Jesus, Gervais and the ‘Why?’ Game.
It’s the old nature versus nurture debate. I am a gifted annoyer, but how did I get to be so? Was I born with this gifting written into my very DNA, a moment of mutation that spawned skills of annoyance that a non-mutant could only dream of, or did I develop this gifting as I journeyed through life as the youngest member of our nuclear family? Or was it a mixture of the two? This is but one of the mysteries of life. The fact remains; I am a gifted annoyer, and my family would testify to this fact. The most recent evidence of this fact would be that this Christmas, at the age of 26, I spent most of the day shooting my family with a toy water pistol that I received in a cracker.
I am gifted annoyer.
Have you ever played the ‘Why?’ game? I confess to having grown out of this a little in later years, but this game/tool of resistance can still be seen in the hands of today’s youth. Like most genius plans, it is simple in its outlay and execution, but devastating in it’s effect. Choose your target, then resolve to answer all of their statements with the question ‘why?’. I defy the most patient of people not to become a little wound up after twenty minutes of trying to explain in detail why they wanted you to move your legs so that they could sit down.
What is our problem with ‘Why?’.
I read an interesting article on timesonline last week that featured an interview with Ricky Gervais, writer of ‘The Office’ and ‘Extras’ and all-round comedy genius. Gervais is staunchly atheist, a view that he has put across numerous times in his podcasts and interviews, and yet in listening to him at length he always seems to possess more than just a passing awareness of the Christian faith. Indeed, his first live stand up show ‘Animals’ featured an irreverant take on the creation story found in Genesis.
The passage that struck me as I read through the interview was this:
He was born on June 25, 1961. The family lived on a council estate in Reading. His father, Jerry, a labourer, was a French-Canadian, hence Gervais. He was brought up as a good Christian boy, but at eight he lost his faith. “It was weird. I loved Jesus. But one day I was drawing this picture of him doing something, and my brother came in. He must have been 19. He said, ‘What you drawing?’ I said, ‘Jesus.’ He said, ‘What’s he doing?’ I told him and he said, ‘How do you know he did that?’ I said, ‘It’s in the Bible.’ He said, ‘Why do you believe in the Bible?’ And my mother went, ‘Bob, shut up.’ And I thought, ‘She’s lying.’ And within an hour I was an atheist.” He’s now an honorary associate of the National Secular Society.
The Church has often been afraid of the question why. We have avoided the issue, ignored it, even attempted to silence it, afraid of the problems that might arise in acknowledging it. However, the truth is that in avoiding any questioning of it’s legitimacy, the Church has lost it’s credibility.
It’s crazy. It’s like we have something to hide. If you believe something to be true, you should not be afraid of having that belief questioned, in fact, you should relish it. If something is true, and you begin to root deeper and question more and more you will only find yourself more confident in it’s truthfulness. If it is not true, you will find this as you question and at the end, you will be better off having discoverd its falsehood. This is true of all beliefs. Christians, Atheists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus; all people should examine deeply the beliefs they possess. They should question why they hold those beliefs, who has shaped their beliefs, what evidence is there for them and so on. Even those that declare to have no belief should themselves question how they arrived at such a belief.
That the Church is afraid to question is so contrary to scripture. Throughout the Bible we see a profound level of questioning from a whole host of individuals. The Psalms alone are full of questions:
Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression
O LORD, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me?
… to point to just a few. If we look to the example of the disciples, we can see that they often stopped to question Jesus on things they didn’t understand (John 16, for example). God is not afraid of our questioning. If we seek truth, He can be found. In fact, God wants his followers to continue to seek truth as they grow in their faith (James 1:5). Of note in all these examples however is a humility to accept the answer discovered, even if it is challenging or different to what was expected.
Faith that does not question is blind faith. Blind faith will leave you scratching around in the dark when trials come.
I encourage you to examine your faith. If you are a Christian, examine why you hold certain positions in your belief system. In his first epistle Peter urged the Church to ensure that it was ready to give an answer to anyone who questions it. We would do well to heed this advice.
I would also urge those of you that are not Christians to examine your faith, even if your faith is that there is nothing to have faith in. Why is it that you believe that? Why are you so sure? What do you know of this Jesus who claimed to be God, who claimed to offer salvation and rescue from a messed up world? Have you taken the time to test whether His claims are true? If He spoke the truth, His claims are certainly worth the time taken to examine them for yourself.
In the near future, firwoodchurch.com will be introducing a new resource that seeks to provide a space for those that seek truth to ask tough questions. We hope that this resource will lead to the strengthening of your faith in Christ and to a deeper understanding of your own beliefs regarding this man who claimed to be God in the flesh. Keep checking the site for more news of this resource soon.