question marks

The Big Questions – live debate, an experience

I hope you can excuse a little self indulgence while I digest what just happened… Some of you will have seen me on The Big Questions (TBQ) on BBC1 today debating the subject “Is religion good for your mental health”. If you missed it, you can catch it on iPlayer here. It was my 2nd experience of live TV, it’s kinda fun being treated like an important person for a couple of hours. I was asked if I enjoyed it… I think I can certainly say it was an experience but, enjoy? I’m not sure!

In case you don’t know me, in a nutshell, I wouldn’t be alive right now if it were not for my faith. I don’t always talk about my faith, for more details see here. But there’s no escaping it now – live on BBC1 I stated that I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

To be honest, right now I feel overwhelmed with sadness that people claim to be working in the name of God, express hatred towards other human beings. I have been brought up to love everyone, I don’t think this was part of my “religious upbringing” or it’s just a descent thing to do. I do not judge people, it is not my place – I treat others as I would like to be treated.

“as I have loved you. Love one another”

John 13:34

First things first, I’m not out to convert anyone – I share my religious views, if you don’t share them, please do not dismiss me, please do not label me as “judgmental” or assume I hold views that you haven’t asked me about. I share my experiences in case they will help other people.

If someone doesn’t want to experience a personal relationship for God, I’m not going to force it on them. If, however, you’re looking for one and all you hear is “you’re a bad person”, “you’re sinful”, “you’re going to hell”, “you need change before you’re accepted” – this is fundamentally wrong. These words are human in origin, this is not what God says. If you’ve had a bad experience of religion, long story short, it’s likely to have been the human element (i.e. other human’s telling you what you should think or how you should behave) that messed it up, not God.

My experience of God is simple – he loves me for who I am, just the way I am, if I make a mistake he has forgiven me before I do it. He invites me into a personal, loving, relationship with him. As a Anglican Christian, I am fortunate that with my faith comes a loving community – this is not everyone’s experience of Christianity and I feel pretty angry about that.

Predictably, there were people on TBQ who had bad experiences with religion and, rightfully so, wanted to get their voice heard. There were also people who weren’t bothered by religion who didn’t think it was something they needed in order to be healthy. As I have previously found, people who feel they have been wronged have a very loud voice. I find myself wondering what people want when they shout about a bad experience, often an answer to this question is not forthcoming. The need to be heard is powerful but often people don’t think they have been heard unless you agree with them.

I do not dismiss other people’s experiences, I find it hurtful and disrespectful when my experience is disregarded or laughed at. Although I felt respected by all staff working on the production, I was surprised at the “guests” and members of public before and after the debate. A debate is a forum where opposing arguments can be put forward – perhaps I was expecting people to actually listen respectfully to each other but this wasn’t what people wanted to do. People spoke over each other and took the topic off tangent to make unconnected points.

In summary, am I glad I agreed to go on TBQ? On balance, yes. Perhaps I was naive in my assumption that other people would have the same desire I had, to listen and understand other people experiences. But sadly, with other people only wanting to their own voice heard, the subject wasn’t going to be fully explored in such a short time.


11/02/2019 at 07:11

I feel this is a frequent problem with The Big Questions, there is never enough time to explore the subject properly and some people’s voices are louder than others. Shout out for the quiet people. I discovered your blog though so that’s good.

11/02/2019 at 10:21

I totally agree with you. At my Baptist Church the Message recently was about why suffering happens. The main point made was that God does not cause suffering but He uses it for good which I can absolutely confirm from personal experience. What really annoyed me was the lady who said ‘why does a loving God cause suffering and that this wasn’t challenged. Keep up the great narrative.

11/02/2019 at 11:25

yes, yes, yes, yes and yes! The human element is so very damaging and can, for some, make continuing involvement with the institutional church impossible. But God is endlessly and limitlessly loving and accepting and forgiving.
Also, I’m with you on respect… soooo annoying when people polarise and aren’t interested in another’s viewpoint – makes me wonder what they’re scared of.

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