Sunday, 9 October 2011

Faith Works and Smiles

Post by Graham.

Some years ago I submitted an article for the Midland Unitarian Association the subject of `Are We Angry Enough ?". My thesis was that anger achieved little in life; problems had to be looked at in the cold light of reason and, as someone who in earlier days was prone to lose his cool on many occasions (particularly when playing Rugby !), I felt it had done little to develop me as a person. After all, aren`y our watchwords Freedom, Reason, Tolerance - surely that`s enough to stop us getting hot under the collar at the slightest provocation.

And yet lately, I seem to be reverting to type, getting angry at bankers` bonuses, the injustices that exist in the world, the plight of the poor (although these are bad enough to make one explode with anger) and with so-called religious people of every denomination who seem to `talk the talk` but not `walk the walk`. There are religious people everywhere who can hardly bother to share a `Good Morning` with you as they rush off to their bible class or prayer meeting, and as for exchanging a smile: forget it ! They also seem oblivious to the plight of their neighbours, the aged, the infirm. As long as they can cling to their idea of salvation by confessing their sins and professing their allegiance to Jesus, they are content.

It`s the age-old problem:what`s more important:faith or works ? I know what for me as a Unitarian is of more concern. I couldn`t care a fig about what a person believes, whether he or she is Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or even non-believer. I am more concerned as to how they live their life, how the values they picked up from their religion or philosophy is translated into everyday action.

I don`t think we Unitarians can afford to be smug about this. We know what the principles of our belief are, that we should treat everyone with respect, that we should show love and compassion to all, but I wonder sometimes if, instead of talking endlessley about issues of belief and conscience and the like, that we were more aware of the plight of those around us and actually try to do something about it. And do we smile enough and share a cheery word with those we meet on a daily basis ? All this goes toward making this life a more wholesome and meaningful one.


  1. One advantage of living in a village community as opposed to a town or city, is that people really do say "good morning" with a smile and maybe a "how are you", when passing them in the road. Oh there are a few perhaps wearing a frown on Monday mornings, but by giving them a cheery greeting, they are enabled to respond in kind. Why not give it a try Graham, next time you meet someone going off to their Bible Class

    People who attend our village church are equally friendly and do much to help those in need.

    Also, it pays not to take life too seriously, enjoy a joke and a laugh with others.

    Alleluia ! - Praise the Lord !!

  2. I know exactly what you mean Graham. Many people in this life as we know are blessed with sensibility and good cheer be they Roger`s villagers or those majority urbanites. It`s therefore perhaps even more depressing when we find the opposite disposition amongst the very people who would most likely be expected to convey humility and graciousness.

    This week`s Sunday Times carries a clip from The Church Times, on a related theme; apparently only two-thirds of ministers from the C of E (and I guess we can therefore extrapolate from that to other denominations)avoided being voted as `smug, arrogant and conceited` in a `recent survey` of parishoners. What chance therefore, the `flock` of the remaining third ?

    Your post reminds us all to remember that actions count-even when we`re having a bad day.


  3. Graham responds:
    Roger, you`ve missed my point. I do try to give everyone I meet in our village (and I live in a nice village too) a smile, a pleasant greeting and I can assure you I enjoy a good joke and a laugh with many of them. The point I was trying to make, however, is that it is often the non-religious who respond, not all the regular church-goers,and I find that depressing. Still, I'll keep trying not to take life too seriously!

  4. If I recall, according to an article I read in Enclyclopedia Britanicca, there was scientific study of eight different types of response to problems. If I recall, apprently, the most helpful was problem-solving and one of the least helpful was anger.

    I see excessive anger as a part of what I sometimes think of as the male version of Histrionic Personality Disoder (HPD). There is a demographic of angry young men who look for opportunities for drama and conflict and go round masochistically trying to feel persectued. They also seem to exhibit HPD syptoms. See for disagnostic criteria.

    About talking the talk and not walking the walk, I believe that this is endemic in many member of the public. For instance, there are those who are happy to engage in insight-deprived whinging about government and matters out of their control, yet don't actually do anything to have a useful impact. Politics is only one tool for social good that we have.

  5. Hello :)
    First of all there is nothing wrong with feeling empathy for the people suffering here in the UK and worldwide. Feeling shocked, appalled, pain and anger are natural reactions to what appears to be an increasingly hostile world. It tells me you're a living breathing human and that's a good thing! It's what you do with it that's the important thing. You can let it eat away at you and grow angrier and more despairing every second till it overwhelms you or you can practice a form of detachment where you acknowledge how you feel and then ask what you are going to do about it. Act? Or let it go?

    Part of my daily spiritual practice is to deliberately smile at those that seem cross, unapproachable or far too busy. My reason is quite selfish actually :) it's good for me! Some people are so shocked at actually being acknowledged they either stop dead and break out into a beautific smile and walk on - head high shoulders back instead of slumped, or they don't know what to do with it. They may ignore me, look embarrassed it doesn't matter to me because it was given freely and I don't expect anything in return.

    Forgive me if I've misunderstood but I think I can understand your frustration with those who claim to lead spiritual lives yet don't seem to act upon it. It does leave you wondering why they bother at all. However, I don't feel that I can judge another - who knows where they are on their spiritual journey, perhaps they appear self centred because something big has happened in their lives that we don't know about. Perhaps this dis-connect they have with their neighbours and society as a whole is symptomatic of a bigger picture that's happening right now. A kind of losing of the way. The only thing I can think of is to try to be a light in a dark place and walk cheerfully over the world where possible.

    One thing for sure is I'm not perfect and I'm capable of being scowling, grumpy, selfish as the next person. So if such an issue is making me frustrated or angry I have to ask myself, why? What is it teaching me about myself and where do I need to go with this, if at all?