and does other stuff (he’s also the only one of the three of us who’s ever decided to get baptised). My other brother is not religious – he finds it interesting that if one person wanders around claiming to worship a guy in the sky it’s deemed ‘not normal’ but if a group of people do it it’s called ‘religion’ – working in my job, the line between religion and mental illness is often blurred. As far as I know my Dad is still Christian and many of my extended family are too.
My current issue is that I don’t know where this God is in all the crap that’s going on in this world. My Mum was a good person, she loved God deeply, she always looked after her health; she died aged 53. I have friends who are the loveliest, most kind-hearted, selfless individuals you might ever meet, who are battling chronic mental and physical illness every single day. I see refugees with no homes, twenty two year olds with no family and failing health, children with no parents. Natural disasters, human disasters, wars, terrorism, and pain spread across my TV screen every time the news comes on.
I’m not doubting that there aren’t good things happening in all of those situations. I’m not saying that there aren’t sparks of hope, love and warmth flying around even the most terrible of tragedies. I’m not saying that good never comes out of bad. I mean if Mum had never died, I would never have blogged, or be in the job I’m in, or made some friends who I hope will be friends for life.
But as much as I find comfort in the safety and structure of church, as much as I see a light in many of my Christian friends that I don’t see in my non-Christian friends, I struggle to believe in this all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God who allows these horrendous things to happen to innocent people who have done no wrong.
If he does exist, I’m angry at him. How dare he take my Mum so young. How dare he allow illness to creep into the minds of my friends. How dare he let innocent toddlers lose their families and their homes. How dare he create natural disasters which obliterate entire communities. How dare he take the most selfless people I know and fill their bodies with disease.
I’m not talking about human actions. Wars, terrorism and politics are all human choice. As crap as they might be, the bible has always said that humans have free will.
But humans didn’t create cancer, mental illness, chronic physical conditions. Humans didn’t create tornados, hurricanes and tsunamis. Humans didn’t create disease.
If there is a God, I’d love to know where he is right now, because I’m sick of seeing people suffer for no reason.