For a long long time I was very involved in church. I made a commitment to the Christian faith in my late adolescence and for all of my twenties and most of my thirties I was a fully fledged, card carrying evangelical Christian. I was also involved in church in a fairly public way as I worked on the church staff for a number of years and most of the roles I had whilst I was there were ones which put me on a literal platform. I led and preached and pastored a large team. I was involved in the inner circle of planning and leadership (and friendship). I say all this because in many ways the public nature of my faith in church created a public leaving three years ago.
I mean, the whole world didn’t go into mourning when I left, but there wasn’t really a way I could slip out the door when people are used to you standing in front of them and hearing your voice most weeks. And so, lots of people have been curious about my journey, about my faith, about my leaving of church – they trusted me when I led and when I spoke so now they want to know why I left. That makes sense.
For the past three years if someone came to speak to me they would have got the same answer.
Me and church kind of fell out.
We had artisitic differences.
Church and faith are not the same, so no – I haven’t left my faith just my church.
I am now at the place where I have unravelled and deconstructed enough to be able to explain a little more why church is currently unhelpful to my faith and a decent amount of this blog is likely going to be aimed at putting language to the place I now find myself in with my faith.
Starting today. With bananas.
When my son was small, he couldn’t say ‘banana’, he called them ‘nana’ or simply pointed and said ‘dat’. But I knew what he meant, he meant ‘banana’.
Have you ever played the game where you need to get a team mate to guess an item by description only, without using its name? It’s a long curved yellow fruit with a slippery skin. Banana. I’m pretty sure we’d all get the pretty quickly, right?
I think ‘God’ is a bit like banana. Stay with me…
There are people who know the name. They call the thing by its name. Banana.
There are people like my son who have a slightly different name. Nana. They’re talking about the same thing for sure, but the word they use is a bit different.
There are people who are like my son who simply point and say ‘dat’. They are less bothered by the name but they are perfectly capable of seeing the thing that they know as ‘banana’ and pointing to it. ‘Look, see – that’. No less a banana right? Just not the name.
There are some people who use the description. Yellow, curved fruit. Or slippery skin. These are characteristics of the banana but we know what they mean.
Travel to the other side of the world and a banana is simply not ‘banana’ in name at all. It could be केला or mooska or pisang or 香蕉. Just so you know – they are all banana.
I think I am at a point in my life where any of the above works.
Call it God or don’t. Point and say ‘that’ when you see it and recognise it. Use descriptions and characteristics. Use the word from the place or tradition you’re from. Sure – honestly, I think we all know what we’re talking about here.
God is no less God if you call it energy or spirit or Allah or Бог or परमेश्वर or 神.
I think God is way less bothered about us knowing ‘the name’, but rather the fruit.
And I suppose it’s why anyone or any group that cannot be with other peoples’ name or description or pointing or characteristic, who tells them they’re wrong and then tells a whole story about what that must mean – seems kinda crazy to me. Or at least unhelpful.
Is a banana by any other name… (harnessing my Inner Shakespeare over here) …any less banana?
I think not.