Recently I was listening to Grounded with Louis Theroux on BBC Sounds as the documentary maker spoke with actor and writer Michaela Coel (Chewing Gum, I May Destroy You).
It was a fascinating conversation that covered many topics including Michaela finding faith at 18 and then no longer being a Christian anymore and why. As a Christian I would like to respond to some of the things brought up, my response won’t be neat and perfect and I may come back to it at a later date but this is my response right now.
For the context of the blog when I refer to the Church I am not talking about a specific denomination but rather the body of Christ, the people of God, all of us who are Christians.
The first thing Michaela touches on when discussing becoming a Christian at 18 is the deep sense of community and family she experienced in the context of the Church. This should be the experience for everyone, unfortunately it’s not. For those of you who have felt hurt, unseen or unheard by the Church whether Christian or not, we are sorry. I can’t speak for individual churches but I know that most of us are trying but we are human and will get wrong. If you are reading this and you’re are not a Christian yet or maybe you’re thinking about faith a bit more, know that there is a Church for you. Not every Church will be for you and that’s ok, we worship a God who responds to us in diverse ways so the way we each respond to him will be different. That is a beautiful thing
The next thing Michaela said troubled me, she mentions things as a Christian she couldn’t do. What some people might refer us to as vices although with quite a broad definition. She talks about not going to parties and probably not having much fun. That is not my experience, yes the way we do some of these things may look different but Christianity is not about rules and regulations but a relationship that has freedom and life in it. ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’. John 10:10 In some versions of the Bible it may say life in abundance, God is not anti-fun He is a God of joy who wants to bless you with abundance.
The 3rd thing Michaela addresses is the gift of tongues, something that at times has been divisive in the Church. I have never spoken in tongues so might not be right person to talk to on this subject but I know people who have. It can be easy to dismiss tongues as silly or fake, unfortunately there are probably people who fake it, the only advice I can give is ask God to help you know what is true or speak to a Christian who has been a Christian for bit longer for advice on this subject.
Michaela refers to tongues as gobbledygook similar to exercises she did in drama school. As a former drama student myself I am familiar with these vocal exercises but they are different. Whereas the exercises were just silly and to help with your voice, tongues are an actual language the term tongues in the Bible refer to different languanges. Something that has proper vocabulary and sentence structures. It can be weird the first time you hear tongues, you’re not alone and we as the Church can and need to better at explaining tongues. First appearing in the account of Pentecost in the book of Acts, people spoke in different languages that were not their own and that they had no knowledge of, to spread the message of Jesus.
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”
Acts 2:1-11 NIV
Tongues is one of the gifts of the spirit, not everyone will speak it as there are many different gifts of the spirit that God blesses us with. People still speak tongues today, in a language not known to them. It is an incredible thing but please be aware if someone starts starts self interpreting that is not of God. God will bless someone else with the gift of interpretation. You may be reading this with a raised eybrow whether Christian or not and that’s ok, I’m not going to convince you with words on a screen. This requires faith, but the more you step out in faith the more you may be surprised by the results.
Finally Michaela spoke about how faith can limit our understanding of things, she says she chose science over God. This is where we get it wrong as Church sometimes, we are so desperate for people to know God that we over explain, under explain or don’t explain at all. It leaves people confused and without answers, we as a Church need to sometimes reflect on the answers we give and listen more to those asking questions
I do not believe there is a conflict between God and science, in fact most Christians don’t, there are many more smarter people than myself that could answer your questions about God and the universe. My response may be simple but the more I learn about science the more is revealed to me of the glory of God. This is not a passive or inactive God but a God who is actively and intimately involved in the universe and our lives.
If you are not sure about any of this that is perfectly normal, doubt is a central part of being human, it is ok to ask questions. It says in the Bible that we are to love God with all our heart, soul and mind, engaging our brain in these issues is biblical and a good thing.
If your not sure about all of this, can I encourage you to pray these words: God, please reveal yourself to me Amen. The God I believe in sees you, knows you and loves you.