Life(style) Reviewer

Book Review: Christianity with Attitude by Giles Fraser

christianity-with-attitudeGiles Fraser, of the liberal tradition, is a passionate and outspoken figure. With arguments that are”accessible to the suspicious secularist”, he is inspired by the fiery language of the Bible in which writers believed in what they said as if their lives depended upon it. As the back cover says here

“he gets to theological grips with a wide range of subjects including the morality of war, the meaning of death, church committees, sex, atheism, giving up smoking, Bratz girls and why you can’t trust Christian cowboys.”

I first came across this book when I was a visitor at my Mum’s bible study group, and went straight out and bought it. It’s a great book for dipping in and out of, and everything in it has been published (I think) this century, so it’s very relevant. Obviously useful for bible studies, challenging your own way of thinking, or maybe offering a non-Christian friend “this article from the Guardian”.

Extract (pp32-3) Write your own obituary
Thought for the Day, 28 July 2005

NASA have calculated that the possibility of a fatal accident on the latest Discovery space mission as 1 in 100. Imagine what it’s like to live with odds like that. The news that a small piece of protective tiling fell from the shuttle at its launch can only have increased the anxiety. It’s not often explicitly mentioned, but it’s clearly there behind the chewed fingernails and ashen faces: the crew undertakes this journey in the full knowledge that they are facing the possibility of their own death. It must take extraordinary courage to agree to such a mission.

But facing the reality of one’s own death isn’t just a morbid fear – it can become something that transformed the very way we think about ourselves.

There’s a spiritual exercise I undertake every year I was taught by a Jesuit friend. I compose my own obituary. Writing up the life you hope to have really focuses the mind.

First drafts are often very stupid. Gile Fraser became the Archbishop of Canterbury, he married a Danish model and played football for Chelsea. That script quickly goes in the bin. And then you start to concentrate more. What is it I really want to be? What is important? What is it I want to do with my life? It’s an opportunity to think big and not be distracted by the petty projects that so commonly consume us.

And when you’ve written all this down, describing a life that you would be genuinely happy with, the next question is a real clincher. Are you going about your life in such a way that the story you have imagined for yourself is a real possibility? In other words, does what you want to be really connect with who you are? In other words, does what you want to be really connect with who you are? It’s a devastating question that can change everything. After all, no one’s written the obituary for you. And so, asking yourself if you’re really going to become this person is simply facing the truth about who you want to be.

Part of what makes the New Testament so focused a work of moral imagination is that it was written under the belief that the end of the world was drawing close. It was written with a huge sense of impending danger that created a form of concentration that burnt away the trivial. Facing the end puts all things into perspective.

What bombs went off in central London, my first though was for the safety and whereabouts of my family. I was instantly reminded of what I really love and care for, what’s important. It’s all too easy to trundle through life without properly taking stock, focusing instead on domestic worries about the mortgage or the next promotion at work. Real danger can come as a wake-up call for the unreflective life.

Prepared for use as as an Oak Hall leader.