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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

23 January 2013: Tom Cooper, St Mary's Buriton

Faith and Action

The behaviour of people who profess to have faith is often regarded as a measure of whether that faith is worth following. If those people are seen to be intolerant, full of hatred, refusing to understand anyone else's point of view, it's not surprising that others, looking on, may say 'their faith isn't worth following'.

For Christians, a guide to behaviour is given in the example of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. There we learn that Jesus was inclusive, tolerant, loving, understanding. He wasn't hide-bound by convention, and he certainly didn't belong to the 'establishment'. However, he wasn't just nice to everybody. One thing that made him really angry was hypocrisy, particularly the hypocrisy of those in authority. That included religious teachers such as the Pharisees (the word still has negative connotations today, largely as a result of how the Pharisees are portrayed in the Bible), the religious hierarchy of the Temple (the 'established church' of his time), and secular rulers.

Charles Dickens made a telling comment on the actions of those who profess a faith they do not keep in his well-loved classic, A Christmas Carol. The Ghost of Christmas Present, representing an idealisation of faith, declares: 'There are some upon this earth of yours, who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us, and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us'.

The actions of those who profess a faith may well fall short of the ideals promoted by that faith. Perhaps, given human frailty, they will always do so. Yet that shouldn't mean that the faith itself is any less worth following.

This article was submitted for publication in the Petersfield Post on 23 January; it is possible that it was published earlier or may be published later.

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