Tag Archives: relationship

Bono on relationship with God

Probably one of the clearest concise explanations of what having a relationship with God is like, from the book, Bono on Bono: Conversations with Mishka Assayas.

Occasionally [Dad] would ask me a real question, meaning I had to give him a real answer. It was always about my belief in God: “There’s one thing I envy of you. I don’t envy anything else,” he said to me one time. But think about it: I was singing, doing all the things he would have loved to have done, had a creative life. He said: “You do seem to have a relationship with God” And I said: “Didn’t you ever have one?” He said “No.” And I said: “But you have been a Catholic for most of your life,” – “yeah, lots of people are Catholic. It was a one-way conversation… You seem to hear something back from the silence!” I said: “That’s true, I do.” And he said “How do you feel it?” I said: “I hear it in some sort of instinctive way, I feel a response to a prayer, or I feel led in a direction. Or if I’m studying the Scriptures, they becom alive in an odd way, and they make sense to the moment I’m in, they’re no longer a historical document.” He was mind-blown by this.

‘Fellowship’ or ‘relationship’ with God

For some time I’ve had concerns about the evangelical use of the phrases ‘personal relationship’ or ‘fellowship’ with Jesus or God. Not that I disagree that this is a good thing to aspire to, it’s just – What does it mean? Day to day – how do I do it? It is a phrase trotted out to describe something a intangible and as a consequence is quite hard to define.

Often Christians speak of God using the same terminology that they would of a personal friend or neighbour. But God is clearly not like our neighbour. In many ways He is harder to see, and in many ways He is more present. Can we use the word ‘relationship’ in the same manner with God as we can with other people? What sort of activity can be classed as knowing God?

I guess, in many ways the way to continue in our relationship with God is to do all the things that you would with a good human relationship: talk together, spend time listening, make time for, try to understand, aim to please each other, forgive, love etc. This helps – but it is the wrong way round. Good human relationships should echo the relationship that God has with us. He is our model for relationships, not us, his.

Father Stephen has just posted an excellent article on the subject. He focusses on the words fellowship and communion, rather than relationship, as these are two ways of translating the greek word koinonia. His point is clear. I’d recommend reading the whole article, but here is just a taste.

The entire concept of Church as a fellowship of believers, meaning a free association of like-minded Christians, is simply not a Scriptural notion, unless your Bible happens to be one of the many that has bowdlerized the clear Orthodox meaning of Scripture. We are saved by union with Christ, by participation in His life. We are Baptized into his death and raised in His resurrection. We eat His Body and drink His Blood. We have participation in the life of one another such that we cannot say to one another, “I have no need of you.” Such examples can be multiplied from every page of the New Testament and not one of them will support the weak image of an associational fellowship. This sad translation of a powerful word has helped support a notion of the individual believer with a relationship with Christ (what sort of a relationship is fellowship?) and his Bible. This is not the language or imagery of Scripture nor the doctrine of the Church.

Is fellowship with God possible? I’m not certain how to answer the question. I’d rather have communion.

Into the Wild – movie review

Into the Wild is a movie based on the true story of Christopher McCandless. After he graduated from university in Atlanta, he disappeared, seemingly without trace. He drove out west in search of adventure, in effect to find himself. On the course of his journey, he lost his car in a flash flood, and ended up walking, canoeing and camping to continue his journey. In his desire to find meaning, he eradicated his identity, burning his driving license and social security card, and reinvented himself as “Alexander Supertramp”. He was convinced that the way to find true meaning and happiness was to go into the wild, so he headed for Alaska, woefully unprepared. I should warn you that spoilers follow….

There has been lots written about Christopher McCandless and the mistakes he made. I’m not going to repeat that here, but I will make two points:

Chris McCandless was portrayed in the film as determined to escape the life of western materialism that he was born into. He considered it to be a lie. Why? Well, he discovered truths about his parents that undermined his confidence in them – his father had another family that had been kept secret. He remembered the time when his parents sat he and his sister down around the dinner table and informed them they were going to get a divorce, and they should pick which parent they wanted to live with. The divorce never happened, but the marriage didn’t get any happier. He witnessed blazing arguments and even violence between his mother and father. All the time, the family kept up the appearance of a well-kept, happy, loving family, which had fun together, spent time together and went to church together – living the American dream. It is this that led Chris McCandless into leaving, going into the wild to find himself. I guess the message that the film gave to me was that a lack of integrity between inner life and family and outward appearance can be very damaging indeed. It is indeed, living a lie.

Secondly, the film portrayed Chris as leaving to find himself and find happiness. He was convinced the only way of doing this was to go into the wild on his own, survive by himself, and commune with nature. On his way out there he met many interesting people, from farm labourers in South Dakota, to Hippies in Slab City, to a nice old man in Northern California. From each person he learns, and enjoys their company. But he was still convinced that Alaska was the place to go. He headed out beyond Fairbanks and finds an abandoned bus in the middle of nowhere which had previously been used as a hunting shelter. He makes this his home and starts to hunt and scavenge. At one point it seems that he has learned his lesson and found himself, so he starts to make his way home, only to find that a river that he crossed on his way out had swelled and was impassible. He reluctantly returns to the bus. This time he is overcome by desperation and loneliness. At the end of the film, when Chris is dying from starvation – there had been a lack of animals he could hunt for food – he writes in his journal: “HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED” – and he remembers all the interesting relationships he struck up on his journey out West. I think this is a good point – happiness comes from relationships, with each other and with God, not through achieving tasks or ‘finding oneself’. It’s a shame that Chris had to be on the point of death to realise this.

The movie itself is beautifully shot – not difficult considering the beautiful surroundings of the countryside of Alaska and the West Coast. The Acting from Emile Hirsch and others is excellent. Well worth watching.

A set of photos from the bus which Chris made his home can be found here.