Hard Going and Simply Rational continue with their conversation. Simply Rational asks a rather provocative question.
Jamaican flower
(Photo: Scott Murray)

SR: What church do you belong to?
HG: I beg your pardon?
SR: What church do you belong to? It seems a simple enough question.
HG: On the surface it is – a very simple question – but deceptively so.
SR: How so?
HG: I belong to the UCC.
SR: Ah, so you do belong to a church. My question is, why are there so many churches? I’ve heard it said there are thousands of Christian churches. Even in your own village there are 4 or 5. How can people believe in Christ and Christianity if the body of Christ is divided by the followers of Christ himself? It puts people like me off religion, especially when churches fight among themselves.

An affront to God
HG: You have a very valid point. And I must agree with you that it is ridiculous and a great affront to the very God we claim to worship. I see you have been reading your Bible. It’s Paul isn’t it who talks of the church as being the body of Christ. A metaphor, of course, but a very powerful one.
SR: Yes, I know the Bible reasonably well. An affront to God, yes, and also an affront to the Christ you claim to love. So why do you belong to the UCC. I bet it’s quite a narrow sect, holding strictly to tradition, to ordinances laid down by the divines of old, to their interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. A whited sepulchre …
Young moss on stone bridge
(Photo: Scott Murray)

The UCC not a sect
HG: You’re a bit hard on me. My church doesn’t have traditions, it’s not a sect, it doesn’t even have a building and therefore no walls, it is in history and outside history, but breaks into history in its transphysical action.
SR: You have me stumped. I don’t know what you’re talking about! Just tell me what the letters UCC stand for.
HG: They stand for the Universal Church of Christ.
SR: So if it has no buildings, I presume it has no organization. So if someone wants to join, how do they become a member? Is the membership very exclusive?

Vertical structure as opposed to horizontal structure
HG: Hold it! Hold it! You’re bombarding me. You’ve asked at least three questions, but I’ll do my best. Your name is Simply Rational. You know fine well, if something is universal that it’s not exclusive. To be a member of this church is available to any member of the human race. All you have do is ask. “Seek and you will find …”
SR: Ask who, if there are no buildings and no organization?
HG: It’s got a vertical structure.
SR: You give me vertigo.
HG: Ha, ha. Vertical as opposed to horizontal. The churches you call sects have a horizontal structure, although the vertical can certainly intersect with them. They are part of history and society. They could be described in sociological terms. If you want to become a member you go to the appropriate officials. With the UCC you go straight to the top.
Wild flowers reflected
(Photo: Scott Murray)

The one true centre
SR: O yes, I think I know where you’re going … you go to the very top, to God, or to Christ himself. No buildings, so where is it based, this UCC.
HG: It’s centre is the heart of every true seeker. It has multitude of centres and one true centre.
SR: Now you’re speaking in riddles.
HG: Not really, it’s very simple. Every seeker and follower is connected to the one true centre, which is the risen Christ.
SR: So how does one connect with other believers? How do you know who’s in the UCC?
HG: You don’t. Only God knows that. We can never know another person’s heart. The only hint we’ve been given is where Jesus said “by their fruits you shall know them.”
SR: What does it mean by “fruits”?

The fruit of being in the UCC
HG: That’s a very good question. Fortunately, the great early interpreter of Christianity, the Apostle Paul, answered that question a long time ago. The fruit of the Spirit he says “is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
SR: I see, so how do you define “love”?
HG: Personally, I like this definition: “Having the interests of the “other” at heart.”
SR: Hm, I’ll have to think about that. It sounds to me like a very exclusive club if you need all these qualities and not having your own interests at heart at all.
HG: Remember it’s the fruit of the Spirit, it’s a joint effort, you and the Spirit.
SR: I see, but, quite honestly, I find it hard to believe that a person who’s really selfish and full of anger can become gentle and kind and all the rest.
HG: It happens all the time …

Judging others
SR: But you don’t have to be a Christian. I know a lot of kind, loving people who are of other religions.
HG: So do I. As I said, there is only one who knows the heart. I always refuse to judge others. People judge themselves. Judgement is built into temporal reality. What you sow you reap and so on …
SR: Hm, that’s quite a large claim: “Judgement is built into temporal reality.” Do you mean karma?
HG: Not quite, but could we leave that discussion for another time?
SR: I won’t forget. I’ll come back to that.