Susan Durber, Christian Aid’s theology coordinator, considers the vexed question of just how much Christian to put into Christian Aid.
There were two theologians giving a lecture together about Jesus. In the time for questions at the end, someone asked: ‘Which of you is the more radical?’
One replied that he didn’t think he could say, but that Jesus was surely more radical than either of them!
Sometimes I get asked questions about how ‘Christian’ Christian Aid is.
There are views about whether and how we should be ‘more’ or ‘less’ Christian, whether we’re too Christian now or not Christian enough.
And I suppose you could count the number of Christians who work for Christian Aid, or you could chart the Biblical quotations in each policy document, but few of us really think that’s the important question.
My own hope for Christian Aid is that we will never stop trying to fathom what Jesus was really about; whether that’s his own teaching and example or what people have experienced of God, in and through him, since.
And I hope that we will never lose the sense that in terms of a vision of a different world – one more just and loving, more life-giving and beautiful – Jesus is always ahead of us or deeper than us: more radical still.
One night on the BBC’s Question Time, the author Jeanette Winterson, who is often a challenging voice for the Church, spoke, in the midst of a discussion about poverty, about what Jesus said and did, with a passion I’ve rarely seen anywhere.
She told an astonished audience: ‘If you read the Bible, I don’t see any sign of Jesus advocating tax breaks for the rich.
'I see him feeding the five thousand. I see him going to the rich man and saying “give away everything you’ve got to the poor if you want to enter the kingdom of heaven”. I see him sitting with prostitutes.’
‘Jesus is always ahead of us or deeper than us: more radical still.'
And she got a round of applause. The teaching of Jesus cut right through that discussion, and it has so much power to move hearts and minds.
He’s still more radical than any voice on any panel you could get together.
To be Christian is to hear that voice and keep on trying to listen to it. That’s how I’d like Christian Aid to be Christian.
Susan is a minister of the United Reformed Church and a former Principal of Westminster College, Cambridge.
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