My Pedestrian Faith

I’d never got round to reading the novel Life of Pi by Yann Martel, until I had the opportunity to see the play at Bath in May and thought I should do my homework.

The strange scenario is that a young Indian boy, Pi, finds himself adrift in a lifeboat on the Pacific, all alone but for the company of a tiger. Before those dramatic circumstances, however, Pi has already delved into what it means to be human and to have faith. He’s fascinated by the diverse religious traditions of his homeland. Brought up Hindu and retaining a deep love for its multiplicity and vibrancy, he is drawn to the faithfulness and devotion of a poor Muslim shopkeeper, while also stirred by the bible stories told him by a Christian priest, a ‘man whose profession it was to love’. Rather than choosing between them, he wants to adopt all three, asking to be brought a prayer mat and to be baptised, much to the confusion of his parents.

I relished Pi’s openness to the wisdom of different religions which, if more of us shared it, would help transform the state of our world; but I was particularly struck by his perspective on Christianity. Used to the ‘shine and power and might’ of the Hindu deities, he is bemused by Jesus ‘who goes hungry, who suffers from thirst, who gets tired, who is sad….who has to put up with followers who don’t get it and opponents who don’t respect him – what kind of God is that?…..This is a God who walked, a pedestrian God.’

I am delighted to follow a pedestrian God! Firstly, it makes me feel that it’s possible to ‘keep up’ – to walk with God, through daily life, to have God as a companion on your road. And a pedestrian God has time to notice the little things – we all know how much more we see if we take a stroll through the village, rather than zoom past on the A350! I’m also glad to put my faith in a God who has known hunger, thirst and sadness, because such a God can have true compassion when we feel all these things. Our little lives really do matter.

Pi remains baffled and questioning but, for me, his priest-friend’s answer is perfect; ‘What kind of God is that? What is there to inspire in this Son?’ ‘Love’, said Father Martin.

Revd Kate McFarlane