Religion must be updated

Your recent spate of correspondence in the Letters column from Christian adherents about Sunday trading and Christianity is both mystifying and deeply worrying.

It displays a disturbing risk that the very belief-system they seek to protect will be rendered irrelevant and carried on, in the future, only in the margins of daily life.

If I were a Christian, indeed a member of any organised religion, then the only God I would be willing to worship is a god of today – a god of modern science, modern arts and modern culture, of advancements in medicine and modern surgical techniques; a god of rock and roll, jazz and hip-hop; a god of the Internet, a god of cricket, golf and rugby football (which is, by the way, the game they play in heaven!); a god of space travel, roller-blades and even Cayman Airways; a god with a sense of humour; a god of TV, surfing the web and soap operas. And yes! – a god of Sunday shopping and Sunday movie-going.

At a time when fundamentalists in all religions are the cause of large-scale defections from congregations all over the world – at a time when fewer and fewer young people are being attracted to the Christian church and are turning to alternative, and, for them, more relevant ‘belief systems’ – at a time when all Christian churches are suffering from a shortage of priests and even lay-officials, you would have thought that ministers and representatives from every branch of the Christian church would be bending over backwards to present Jesus Christ as a man of today; a man of the 21st century; a man of society’s needs and desires; a man of today’s research and development.

Rooting a belief system in the culture, geography and anthropological circumstances of its origin is to guarantee that such a religion will wither and die on the vine.

Christianity is a great religion – not, however, the only great and valid religion – and one which deserves to grow and flourish.

Based on love and charity, on forgiveness and compassion, it must develop and expand its embrace, if those desirable, even essential, virtues are to be carried forward for future generations.

It must modernise by presenting the Father and the Son as men of today, – men who understand the needs of today’s societies and families, of today’s workplace, of today’s High Street, of today’s tourism and today’s industry; men and eternal deities unfettered by the culture and mores of the place and time of the origin of the faith they created.

If it doesn’t do that then a truly wonderful and glorious religion will shrink and be marginalised in a way that is already being manifested.

Despite my agnostic neutrality, I believe that Christianity is too great and magnificent a faith to endure that fate.

Stephen Hall-Jones