Since I am the son of a vicar – the son of a vicar married to a vicar, indeed, since the Church of England started ordaining women – you might think that I’m a Christian simply out of force of habit. I’ve been going to church every Sunday my whole life, so it might be thought that as I became an adult I simply carried on in the same way.
But that’s not why I believe. I’m too rebelllious and stubborn, too keen to do things my own way, for that to be true.
It might also be thought that I’m a Christian because I was born and brought up in a Christian country, that the faith which shaped Britain also shaped me. But that’s not it either. Britain’s not a Christian country, never really has been a thoroughly Christian country, and I’m not sufficiently sheep-like blindly to follow the faith of my compatriots.
You might even think that I’m a Christian because I like Christianity, or because Christians are better people than non-Christians, but that’s not always true, and therefore isn’t really a good enough reason on its own.
The reason I believe is because, simply, nothing in religion, nothing in philosophy, not a single thing in the history of this world compares to Jesus. Here is a man who claimed to be God, who instructed his followers to forgive their enemies, who loved everyone, who valued the people who have always been rejected and scorned by men, a man so compelling that people would hack through a ceiling in order to get closer to him. The more I read about Jesus the more dumbstruck I feel at the beauty of his teachings. The more dumbstruck I feel, the more insistent I feel that others should have a chance to hear about him too. Jesus, for me, is the approachable face of the God who simply has to exist in order for human existence to have a meaning.
There’s a lot more that I could write but I’m keen to keep this simple. My Christian faith does not make everything easy, does not always provide answers to difficult questions, and does not mean that I wander through life with an smug smile on my face and a stock of glib answers in my pocket, like some kind of religious double-glazing salesman. But it does give me a reason to be hopeful, to be joyful, to believe that peoples’ lives can be turned around and that there is an alternative to the brokenness that is so agonizingly evident in the human world.
Oh, and it doesn’t mean that I like Christian rap music, before you ask.