Blog Post

On the wrong side of Calvinism.

  • s Writing
  • + laurent carrozza
  • P 15th Jan 2017, 23:05
  • C Doubt

Religion and spirituality were never mentioned in a positive or negative way at home. It was just not a thing. Of course, we would go to church at weddings, funerals or at some distant cousins' baptisms, but my family saw it as something you do for tradition’s sake, a random archaic thing that one does just because and-why-are-you-always-asking-questions.

In my late teenagehood, as my politics steered away from my family’s bourgeois centre right wing liberalism, I became a regular reader of Charlie Hebdo and grew so anti-clerical that I would refuse to enter a steeple house (that’s the way some Quakers call church buildings). At funerals or weddings, I would stay outside with the tied up pets and the old hippies in their smartest pair of shorts and flip-flops and we’d talk overenthusiastically about May 1968.

Then, I met Ruth, a Christian with a Christian family, Christian friends and even a Bible in her bedroom! She and her friends were young, smart, cool and beautiful. They cared for each other and the world. They gave presents and cuddles to one another, they were thoughtful, played together, cried together and laughed together. Also, they were active: some worked for Friends of the Earth, others were guerrilla gardeners, skippers, soup kitchen managers, campaigners…

I had quite a tight group of friends back home but we never looked at each other with as much desire to be together and to share life as those people did. And, although the fact that we voted for the far left and wore Che Guevarra T-shirts made us believe that we were good people who cared for our fellow human, we never actually did anything to try and change the world.

I liked what I saw in Ruth and her friends and I wanted some of it. Plus, when Ruth was pregnant I thought it would be a really good idea if I became a Christian. Things would be easier for everybody and maybe I could resemble those inspiring people. I started reading C.S Lewis, Nicky Gumbel, Tom Wright, Donald Miller, Philip Yancey, frère Antoine (he’s a hermit monk from my village and he writes books) and every other Christian book I was offered. I bought myself a Bible and started reading random passages. I remember finding Jesus a very interesting character. What’s more revolutionary than loving your enemy? And it helped me understand Ruth and her friends better. My problem was that I could not believe it. I just couldn’t. From Genesis (especially Genesis) to Jesus’ conception and resurrection, I could not believe it. I also could not understand the need for salvation: What could I possibly have done to deserve eternity in conscious suffering? Nothing.

One day we were preparing a trip to the island of Iona. A friend of ours who was a theology student (he is now an ordained Church of Scotland minister) took me apart and explained that Iona is a special place because it is where Christianity started in the British Isles. He said that ‘’the gap between Heaven and Earth is very thin over there’’. He told me to go to a particular beach and to say a prayer. It was something along the lines of ‘’Lord, please come into my life…’’. He added that God’s presence would be so obvious it would be impossible for me to not see it. Obediently, one evening I went to the place and said the prayer. Nothing happened. Nothing at all that had not been happening before. If you're into Belgian rock, listen to this song, I felt a bit like him: Please Exist

I started thinking that I’m on the wrong side of Calvinism.