Monday, 9 February 2009

From Where I Stood

As a Christian I've come to view things from a perspective that is Christ centred but not necessarily 'church' centred or 'church' organisation orientated. I've come away from an exclusive and narrow view of Christian belief to a more inclusive and broader view of Christian belief. In coming to this point to say that it has been taxing, tiring and frustrating would be an understatement. I've lost friends and associates through both my belief and my disbelief. But I have not always been a Christian.

I was an atheist with agnostic tendencies. What you could not touch, see, hear, smell or taste did not exist. What you thought and therefore what you believed was in relation to the above senses. No supernatural or otherworldly phenomenon existed. If people thought it did it was all in their minds. There was no absolute right or wrong, you did what you wanted to do provided it was consensual. A lot of people add “and provided it did not hurt anyone”. But you can not add that last sentence with ascribing to a right or wrong. It would be nice (for whom and why be nice if being nice prevents you from doing what you want to do with whom ever you want to do it with for whatever your reason for doing it is) if you did not hurt anyone by your actions. But you want to do it any way so you do and it hurts some one. Some one does the same thing and it hurts you. Do you say oh well that’s life? Or do you say that’s not right? Be truthful, most of us would like to say oh well that’s life, but in fact we say that’s not right - even if we say to the outside world that’s life , we are hurt and think that’s not right. That’s where thinking comes in. That’s where belief comes in. Not all societies think alike. Not all societies have a ‘human rights’ agenda. I could go on. But from the above I came to think differently. Initially my thinking differently came from work experience and, wait for it, trade unionism.

Forget the media and capitalistic view of trade unions. Go for why they came about, what they did for the work force - holiday and with pay, overtime pay, sick pay (for some work forces) and maternity pay with the right to come back to work (though at the beginning many unions were as misogamist as the work places and management (and ownership) structures - and then look at how power corrupts and at why people want to hold on to that power. For me trade unionism gave me the ability to ask questions of my employer, to ask for safety to be implemented, for the right to be respected as another human being who was providing something for not only the employer but the community as well. With out workers (however and whichever way you define workers) you do not get production. Without workers you have no one to manage. For me it was a move away from fear induced employment to rights induced employment. The main thing however it did teach me, and maybe I was lucky to be involved in a progressive ground-roots union branch, was to understand the other side of the situation, not just about right and wrong, not just about power struggling and power manipulation and one-upmanship, but about seeing where the other side ‘came’ from. If you could not grasp their argument, then how could you argue against it? How could you articulacy and intellectually challenge the argument, or policy? And how could you, therefore, be taken seriously?

From Unionism to Christianity?
Not quite, but being able to see the other point of view (however obtuse or incomprehensible) made me realise that most people have an agenda within their ideology. Be it to coerce you into believing or thinking something or to try to get their own way, through negotiation or threat. An employer of mine would use the threat of mass unemployment to try to make be obey his wishes. If I did not like it I could be replaced. Indeed I could, we are all replaceable, but at a cost of retraining, team integration - it takes time for a workforce to adapt to new people and their ways, and cost of advertising said job vacancy in the first place. It was not that I was not sack-able or replaceable but that the threat was both obtuse and infantile, as well as unproductive and uneconomic in reality. Knowing the reality of a situation is important. Understanding the agenda behind a situation, theory or practice is important. Knowing what to do with such information and how to use it is more important.

This is where I stood. Both in my secularism and in my agnostic-atheism. What changed? I learnt more. I learnt through books, television, people and situations. I’ve always questioned things, read about things and learnt to form an opinion about most things. If I did not know anything about a set subject I wanted to learn more. Not to totally comprehend it, but, at the very least, to understand an overview of the subject. I remember asking someone what they thought of Margaret Thatcher - this was in the eighties - they said they did not know her so they had no opinion. So I asked if they knew of her. They did. What I asked, in view of them knowing of her and about her, did they think of her or of her policies. Their reply was that politics had nothing to do with them so they did not think about it and therefore did not have an opinion. In their next breath they decried the cost of living and the increase in house prises. Connecting the two did not occur to them. In able to have most questions (if not all) answered you have to find the right connection. That’s how I connected to Christianity.

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