An evening of conversation with a friend of three decades and a bemoaning of the lazy faith that now besets the church. Hard thinking has now been replaced by a frothy package of experiences; middle aged men in blue shirts and chinos pretend their expanding waistlines and receding hairlines do not betray them as people who are closer to forty years of age than twenty. Whilst the classical music of the cathedrals is respected by afficionados who would profess no faith; the music of the evangelical gatherings finds no listenership in the wider world, no secular music station would contemplate playing the ersatz rock music of the praise bands.
It has become difficult to imagine the times when Christian leaders made a major contribution to academic and public discourse, times when there were ethical and social questions that received serious, reasoned reflection. The faith of the praise bands and worship leaders is without the argued logic of former times, instead it is a serious of propositions, bullet points to which people are expected to adhere.
Worst of all is the laziness of thinking which allows people to stand up an assert that God has answered their prayers for a plethora of small things, but seems unable to respond to those who cry out in times of need beyond the imagination of those who wave hands on a Sunday morning.
Philip Gourevitch’s book “We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families” would make sobering reading for those inclined to make claims about all the things God has done. The book tells of an incident during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. A group of Pentecostal pastors and their families were among those taken captive, and they wrote appealing for help in unambiguous terms. The letter stated in blunt terms, to anyone who might have listened, “We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families.” Their appeal for help went unanswered, their prayers for safety were in vain, they were all massacred by genocidaires.
How can God answer prayers for trivial things in the lives of affluent Europeans and ignore the prayers of poor Africans? A faith based on an individualistic spirituality, where ethics consists in little more than a dislike of gay and lesbian people, and a theology that is a series of assertions, has no prospect of engaging with the world in which it exists.
Perhaps faith thirty years ago had no more substance than it has now, but it had not retreated into a cul-de-sac of laziness.