My in-laws are Christian, and I believed them to be quite strict. That is to say: they regularly attend services, and most of them have done something for the church community (baby-sitting, an energy-saving group, a discussion group for youthful believers, selling fair-trade products, musicals etc). I am not out of the broom closet with them, because I previously believed them a bit too rigid to accept my views. Not that they aren’t nice or friendly or whatever, and they are by no means as strict as some families I know, but I was simply afraid. I still won’t tell them about my personal belief any time soon, but I’m more confident now they will understand when I do decide to come out.
Tonight, after dinner, my parents-in-law talked about a book-discussion they joined about believing in this century. One of the people who was also there was very clear about his view of Christianity: if you don’t believe the stories told in the Bible, you are not a true believer. While I didn’t expect them to hold the same view, I was amazed to find out they actually opposed this view! My mother-in-law claimed she told the rest of the people ‘she was one of the people who believed the least’. She holds the view that the Bible may be a good story and there is definitely truth in there, but in these modern times there are many other ways to be a Christian other than to believe the Bible to the letter.
The Bible has been written by people, and as we know, people are flawed. I do not know where the stories originally came from, whether someone made them up or whether it was divine inspiration, but they remain stories. Naturally, we can draw valuable lessons from the Bible. These lessons are about compassion and forgiveness, especially in the New Testament.
My in-laws and I agreed upon this: the lessons you have learnt and the way you put them into practice are way more important than following writings to the letter. That is what constitutes the essence of religion, what can make or break it. Fundamentalists, following the Bible or the Quran to the letter, hating people from different religions, are often in the news, but they are not the people at the core of their religion. No, people at the core of their religion understand that taking care of nature and helping others are much more important.
Pagans and Christians alike try to preserve nature. Christians might do so to take care of God’s creation, whereas Pagans such as myself do so because we believe nature itself to be sacred or something to be grateful for. Community service is done by many people, and society can’t exist without it. My mother-in-law started working with people with starting dementia, walking with them, lunching with them and helping them in general. She may not go to church very often, or belief the words of the Bible, but she lives her religion by helping others.
This sounds very exaggerated and of course it somewhat is. People aren’t all good, we all have our ‘dark’ sides, but the way we act in life is the most important part of being human. It’s what can make or break a religion. Not what the Bible or any other religious book tells us, not what is in the news, not what we are told during services or by the ‘wiser’ people, but how we apply the lessons religion teaches us. It’s what we do that counts.