Outlook Issue 18 Winter 2014
News and Views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
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How to be a BAD Christian … and a better human being
How to be a BAD Christian … and a better human being by Dave Tomlinson (Hodder & Stoughton, 2013 £8.99) When I first read How to be a bad birdwatcher by Simon Barnes, the book gave me hope. I would never turn myself into a fully-fledged twitcher – and wouldn’t want to – but I might be able to recognise the song of a chaffinch when I heard it. The same applies to Dave Tomlinson’s delightful book How to be a bad Christian. Plenty of people don’t go near a church, notes the author, but they still manage to build a relationship with God. Tomlinson, the vicar of a thriving North London parish, offers us a view of the world which goes way beyond the church altar. Like Christ himself, you can find Dave mixing it with all and sundry – in the pub, on the street; anywhere, in fact, where people congregate. The message is simple – that you can bump into God anywhere. God doesn’t care how you pray, knows you’re not perfect but He will listen and He’s there when you need Him. Prayer, notes Dave, can find expression in almost any human activity, from lighting a small candle to giving someone a hug. God, he reminds us with a quote from Desmond Tutu, “is clearly not a Christian … his concern is for all his children … that Christians do not have a monopoly on God is an almost trite observation.” Reading this book made me feel better about the general muddle of life. We just don’t have all the answers and we can’t predict exactly what’s going to happen, however well we plan. “The object of religion is not to prepare us for the next life,” writes Dave, “it is a call to experience eternal life now.” In other words, feel comfortable with the present and don’t spend your time worrying about tomorrow. How to be a bad Christian is in itself a tongue in cheek, ironic title. The people Dave introduces us to in the book are not bad Christians, but they can be unconventional ones! Kay, for example, prays at home and while rejecting formal religion is happy to organize the funeral of her lonely neighbour. Dave Tomlinson has a foot in both camps. His approach is an example to us all. Nick Cottam