After the census form landed on her doormat earlier this year, Charlotte Haines Lyon has been thinking about her faith.
It is a question that I have been avoiding for many years. However this year it confronted me in purple, black and white; the Census.
There seemed to be no room to say “depends on the hour, day or week.”
A précis of my faith history, starts with being Christened and sent to Sunday School in the hope that I would see the light and not get involved.
Things went a bit awry for my parents at 17, when I did the whole “inviting Jesus in to my life” thing and became an utter zealot for about 7 years.
Then as I rediscovered my liberal roots and brain, I started to question this blind kind of faith and slowly disentangled myself from the church.
The last year of this process entailed numerous interviews as a possible ordinand. The result? I realised that I really didn't like going to church and I wasn't sure if I was a Christian.
For the last decade I have dabbled on margins of Christianity. I tried Atheism and Agnosticism but kept back sliding but felt unable to say I was a Christian.
I know plenty about what I don't believe but not much about what I do. I am hesitant to call myself Christian as the label seems to imply a neat parcel of misplaced assumptions.
It is often thought by people on both sides of the faith debate that Christianity is synonymous with homophobia, lack of rationality or anti scientific thought, anti sex, a regular church habit, bible bashing.
Whilst I know this is not necessarily true, it is quite exhausting to prove and to be honest I have just kept my head down.
Things changed this year though. When it came to the census question about faith, The Humanist Society got their knickers even more twisted than me.
They explained on their website that when they asked people the census question “What is your religion?”, 61% in England and Wales ticked a religious box. (53.48% Christian and 7.22% other) 39% ticked “No Religion”.
However when they asked the question “Are you religious?”, only 29% of the same people said “Yes” while 65% said “No”.
This really bugged the Society and they went on to say, “Even, more revealingly, less than half (48%) of those who ticked “Christian” said they believed that Jesus Christ was a real person who died and came back to life and was the son of God.”
For crying out loud! Over the last few years I stressed about how other Christians or the church define “Christian”.
Now the Humanist Society is in on the act. Not only are they deciding what theology is correct, they complain that 63% of people living in England and Wales have not attended a place of Worship in the last year.
Since when have atheists become the religious police?
So in a rather hasty act of rebellion, I gleefully marked that I was a Christian. I still am not sure about this, I feel obliged to provide caveats.
I am not convinced about a physical resurrection, I am not sure about God being personal and am certainly not “friends with Jesus”.
Regardless of theology, I can't separate myself from my Christian heritage with all its entwined splendours and horrors.
My children now go to a rural school that does not flinch from its legal duty to have a daily act of worship.
They are now bringing prayers, questions about God and invites to church services home.
So now, I am tentatively living with the word Christian. I'm not sure how this will work or what it will mean.
I will try to make it to Church more than twice this year and also pay some attention to the faith of my children.
How this will work, I have no idea. Watch this space.
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