Now if I’d really seen [God], really there, really alive, it’d be in me like a fever. If I thought there was some god who really did care two hoots about people, who watched ’em like a father and cared for ’em like a mother … well, you wouldn’t catch me sayin’ things like ‘there are two sides to ever question’ and ‘we must respect other people’s beliefs.’ You wouldn’t find me just being gen’rally nice in the hope that it’d all turn out right in the end, not if that flame was burning in me like an unforgivin’ sword. And I did say burnin’, Mister Oats, ‘cos that’s what it’d be. You say that you people don’t burn folk and sacrifice people anymore, but that’s what true faith would mean, y’see? Sacrificin’ your own life, one day at a time, to the flame, declarin’ the truth of it, workin’ for it, breathin’ the soul of it. That’s religion. Anything else is just … is just bein’ nice. And a way of keepin’ in touch with the neighbors. — Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum
When I first read this passage a decade ago, it struck me like the proverbial bolt out of the blue. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels are just funny stories set on a flat earth resting on the backs of four elephants standing on a giant turtle that swims through space, and yet here was a passage that so neatly encapsulated my frustrations with my church it could have been written for me. We were a church that seemed to exist for friends to spend time together while the world church leadership dragged us further and further into political correctness.
Sir Terry was a secular humanist, and throughout many of his books there are comments that suggest that he thought the whole notion of religion was silly and should be abandoned. And yet, his words had the opposite of the intended effect on me. Yes, I completely agreed with him that the watered-down, politically correct Christianity of modern times he was mocking is ridiculous, but my response was not to leave Christianity. Rather, I found a church that does believe in declaring the truth of the Resurrected Christ no matter how uncomfortable that makes the secular world.
So thank you, Sir Terry, for helping me become a better Christian, even though that wasn’t your goal.