When we moved to Oxford, and my daughter, Irene, was five, she sat next to a little girl in school called Persephone Marlowe.
And in church, to our surprise, there was Persephone Marlowe. And the whole Marlowe family who were lovely and became good friends of ours.
And when Irene was 10, I began to blog.
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Now, blogging is an enormous vehicle of growth if you decide to be honest (since, anyway, one day all that is hidden shall be revealed).
And I was. I explored my discomfort with the church I currently attended (which wasn’t the wisest thing, and led me to having to leave it:-).
I explored my discomfort with contentious issues on the edges of faith. With those too ready to consign others to hell, with rigid positions on homosexuality, women’s roles, theology, or rigid inerrancy.
I threw the jigsaw of my faith on the floor, in mid-life, and reconstructed what I, Anita Mathias, really, really, believed rather than what I, Anita Mathias, had been taught.
And having questioned everything, I came back to a settled Mere Christian faith, and it was good. I felt at home in it.
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And then I noticed that little Persephone Marlowe, now a beautiful teenager, was following my blog.
And, oddly, that settled the direction my blog was going to grow.
Persephone Marlowe was going to have plenty of her own faith shifts in time. We all do. But was I going to be the one to precipitate them? I, who know the anguish of questioning the very fabric of the faith so precious to me. It’s like jumping off a cliff trusting that the air will catch you.
I had asked my own daughters not to read my blog when I was working things out, so as not to scandalize then. The Holy Spirit would work on their faith in his own time. They continued to believe the conservative evangelical position taught in church, and I let them, while I was questioning–because I was questioning, and I hadn’t arrived, and some journeys can only be made alone, and one of those journeys is the journey of faith. In fact, my elder daughter Zoe’s faith is more conservative than mine, and when I don’t agree with everything Irene is taught at youth group, I am silent.
So could I, should I, be responsible for precipitating the faith-shifts of the teenagers who follow me, friends of Zoe, friends of Irene? Or should I celebrate the broad common ground of mere Christianity, rather than explore the exhausting, thin, low oxygen Machu Picchu air of dissent.
I decide. I probably didn’t believe everything my faith tradition taught in the way others believed it. But my common ground with other charismatic evangelicals was massive, and there was much to celebrate and rejoice.
There were a myriad celebratory posts I could write with good conscience, ideas which strengthened, encouraged, inspired and comforted me, and so might, if I were lucky, strengthen, encourage, inspire and comfort others.
I would major on the majors. Where I disagreed, I would largely be silent, unless I thought bad theology was actually harmful, in which case it would be my duty to speak.
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When I tried to get my sister Shalini to join me in mischief, my mother used to say, If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
Now I sure Jesus meant it rhetorically, but I decided since I loved Christ, and loved so much about the body of the Christ, I would rather write celebratory, positive, faith-filled posts than risk scandalizing, or denting the faith of Persephone Middleton and the other sweet friends of my daughters who follow my blog.
Will my blog be saccharine sweet? Nope. My no bull-shXt rule still applies. Fortunately, as Adrian Plass says, “God is nice and he likes me,” and so the central fact of the love of God for us provides us a multitude of subjects for blog posts that are sweet, and nourishing and also true. Thank heavens!