The Last Christian

How political and social climates change, within a generation. It’s a bracing time to aspire to the claim of being a Christian. This isn’t merely because we live (whatever commentators may say) in a rich, diverse and multi cultural society. Rather, it is because those with a public voice have become emboldened, through New Atheism, through the frailty of the Church (corporately and individually) and other factors, to attack the credibility both of faith itself (now the domain of the insane and inadequate) and of the particular claims and doctrines of those who try to follow Jesus Christ. Part of that is seen in the major debate concerning the role of faith in public life: If you don’t share my faith, have I a right to talk about it, wear symbols associated with it, identify it with my professional life, see it is indispensable to every part of my life’s being and activity? Whilst, no doubt, a worthy battle is being fought in these areas,  I can’t help thinking that we are not coming close to the nub of the issue which confronts people of faith. How do others come to share what is precious to us? Is it through bald proselytising, or social provision, or through a more realistic form of witness which is the Christian life lived unapologetically yet with sensitivity? The Christian faith is nothing if not intriguing to many who do not share it – if that were not so, it could scarcely have lasted. It would not have inspired so much rich music, and art, writings, architecture. It could not have shaped so much human political and social endeavour. It could not have persuaded so may throughout history to orientate their lives towards the sacrifice of those lives. For all the weaknesses of its members – and they are considerable – the driving force of this faith is shattering. And it is so not because it rests on a set of propositions but on a person – Jesus Christ. And we shouldn’t be surprised that a questioning world takes issue with his claims, because they are huge claims, and you either fight to remove this person from consciousness, or you worship him as your Lord and God. I choose the latter. It’s a simple as that.

I’m uncertain why this is relevant, but one of my favourite Graham Greene quotes comes from ‘The Last Pope’.

“In the end the world dictator got tired of the game. He wanted to put an end to it in his own lifetime….he did not wish to surrender his place in history as the man who, with his own finger on the trigger of the revolver, had put an end to the Christian myth….The Dictator, after offering the Pope a cigarette, which he refused, and a glass of wine, which he accepted, told him that he was going to die on the spot – the last Christian, the last man in the world who still believed….Then he shot him in the left side of the chest and leaned over the body to give the coup de grace. At that instant, in the second between the pressure on the trigger and the skull cracking, a thought crossed the dictator’s mind: “Is it just possible that what this man believed is true?” Another Christian had been born.”

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