Friday, October 16, 2009

This Sunday...

Cross-posted from UKSpirituality


While most readers of this blog will have been drawn here by an interest in or expression of spirituality, most of us will not have suffered persecution because of what we believe in.

Persecution can define religions – the Christian church was shaped on the anvil of martyrdom, Judaism and Islam developed their unique characteristics simply to survive. Unitarianism even embodies its spirit of dissent in its name – an original rejection of the Holy Trinity.

Persecution can define countries and causes – intrinsic to Britain’s understanding of itself is the Summer of 1940 when it beat back the Nazis. Socialists still speak of the Tolpuddle Marchers, Irish Republicans Bloody Sunday.

Even today, in England, some individuals almost consciously seem to seek out persecution – the registrars who refuse to marry Gays, the niqab-clad school teachers.

Persecution can put our faith to the test. It can even, dare I say it, make us feel special. I remember as an awkward, oddball teenager being told by a girlfriend: the reason they don’t like you is because you’re different, and different is good – it means you are better than them.

It certainly lifted my spirits.

So persecution can cut both ways. It can seek us out, or we can seek it out.

What spirituality means to me is truth and I don’t mean – this piece of dogma over that, or the “true” story of creation. What I mean is what speaks to my soul, be it a work of art, a beautiful (or bleak) day, a moment of intimacy, or an insight that strips away all pretence.

So I seek to live in truth as best I can. To me, truth is an expression of holiness, a holiness some might call God.

It is also a useful way of cutting through the crap. What is a true persecution? Are we being faithful to a greater cause, or just striking a pose?

Christians still face genuine persecution in countries like India and Pakistan. Attacks on British Jews are at an all-time high, while in the Middle East, Bahais, who in many ways resemble a kind of Islam-influenced Unitarians, are regularly victimised. I was actually inspired to post by news that a date has now been set for October 18 for the “trial” of seven Bahais in Iran for the capital offences of “corrupting the earth” and “espionage for Israel”.

What can we do? What can you do? Not a great deal, it is true – there sometimes seems to be so much suffering in the world.

But as small as each of us is, in smallness we can do what we can – as individuals remember, pray even for these seven on the 18th.

As communities – reach out to local Bahais and join our small voice to theirs.

In their uninvited persecution is our fellowship – in their truth is our truth.

And truth is holy.

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