For The Birds

It’s been a while, but Chris Sugden has succeeded in shaking me out my current torpor with this hilarious attempt to turn Comment Is Free into a pulpit…

There’s plenty of worry around at the moment – the governor of the Bank of England is worried about the imminent recession. People are worried about losing their jobs and negative equity in their homes. People will be worried about the pressure then on their relationships. Worry is destructive. It consumes energy. It distracts attention from getting on with life. It keeps you awake at night. It is always worse at night.

And your point is?

But it’s alright. Supported by Evangelist Dawkins, atheists are emblazoning an answer across our capital city for all to see: accept the probability that there is no God and you can stop worrying. This atheism is anything but theoretical.

I think you’ve missed the point of the poster, which is to suggest that people stop worrying unnecessarily about what the great non-existent celestial sky fairy allegedly thinks, not whether they’re likely to still have a job next week.

Jesus of Nazareth was in touch with real people and real life.

Any fucking excuse for a bit of preaching, eh?

Oh, and by the way, you do realise the (if he existed) the last time he was in touch with anyone was around 2,000 years ago?

He said this: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable are you than birds!”

So, what Jesus is saying, in a nutshell, is even if you do lose your job, home, family and everything else, you’ll be alright…

…there’s always roadkill.

For Jesus, the existence of a creator God and the evidence of his provision for birds of the air, was, contrary to what the campaign suggests, not an argument for, but specifically an argument against, worry.

So why make with all the stuff about hell and eternal damnation, then?

Jesus identified the origin of worry in the human desire for security and predictability. “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” He identified the human solution: to build storehouses to secure the enjoyment of life. He told of a man who built large storehouses to store his goods so that he could then take life easy.

Sounds like a reasonable plan…

Jesus identified the flaw in this solution – thieves steal, moths corrupt, and death comes unannounced.

So you get a guard dog and mothballs and if death does turn up unannounced then you’re going to be in no position to give a toss anyway, so why worry about it?

Once in this hole, the human antidote to worry is to keep on digging: to seek ever more secure solutions. Much advertising and selling is based on this. Are you fully insured? Do you want to take out a five-year guarantee? Have you a burglar alarm?

Jesus calls this solution folly and madness. He offers one simple antidote: God. God knows that people need food and clothes and shelter and security. God made us the way we are. “Your Father knows you need them,” he says. We just need to seek God’s kingdom which he is pleased to give those who will receive it and “all these things will be yours as well”.

Yeah, right – tell that to the actuary.

You know any minute now this guys going to explain how to sort out the credit crunch with 5 loaves of Warburtons and couple of tins of tuna.

But will this solution be enjoyable – the other measure that bus advertisement employs? It may be secure, but will it be the security of a silent monastery?

Huh? – what the hell is this guy on about now?

Jesus says there are two choices before us: life or death. He says that he offers life in abundance, overflowing, welling up, life that is eternal.

But only after you’re dead, so where does this choice business come into things as it looks very much to me like you gonna wind up dead now matter how the deal actually goes down…

You can see how the scam works, can’t you – you sell people a promise that can’t be verified, safe in the knowledge that no one’s ever coming back to tell everyone they’ve been had.

We are faced with those who suggest that if we are not living our dream, then life is not worth living. This was tragically brought home last week with the debate around the very sad story of Daniel James, the rugby player, with a mum and dad, two sisters and a lovely home, who decided he did not want to live a “second-class existence”. Who had suggested his paralysed existence was second class – in comparison with what? Jesus says: “How much more valuable are you than birds.” (Read Jesus’ words in Luke 12: 13-34 and John 10.10).

Well, I do know that a cheap chicken is £3 at Asda – is that any help?

I doubt that anyone suggested to the guy that his existence was second class, he just came to that conclusion off his own bat – it called thinking for yourself, you know.

My late brother, an accountant, was achondroplastic – among his other accomplishments was as an actor in professional productions of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

Hi-ho?

Sorry – some things you can’t resist. Look, is all this actually going somewhere?

Towards the end of his 54 years of life he said that in all likelihood under present legislation he might not have been allowed to live at all.

In which case he wouldn’t have been around to give a toss, would he, so the point is entirely moot

Some might have considered his life, and his last six months in spinal paralysis, as second class.

And – as long as he didn’t where’s the problem?

Human personhood, human enjoyment, and the value of life will always be measured. The question is, “By what standard?” Remove God, probably, and we are at the mercy of our own solutions to security, and other people’s decisions about the value of our life. There’s reason to worry.

Worry about what?

Oh, I see – its the old we can’t be moral with a sky fairy routine, the one that’s been debunked how many times?

Oh dear – it doesn’t get any better no matter how often you hear it.