Dave Tomlinson: The bad Christian’s manifesto

A review of a talk given on Sunday 22nd Feb. in St Marks.

If someone had told me two years ago I’d be sitting in a not overly-warm church at 6:30 pm on a gloomy Sunday in February, listening to a talk on modern Christianity and faith in general, I would have been politely sceptical. However, there I was with about twenty other people. Furthermore I’m glad I went.

Dave is an obviously intelligent person who thinks long and deeply about the reconciliation of faith and our modern technological society. He combines this with an ability to communicate ideas without resorting to scholarly erudition. He has written two books on this theme: “How to be a bad Christian” and “The bad Christian’s manifesto”. This talk was associated with the launch of the second book.

I won’t attempt to cover everything in Dave’s talk. As I found myself in agreement with much that he said, it would probably be my own less-coherent thoughts coming through, anyway. I’ll just touch on a couple of messages I took away with me. If you want more, read the books.

One was the concept of a two-dimensional existence. It’s very easy to go through life not thinking about faith and what we are doing here, and not be troubled by such questions at all. You might only get a glimpse of such a weird world when you’re asked to go along to a baptism or a funeral and awkwardly participate in rituals you don’t understand. Equally you might be a regular churchgoer never questioning why you do it, or attempting to reconcile your habit/faith with the modern world. However, if you start to plumb the third dimension, asking about belief and why etc., then maybe you are finding God, no matter what your starting point. (Indeed, God was never lost, just waiting.)

The other idea is that we all have our own ideas of God, irrespective of whether we believe in the concept or not. Your idea will almost certainly be different from mine and you might not believe in mine any more than I could accept yours. This might make us bad Christians in the eyes of those who insist on conformity of thoughts, but .. so what? The key thing is to have such thoughts. Let’s celebrate the diversity.

Basically, a very illuminating and thought-provoking talk, and somewhere in the thoughts, maybe God was having a quiet chuckle.

Bob Shatwell

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