I am interested in how we construct reality – determine what is. What is real seems to me to be what is in existence and while we use our senses and our reason to largely determine this, the existence of a supernatural world (a world beyond our senses) is part of human living too and cannot be ignored. We just have to be clear what is real and why it is real for us. What makes it harder these days is that as a society or group we no longer basically agree – or we agree less and less and hence all societies are searching for common things to agree on so we can live together in relative peace and security – and we as a society are wrestling with imposing a com-mon view upon its citizens.
Such musings were triggered by the news item that re-cently Spain changed its law about marriage and raised the minimum age from 14 to 16. Just like that (all political processes and timings not withstanding). It is quite arbi-trary really (not that I disagree with it but I wonder how I’d be feeling if I was a teenager wanting to marry and know-ing that I now had to wait longer to do so). Around the world the legal age of marriage differs. So does the age of consent, when one can drive (if one can drive depend-ing on gender in Saudi Arabia or if you have a relevant licence), when one can drink alcohol, when someone can own a gun, when and who can vote, who can go to school, how much tax one should pay (and to whom), etc, etc. These are our realities – depending when and where we live. Some of these realities are changing from generation to generation (or every few generations) while others have been our realities for centuries – even millennia.
Realities are shaped also by what we define as legal but that changes over time and is known to not cover what we might regard as moral or just simply ‘right’.
What is legal, of course, is what is pronounced by an authorised person or process. I might make up my own laws but my chances of making them binding upon others is probably not high and contingent on a lot of factors. (Long gone is the word of the monarch to define reality – on or off with his head, so to speak.)
In the public square today we need to negotiate reality from numerous perspectives. Christians don’t have special privileges or rights here. How, when, where, and even if we present our views on social matters depends on opportunity and circumstance but Christians increasingly are real-ising, I think, that our ‘reality’ is different to that of the world. Always has been – even if we didn’t notice or realise.
And this leads us to the Word of God. And first and foremost I’m talking about Jesus – the Word Made Flesh – who is revealed personally in the Bible. Every encounter with the Bible is an en-counter with Jesus and this relationship thus shapes our realities, our lives, and how we live in this world in this generation, in this place. We receive absolution or the sacraments or teaching or guidance no matter the speaker when it is Jesus speaking as he directed. This contact shapes us, forms us, makes us real. To what end? I’m not suggesting at all that we establish theocracies (where ‘Church rules’ so to speak – history tells us these end badly) but that both personally and organisationally we find ways to serve those around us. No matter our sins and troubles, God in Jesus always reveals grace and mercy and if that doesn’t shape our reality, I don’t know what will! — GS