What informs how I think

Dear George (Grant),

I write this letter, not to apologise for my opinion on the issue of Chester Humphrey, but to help people to understand that the views I have expressed are not inconsistent with my training and my understanding of God. And yes, those views were mine and not that of any of the institutions that I represent.

At a post masters degree level, I was trained at the Healthcare Chaplaincy in New York which is the US’s largest interfaith institution for clinical pastoral education. My education included 8 months at the Brookdale University Hospital, and a one-year internship at the New York Presbyterian Hospital.

In my training, I was taught to appreciate the differing religious views of others. My teachers were Buddhist, Muslims, Hindu, Jewish and Christian.  I have learnt how to minister to people without the need to impose my beliefs on them, but rather to find out from them what in their faith tradition helps them during times of illness; and to ensure, to the best of my ability, that those resources are made available to them.

I believe that any person who is self-evaluating goes through a process of evolution in his or her faith. Sometimes that evolution is imperceptible, but that person may come to see things completely differently now from how they saw it in the past. I have a strong, almost implicit faith in God to whom all my allegiance belongs. I also believe in the ability of the Holy Spirit to convince anyone of the truth of God’s existence.  My role as a catalyst in this process is relational: incarnating the love of Christ to all.

I believe that the person who is secure in his own faith is able to appreciate that people are at various stages in their journey of faith or non-faith. Indeed, true faith must have an element of doubt for it to be faith. Some people have more doubt that they have belief. Sometimes what moves them from disbelief to some inkling of belief is the manifestation of God in the lives of the people they encounter.

It would be a terrible day in our country when some citizens are declared more equal than others because some have faith and others do not. If we want to bar particular people from high office, then the constitution or our laws should explicitly say so.

According to my understanding of the constitution, it is our belief in the fatherhood and supremacy of God that enables us to respect the freedom of conscience of persons and ensure that all their rights are secure regardless of their creed, political affiliation, colour or disability. (We must not forget that there was a time when persons with disabilities were called “Invalid” and were treated as though they were).

I find it rather interesting  that many who now oppose an individual because of his belief that there is no God, also speak glowingly of the “glorious revolution” when the constitution was suspended, and we had no idea whether or not our  hero leaders believed in God.

During the days of the People’s Revolutionary Government, Grenada established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, which was then an atheist State.  People speak of their admiration of Fidel Castro and promote the inclusion of Cuba in the Community of Nations. Do we ask whether Castro or other leaders of Cuba believe in God or not?

I believe in a God who is omnipotent and wholly relational. I do not know what is in store for Chester Humphrey in God’s plan, but God always has God’s way. I worry not about the implication of Chester being President of the Senate having negative effect on posterity as much as I do the inconsistencies, the inequalities, the divisiveness and the intolerance that resides within the institutions that are called Christian.

I close this letter with a story I read in a book written by an atheist who eventually came to faith.

Once upon a time there was an old woman who used to meditate on the bank of the Ganges. One morning, finishing her meditation, she saw a scorpion floating helplessly in the strong current. As the scorpion was pulled closer, it got caught in roots that branched out far into the river.

The scorpion struggled frantically to free itself but got more and more entangled. She immediately reached out to the drowning scorpion, which, as soon as she touched it, stung her.

The old woman withdrew her hand but, having regained her balance, once again tried to save the creature. Every time she tried, however, the scorpion’s tail stung her so badly that her hands became bloody and her face distorted with pain.

A passerby who saw the old woman struggling with the scorpion shouted, “What’s wrong with you, fool! Do you want to kill yourself to save that ugly thing?”

Looking into the stranger’s eyes, she answered, “Because it is the nature of the scorpion to sting, why should I deny my own nature to save it?”

(Found in The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, by Francis S. Collins)

Osbert James
And believer in the living God.

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