Being an author is strange, ambiguous, unformed. Especially for me, in that writing books has always been only part of what I do. For 30 years I was a columnist and broadcaster as well as someone who wrote books. Now, while I still write columns, I’m an ordained cleric. I spend as much time in churches, hospitals, and retirement centres, as I do behind the laptop.
I used to work for Colin Welland, who won the Oscar for his screenplay for Chariots of Fire. In other words, he was paid a lot of money to write major movies. One day someone stopped him on the street and asked, “Colin, is the writing full-time or have you kept your day job?” I’ve kept my day job.
But The Rebel Christ is more than a book to me. I know that sounds pompous but it’s true. It’s a statement of my beliefs, a manifesto of what made me give up what I had, transform my ideas, and dedicate my life to something entirely different. I believe in God. Not the God of neurotic theocracy, a stale fundamentalism that has reduced the creator to a divine bureaucrat, ticking off boxes of behavior to judge whether we get into paradise or not. Those boxes, by the way, usually involving issues of abortion and sexuality that Jesus never discussed or, when he did, demonstrated a glorious and revolutionary apathy. No, something far more nuanced and even paradoxical than that. The God of losers, the God of what at first glance are wrecked causes.
There are numerous arguments for the existence of God, most of them as ultimately pointless as the arguments for non-existence, but there’s another way to approach all this. The most central teaching of Christianity is the command of Jesus to love God, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself. If authentic Christianity is anything it’s the contrary of “virtue signaling”, that contemporary putdown used so promiscuously by reactionaries the world over. Not virtue signaling but the announcement of failure and fault.
As a cleric, I see most aspects of human nature on a daily basis. The pain of the human condition is sometimes difficult to witness, and I would never be so arrogant and crass as to offer religious platitudes to those in mud-thick suffering. What I have discovered is that when those people in such gruesome pain know the inner peace that comes from self-knowledge – yes, a form of love – they’re more able and willing to forgive, accept, and believe.
The Christianity I embrace rests on a belief in and a love for humanity, as much as it does on a belief in and love for God. I am part of that humanity, and when we remove the fleshy, personal aspect of all this we slide from inclusion into judgement, and from joy into hatred. The great conversation of love and belief continues, and we’re all welcome participants. That, I hope, is what The Rebel Christ explains.
Michael Coren is the author of seventeen books, four of them bestsellers, published in twelve languages. An award-winning columnist, he is also ordained in the Anglican Church of Canada. He lives in Toronto. Learn more here.