So today I decided to start a little blog to write down little (or big) thoughts that come to my head when there’s no-one around to yell them at. They can be happy, or sad, more likely to be excessively cynical.
Sitting here doing my A level Philosophy work (begrudgingly), I started reading up about the Methodist Cleric John Wesley. I had to; apparently he had something to say about ‘religious experiences’.
He’s the typical famous religious Anglican figure from the 17th century: one smooth celibate with a failed marriage and a lifetime devoted to forcing children to believe in the fear o’ God. Well, that’s a bit harsh, he did tell ’em that they would be saved as long as they loved the whole world through rose-tinted glasses.
He got quite successful in pedalling Methodism throughout England, anyway…
Today, Wesley’s influence as a teacher persists. He continues to be the primary theological interpreter for Methodists the world over; the largest bodies being the United Methodist Church, the Methodist Church of Great Britain and the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The teachings of Wesley also serve as a basis for the Holiness movement, which includes denominations like the Wesleyan Church, the Church of the Nazarene, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and several smaller groups, and from which Pentecostalism and parts of thecharismatic movement are offshoots. Wesley’s call to personal and social holiness continues to challenge Christians who struggle to discern what it means to participate in the Kingdom of God.
So yeah – he got around. Clocked up 40,000 sermons apparently. He’s #50 on the BBC’s ‘100 Greatest Britons’ chart. Did lots of shit for churches the world over. Taught people to love the invisible, inconceivable being up in the sky. Enough to merit a long Wikipedia page on him, anyway.
But reading the article, something caught my eye…
Wesley never quite overcame profound self-doubt. At age 63, he wrote to his brother, “I do not love God. I never did. Therefore I never believed, in the Christian sense of the word. Therefore I am only an honest heathen…And yet, to be so employed of God!
Hold on – at this point he’s halfway through trying to instil faith in the entirety of England, and he doesn’t believe in what he’s been teaching for his entire life? Fuck me. Science teachers, if you ever get asked to teach Creationism, just remember this here guy John Wesley.
I can imagine sitting in a bar with him (for some reason). “So John, what’s it like, teaching people compassion and love and faithfulness the world over?” “Oh fuck off, could we talk about something else please? Like, football or something. And I need a dozen shots of whiskey before I can deal with that bitch of a wife again.”
Just seeing that a devout clergyman could be so doubtful of the religion he teaches, does make me wonder… how many others are like him? I may sound scornfully atheistic in this post (probably because I’m turning that way), but, so it seems, are some of the people who make up the backbone of this organized religion, which we, at some point, incorporated deep into our nation…