How on earth can you answer this question? It is the 21st century after all; surely God doesn’t hate you enough to make you say something so ridiculous and old-fashioned that you will lose all your friends! In the gospels, Jesus was asked many difficult questions and he frequently responded with a question before answering more fully. He did this so often that I think we are probably meant to notice it and learn something.
We live in a context of spiritual longing. Many people are searching for that which will satisfy an inner craving for meaning and significance. The artist Damian Hirst recently said this: “Why do I feel so important when I’m not? Nothing is important and everything is important. I do not know why I am here but I am glad that I am. I’d rather be here than not. I am going to die and I want to live forever, I can’t escape that fact, and I can’t let go of that desire.”
I found myself watching the Channel 4 programme One Born Every Minute this week. Over the course of an hour I laughed cried and winced as we watched an incredibly diverse selection of women giving birth to their babies in NHS hospitals. While the church in China sees someone become a Christian every 30 seconds and the hospitals in our own country see a baby born every minute I started to wonder how often new birth is occurring here in Britain.
Has anyone ever told you that your faith is a ‘crutch?’ I remember getting into a cab outside a central London church. The cabbie took one look at my Bible and launched into his opinion of Christianity. He explained to me that belief in God is a crutch for weak, pathetic people who don’t have the strength to take responsibility for their own lives. When I answered, “Thank you very much”, with just a hint of irony, he blustered on with, “Well, I’m just saying it for your own good. A girl like you doesn’t need religion!”
As Christians, we often talk about experiencing God directly in our lives and we view this experience as evidence for the truth of the gospel. One of the most common questions we can be asked by sceptical friends is, “What about other people’s genuine experiences of God? Isn’t it really arrogant to say that your experience of God is real but theirs is not?”
There is a widespread belief around about the Bible that it is some kind of powerful patriarchal conspiracy that has been used to oppress women. As a female speaker I find that this question is frequently asked: ‘How can you as woman promote such a sexist book?’ ‘The Church has tried to keep women down!’