News and Views from our Resident Chaplain
Do you believe in God? Stephen Fry doesn’t! In a recent TV interview Fry he was asked what he would say to God if he died and met him. Fry says that if there was a God (and he doesn’t believe there is because he’s an atheist) he would tell him:
“How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault? It’s not right…” He says “Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?”. I don’t think Fry has ever met the God of the Bible because as a Christian I believe the opposite, I have a loving God who I know as a Heavenly Father and hearing him referred to like this brings sorrow.
At the centre of Fry's argument is the idea that the world that exists is as exactly as God intended it to be. He obviously hasn’t read Genesis as he assumes that God deliberately created a universe with appalling undeserved suffering in it. But a central doctrine of all three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) is that God created a good and perfect world but humanity chose to follow their own desires and since then nothing is fully as it should be. To blame God for natural disasters and suffering is like blaming a house landlord after tenants have trashed their house.
Do you believe in God? Comedian Russell Brand does! He replied to Stephen Fry on his YouTube channel (worth a watch). To his credit, Brand acknowledges what a cultural gift Fry is, both in his career and his activism, referring to him as “clever as hell.” The entire reply has a tone of respectful disagreement. He has quite a rebuttal, but not all his points made sense. Brand goes on to oppose Fry’s views by saying that Fry’s vision of God is wrong, and that what God really is, is this “awakeness” in us all and that religion and believing in God is “an attempt to explain the unknowable”.
I believe they’re both wrong, God doesn’t ‘not exist’ and he isn’t some ‘force’ or an ‘awakeness’. According to the Christian faith, this world is not as God intends it to be but rather than abandoning us when we messed up (which we all continue to do), the Old Testament Jewish scriptures tell us that God spoke into our history and became knowable and communicated with humankind.
The story doesn’t end there though, the story continues into the New Testament and how through Jesus, God physically stepped into our world and by what happened that first Easter on the cross He mended the relationship between God and humankind. This in turn promised a future where evil is finally completely overthrown.
That first Easter continues to affect our broken world, a world where millions of believers are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, showing the same love and peace to all. At the AVA we want to create a school where we can get along and agree to disagree even when someone is saying something we don’t like. So whether you agree with Stephen Fry, or Russell Brand, it’s probably best to follow their lead and learn how to discuss something in a respectful way.
Maybe we this Easter as we’re munching on our chocolate eggs, which represent new life, could also remember the amazing events which took place 2000 years ago. I’ll be praying that you all have a restful, peaceful Easter break.
Well Christmas and New Years Eve already seem a long way behind us and if you’re anything like me you’d have to probably trawl your memory banks to remember exactly what you did, gave or received over the period.
Our memories aren’t great we soon forget and move onto the next thing in our lives. That’s why we read in the Bible that God gave the Israelites their festivals “so you can remember” they are told; Christians celebrate Communion or Mass because Jesus told them to remember his crucifixion and a few weeks back many Muslims celebrated an Eid for Milād-un-Nabī to remember the birth of Muhammad.
I recall back in November a student asking me in why we have ‘Remembrance Day’ and telling him that there is a good reason we have Remembrance day and that is simply to “remember, so as humankind we don’t make the same mistakes twice.”
In our assemblies this past week we have been recognising ‘Holocaust Memorial Day’ (HMD) which takes place on 27th January. It is a day dedicated to the remembrance of those who suffered in The Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution, (but also because we’re so forgetful), those subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. The chosen date is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp by the Soviet Union in 1945. Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest Nazi German concentration camp and death camp. Between 1940 and 1945 The Nazi’s deported at least 1,300,000 people to Auschwitz – the numbers are huge: 1,100,000 jews, 150,000 poles, 25,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviets, 25,000 prisoners from other ethnic groups. Of these 1,100,000 people were killed with approximately 90% being Jews, most in the gas chambers.
Across the 1930’s to 1945 near to 6 million Jews were killed. This is an incredibly large number of deaths through systematic killing – but each death was a living human being, a son, a daughter, a mother, a father, a grandmother or grandfather, a musician, a footballer, a scientist, a doctor – they each had lives that they were living but were cut short – why?
simply because they followed a tradition or a belief different from others. The world stood by for much of the 1930’s doing nothing to combat the rise of anti-semitism across Eastern Europe.
On HMD we can honour the survivors of genocide and challenge ourselves to use the lessons of their experience to inform our lives today. It’s a chance to recognise that genocide does not just take place on its own, it’s a steady process which can begin if discrimination, racism and hatred are not checked and prevented. We’re fortunate here in the UK; we are not at risk of genocide. However, discrimination has not ended, nor has the use of the language of hatred or exclusion.
There is still much to do to create a safer future and HMD is an opportunity to start this process.
It has been heartening to see the protests against the Paris shootings with claims of “Je Suis….” (I am…), it is only when we step into the shoes of our fellow human beings that we can start to understand them and realise that in fact we are a brother or sister to them. Here at the AVA we are a large family of brothers and sisters so next time we see someone differently from ourselves just say to yourself “Je suis …”
Gareth Lane – AVA School Chaplain