Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Have no Fear

Good morning God,

I’m puzzled. When Christians talk of liberation theology, they are usually referring to the way in which they try to read and engage the Bible and the Church in a search for the liberation of all your people from poverty and/or oppressive unjust or corrupt political systems. From its contemporary roots in the slums of Latin America, this sort of  theology has grown to embrace the many diverse freedoms being sought and demanded in an enlightened age: Black theology. Feminist theology, ecotheology and disability theology all take as their basic premise the freedom that you give for us to read, understand and interpret Scripture as a direct commentary, your critique of whatever ‘imprisons’ or inhibits the equality, grace and Spirit of humanity as created and blessed by you.


What is so surprising, so depressing and ultimately so soul destroying for me therefore,  as one of your ministers, is how little Christian theology actually engages with the primary source of enslavement and disempowerment, and how endemic this source is in Western Christianity. As Aung San Suu Kyi has noted – “the only real prison is fear and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.”


To be fair, God, most people are totally unaware of how scared they really are, or how their fear betrays their lack of faith. It was, after all, only when the storm hit the ship on which Wesley was sailing to the States that he discovered just how weak his faith, and that of his fellow Englishmen was, in comparison with that of the Moravian women and children who were not afraid to die. Similarly it is only on being told that I have cancer that so many of my staunch Christian friends discover how painfully weak their faith and their confidence in you is, and how deeply enslaved they are to their fear of sickness and death.


It grieves me to see how prayer can be reduced to a sticking plaster and how quickly faith is invoked as a means of barricading the door of life against the fury of the coming storm. To be told by friends that ‘everything will be alright’, that you will ‘look after me’, because ‘they can do wonderful things these days’ makes me weep with sorrow at a wasted life. If after preaching the gospel all this time, I still haven’t managed to communicate your message that life is eternal, that we need have no fear – and that life in all its fullness doesn’t mean a life without pain or sorrow, then I despair that I will ever succeed in helping to set people free.


I am puzzled that people don’t see the contradiction in their offers of prayers for my healing – this is a slow growing cancer which probably began over twenty years ago – do they think that You were not with me then? Do they think that you didn’t hear the prayers of those who love me and who have been continually upholding me, or that you only choose to act now – when people are afraid?


Of course not.


You have never left me, this cancer is not some evil sent by you to punish me, neither is it some test or trial of my faith or, worse yet, something that you have inflicted on me in order to teach me the miracle of prayer and healing!. Prayers for strength make sense to me, but  prayers for healing of  body mind and spirit have only ever made sense when there is a complete absence of any fear of death. Life is, after all, a death sentence, we just don’t choose to live it as though it is. In Christ you died to end the fear of death, so that there is nothing that can separate us from your love – even our deepest darkest fears.


No God, I know of no reason why I shouldn’t eventually die of cancer, or of food poisoning, or in a road accident, or even of old age, just as I can think of no reason why I should. But I am thankful that by the time that I die I will have known joy and pain, laughter and tears, faith and doubt. I will also have known fear, and the freedom from fear which saves – the truth that sets me free.


  1. Angela,

    Thank you for your thoughful and challenging reflections - though I'm finding the blog really challenging, it's helping me to keep my brain engaged with my faith.

    You will be in my thoughts and prayers as you face the tough stuff ahead.

    Anna xxx

    PS It was so lovely to finally meet you at Conference!

  2. Angie,

    Thanks for this.

    These are powerful and true words:

    "You have never left me, this cancer is not some evil sent by you to punish me, neither is it some test or trial of my faith or, worse yet, something that you have inflicted on me in order to teach me the miracle of prayer and healing!"

    Also regarding "... then I despair that I will ever succeed in helping to set people free." As some one who has been helped into freedom by you I would not despair on that account.

  3. Don’t despair of us Angie!!! So often when faced with unexpected news one instinctively responds…you want to say something deep, meaningful and personal but what actually comes out is a ‘sticking plaster’ platitude.

    The strength of your faith is an inspiration to many of us – sadly, much as I may wish otherwise, mine cannot match it. I fear I am forever going to be an English sailor to your Moravian woman!!!

  4. I am sure that, throughout the things you have to face during the coming weeks/months/years, you will be as much of an inspiration to those around you as you always have been, if not more so.
    Because so often it is the way we, as Christians, approach life during what the world sees as bad times that people are most moved by our faith.
    After all if faith is just something that works during the easy times in life then it doesn't offer much hope to those around us.
    Don't despair, just keep on being you - a strong and faithful woman of God who is a great inspiration to those around her, who has and will continue to "help set people free"

  5. You have the ability to see the absolute stark truth in any situation and convey it to the rest of us. Your post reminds me of this from Romans:
    "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
    "For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
    No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:35-37
    God bless and thank you for your words.

  6. I found your post through Dave Warnock's site. It gives me something to think about as I lead prayers and talk with the people in the church I serve about their cancers and other ailments.

    Thank you. May God continue to give you strength and courage.

  7. Dearest Angie- from someone else you helped free-maybe once we get over the initial shock of your diagnosis we will be better able to reflect on life's continum...and the release through the message you give..
    The here and now is so immediate-it is just human, I suppose, to want to cherish and cling to all where we experience God within it.