I remember watching a debate between Christopher Hitchens and a notable Christian apologist.
Included in Hitchens’ long list of complaints against Christianity was the belief that God is always with you and watches everything you do. He suggested that Christians must feel like those trapped within a police state, with Big Brother always looking on.
It’s an interesting idea. What do you think? Do you find the idea that God knows everything about you oppressive? And it’s not just that God knows what we do, God also knows our every thought. While we might have refrained from saying or doing something awful, God knows how close we came to crossing the line and our ambivalence at not having done so. After all, the second prize to making some clever, cutting comment to someone who has upset us is pretending we did in our mind.
“Take that,” I often think, as I imagine my opponent wilting in dismay and embarrassment. Or am I the only one who does that? And does God giggle along with me at those moments, or am I given the Queen Victoria treatment, “We are not amused”? Of course, even if there is no God (though there probably is), we are all being watched more closely than ever. Every click on the internet finds its way into an ever-present surveillance system that uses the information we unwittingly provide to tempt us to buy more of our favourite chocolate, music, chocolate, shoes, chocolate and … did I mention chocolate? One of my favourite Bible verses has always been
Psalm 23:4: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me …”
It’s a glorious promise. In my head I frame it as the ‘never alone’ reassurance. Never alone – and especially not in the most daunting and terrifying moments of life. In childhood I learnt a proverb: “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.” I think it means we don’t all like the same things (chocolate being the exception). Never alone – I guess I see it fundamentally differently to Christopher Hitchens. What is meat to me sounds poisonous to some. Ah, but have they taken the time to greet and meet the guest who never leaves?