My Mediterranean with Adrian Chiles, a recent two part BBC 2 documentary starts with him declaring “I believe in God”, and in which he spends time with Christians, Muslims and Jews. The mini series was originally going to be called Holy Med. The change in programme title wasn’t one Chiles would have personally gone for,“Why would anyone want to watch me doing a travelogue around the Med?” he commented in the Independent newspaper.
At the start of the two films, Chiles states:
“On my journey around the Mediterranean I want to show that religion actually does more good than harm. I won’t be seeking out the religious zealots – they get quite enough airtime if you ask me. I just want to find the majority; the nice, normal, gentle people who happen to be religious.”
For the most part this is what he uncovers, warm beautiful hospitable people willing to share their traditions and lives as Christians, Muslims or Jews. He even has a tremendous encounter with an Israeli Gay Atheist and they share a meal together and the man talks passionately about why he can’t believe in God. It’s tear jerking stuff. However, despite the aim of not seeking out the Religious Zealots, Chiles does seem to find a way of zoning in on a very large group of international Evangelicals at a praise night at the Dead Sea. Now, call me Mr Cynical, but I reckon if you want to find the most zealous type of evangelicals in the world then look no further than an international praise and prayer gathering by the Dead Sea put on by Christians for Israel. There were too many to shake a stick at! There were literally thousands of them and overall they were not shown as the nice, normal or gentle people that Chiles wanted to meet.To be blunt, this probably was not the best representation of evangelicalism he could have chosen as the documentaries only encounter with Evangelicals was the zealous worshipers dancing and expressing their praise very demonstratively, so much so he even receives a slight whack in the face by an exuberant arm raised praising lady!
Now here’s a confession. Please don’t judge me: If given any opportunity like the one presented I too would have been dancing my heart out and worshipping God demonstratively. I love dancing in Praise! However, it was such a shame that this solitary experience sets the tone for how Chiles speaks of ‘evangelicals’ for the remainder of the episode and continues to do so into the second one too.
His evangelical Christian experience is in stark contrast to the following beautiful scene that moves into a meal with a Jewish family for some peace and quiet with Chiles narrating ‘This happy clappy stuff really doesn’t suit me…’ Quite. Even though I love to dance given the chance I wonder whether I too would much prefer a meal around a table to share and explain my faith than a stage and speaker system to rival Wembly’s.
Which brings me to the title of this blog. I watched and wished that I too could have had the opportunity to talk about my faith with him. Not because I love eating and fancy a holiday around the Med, rather I love having those gentle opportunities to share what it means to have such a conviction of who Jesus is that I ache for others to also have what I’ve got. For what I have I wholeheartedly believe is good.
I’m a person full of hope and purpose and this isn’t something I’ve simply wished up. It is something I have been given. I am a forgiven man, a changed person from the most selfish and angry to one who longs to change this world by loving those around me. I would have cherished to have shared stories of transformation and the experiences of being loved by the God who while all three of the Abrahamic faiths know as the creator, in whom I know as Abba Father. Yes, I would have loved to have opened up the scriptures and gently shared about the inclusive claims that Jesus makes and his perfect sacrifice upon the cross, but I also would have loved to listen and learn why it is that makes Chiles run a mile from evangelicalism, albeit the kind he encountered at the noisy praise night.
I wonder whether I would have found his concern isn’t actually about noise and enthusiasm but rather about something that impacts upon day to day life. “I’ve come to fear fervour” he admits. And this I feel is the crux of his disdain he shows in the documentary for his evangelical observation. In his seeking to find the same God that Jews, Muslims and Christians live under with a mission to seek out that which unites us all rather than divide us, it seems that any distinctive life changing, life infringing faith is too much for him. This I have found to be true for many people I have encountered and poses questions for how as church we do mission as the gospel can seem way too much for most people. It is a whole life submitting to the Lordship of Jesus kind of commitment. Is the overbearing nature of the gospel too much for most? Chiles reflects on his journey and admits that he has more in common with a liberal practicing Jew or liberal practicing Muslim than a conservative Roman Catholic. He states:
“For me it’s not about which religion its how rigorously, how feverously that religion is applied…. if you think your way is the only way, your truth is the only truth, then sorry I’m not on your team, whichever team you happen to be on.”
As someone who is tasked with proclaiming the good news of Jesus I long for more people to be on my team. Not because I’m into the recruiting numbers game, but rather because what I have I believe wholeheartedly to be true and real.
If I didn’t believe this, what would I have worth sharing?