I’ve come to the conclusion that I must have been short-changed …
Or at least, if I was to listen to certain voices, whether they’re religious, cultural, political or media inspired, I would certainly feel short changed.
Politicians and Journalists have spent most of the summer warning us of a catastrophic tsunami of immigrants that would devastate our green and pleasant land – and no, I wasn’t fooled by the change in coverage and soundbites since the picture of tragic Aylan Kurdi. They still want us to believe that a migrant horde will swarm across the English Channel to establish terror camps, Sharia Law and militant Veganism … (okay maybe not the Veganism)
Others have painted a picture of the spectre of militant socialism (i.e. Soviet style Communism), of ‘unelectable’ policies and of the need to be seen as credible – all whilst bickering about each other and remaining resolutely isolated within the Westminster bubble, safely away from their supporters and a whole section of newly inspired and engaged people who are asking serious questions about them and their views. They might as well stick their fingers in their ears and shout, “I’m not listening! I’m not listening! I’m not listening…”
Financiers are busy telling us that the collapsing Chinese economy will render us all paupers. What they don’t say that the Chinese economy, the second largest in the world, grew by 7.3% in 2014 compared to the 2.6% growth in the UK economy, with its burden of $9.5 trillion of external debt, in the same year. What they actually mean is they’re not making obscene amounts of money quite as fast as they were so they’re involuntarily showing their “my Gold-Plated-Rolls-Royce isn’t fast enough” mentality…
Conservative religious voices (admittedly, mostly from across the pond) tell us that damnation awaits us all thanks to marriage equality for LGBT folks, that concern about climate change is some sort of lefty-liberal conspiracy to make us all eat organic mung beans and that you can make sure those Islamic terrorists can’t get you if you inscribe Bible verses on your automatic weapons … seriously, Google that!
The narrative seems to be that everything we hold dear is under threat by nameless, faceless others who don’t think like we do, don’t love like we do, don’t believe like we do or don’t look like we do. It’s a narrative driven by fear. And it’s a hugely powerful narrative, one that persists even in the face of all the facts.
What I mean is there is a narrative, a language and culture that stems from a sort of entitlement attitude. It’s a narrative that insists that we’re blessed or fortunate or whatever, and that we deserve that blessing and no foreigner or liberal or homosexual or welfare dependent or immigrant or anything else is going pry that blessing from my privileged hands.
This narrative tells us time and time again that our way of life, our ethics, culture and politics is the right – indeed the only – way to think, so that now we actually believe, and behave like it is!
This narrative insulates us from reality by the video valium of soap operas and celebrity gossip; we create instant heroes from amateur bakers, moderately good dancers and the strange people in the Big Brother house … We treat this dreadful monotonous background noise as though it is the main theme.
This narrative sells itself to us constantly. We’re advertised to non-stop – whether through traditional media or social media (just count the adverts and pop-ups next time you check your Facebook feed) – and, inevitably, we start to succumb to the bright lights and carnival atmosphere of the consumer circus.
Mind you, this narrative isn’t just an attitude confined to our politics, or our entertainment, or our finances.
It’s the narrative of the “Jesus jetpack.”
It’s a narrative of a sort of dysfunctional and disengaged belief; the idea that since we’re all off to heaven when we pop our clogs we might as well just pillage our way through this life, grabbing all the toys we can because our place in heaven is already booked!
It’s a narrative that allows televangelist types to preach arcane and inane nonsense from apocalyptic interpretations and do so without any accountability.
It’s a narrative that tries to tell us that God wants us to be rich, or successful, or to be ‘overcomers’ and ‘live in victory’ and all that ‘prosperity gospel’ crap!
It’s a narrative that is as far wide of the mark from the reality of Jesus and His message as the idea that Jesus wants us all to have our own personalised jetpack!
The real narrative – as far as I understand and experience it – is one of brokenness and blood and, ultimately, blessing.
The real narrative tells us that God isn’t in the business of trying to make us all millionaires. He’s in the business of meeting us in our bankruptcy and our failures and our brokenness and loving us in the midst of it all.
This real, and outrageous, narrative tells us that God doesn’t want or need or desire our bloody sacrifices, our flagellant self-loathing and wailing repentance. The real, and offensive, narrative says that Jesus gave Himself as the bloody sacrifice to stop us from sacrificing each other.
This real, and devastating, narrative shows a God who wants to be involved wants to be near, wants to bless us, and that blessing isn’t about entitlement or worth. This real, and counter-cultural narrative, says that blessing calls us forward to a future that we get to participate in as family as partners as equals.
This blessing is life – here and now.
This blessing is gift.
This blessing is real – and is better than any jetpack.