The Awareness course kicked off this morning and very quickly we got into a very interesting discussion about what it is like to live in Birmingham where so many cultures live side by side surprisingly peacefully despite the flare ups of the odd race riot that we thought is probably due more to poverty than ethnic issues. Which is worthy of note as the aim of the course is after all to help us as Christians living in a multi-cultural society to be aware of and to develop our understanding of other faiths and cultures in order bring peace.
The course discusses the fact that in a world recovering from colonialism people are asserting their own ideas of spirituality. It was commented that we are continually encouraged by our culture to be tolerant but the meaning of this term – as is the case with so many terms today – is mutating and coming to mean agree with or condone. Christians cannot afford to be like some of the puritans who withdrew from their culture but instead needs to be incarnational within it, i.e. we are to bring the attitudes of the Trinity into our relationship with others.
We are today in the UK living in post-Christian culture. There are still many principles in our laws that are grounded in a Judeo-Christian viewpoint such as being innocent until proven guilty by the testimony of witnesses and principles of hospitality to the foreigner. Interestingly we can see recent changes in the Government’s approach to multi-culturalism as the buzz word of ‘diversity’ is giving way to the new buzz word of ‘commonality’. Gordon Brown talks about what we all have in common as British citizens such as the values of fairness, respect and tolerance which we were saying is in effect an ‘over tolerance’.
So how are we as Christians to transform our culture? On one hand we can come over as too aggressive but on the other we can be like, “The man who marries the spirit of one age and becomes a widower in the next”. We discussed the values of complaining to the media and petitioning parliament as the ‘Christian Institute’ does and thought that it was more important to petition for laws that were issues of ‘justice’ to others rather than ‘righteousness’ for instance against laws that would impede us in to preach the gospel. But complaining or petitioning we said often come from an idea of defending God especially when people complain to media say about blasphemy. But our God does not need defending as “our saviour has already been humiliated”.
We wondered if we need to shift our focus on transforming our culture from one that complains and lobbies to one that says, let us do our work in a godly way just as Christians called to politics do their work in a godly way. We finally discussed how we are to both educate others and ourselves about our faith as we do this. It is as we apply our faith (and explain it to others) that we really come to understand it.