Flowers do Bloom in the Desert

Article in Stretton Focus March 2020

After the most devastating forest fires Australia has known, the signs of new life and growth are well underway. Spring does come again. Life renews itself, not necessarily in the same way. New species or mutations emerge. For faith communities this is full of meaning and expectation and all about life and living, renewal and flourishing. In travel through cultures, different from our own, and in our heads, many people are becoming much more aware of the richness of that diversity of what a human being is. We are seeing both the surprise and unpredictability of our natural world. Even sex, gender and marriage definitions are being challenged in a world that is pursuing justice, inclusion and the redefining of how humanity is.

All scriptures and traditions and customs and practices grow out of a particular time, place, culture and geopolitical environment. To be alive and useful to us now, they need constantly to be re-interpreted, revised or re-invented in our time and place. Sometimes they need consigning to the interesting historical archives, appropriate to then. What is ‘eternal’, i.e. of continuing meaning for humanity will survive and influence us through our experience of life itself.

Christ is a universal figure of faith, not the faith as handed down from the saints, but ‘faith’ itself. That is to say we are called by this universal Christ to move on beyond the systems of beliefs in our confessions, creeds, doctrines and dogma. Move beyond, no use going back and re-configuring these ancient documents; there is little agreement to be found there. Move on to faith i.e. to trust the movement. Christianity itself is a movement. Faith or trust is NOW, and it is faith in that movement that was and is the evolving of human hopes, aspirations and dreams inspired by Christ; which comes to us NOW from many sources of knowledge.

There is another way by which we know truth. That is God-given reason. What I mean by reason is that new information, hard earned information, where many people have worked, most often collaboratively, at learning, discerning, experimenting and exploring how things are and what they mean and how life can be. This is true of all sciences, technology, society and the arts. Biblical and religious learning can be no exception. Reason, faith and love, interrogates the scriptures and traditions, questioning and enabling us to change our minds. All genuine learning and investigation is where God speaks to us continuously over the centuries. This God is not confined to religion but is in the wholeness of life itself.

Can religion break out of its separation from much of the living of people’s lives to join those who share the same aspirations, hopes and longings for humanity, though drawn from different inspirations? Can we stop prefixing people as ‘non’ – non-Christian, non-Catholic, nonreligious? In its place can we enjoy the prospect of coming and acting together for a more inclusive humanity and a better, more just world towards the greater happiness of all peoples?

Noel Beattie