Category Archives: rants

Learning from your Enemies

Krish Kandiah has a blog post up about how Tom Wright ( N.T. Wright) is the christian equivalent of marmite.

In the article he raises this point:

“For some of my friends its all or nothing with the theologians they like. There’s a tick list – a writer needs to tick the boxes on a number of issues in order to have anything to contribute to a conversation.”

I think it’s a fair point. When I studied for my BA in Youth work with Applied Theology, there was a clear split between those who preferred Rob Bell or Mark Driscoll. As if somehow by liking one you automatically had to hate the other. It became very tribal.

People like to be part of a tribe and its very easy to have a tribal mentality. When someone attacks what you makes you ‘you’, it is in your best interest to fight it. You want to defend your beliefs as you feel its a personal attack against your identity.

For me though, I think its a little different. I can happily listen to those that I disagree with- to a point. I imagine its the same for most people. We all have buttons or ‘no go areas’. There are convictions that we hold that cannot be pushed and its not always necessarily to do with theology.

For instance I will have nothing to do with Mark Driscoll or Martin Luther. I will not read what they’ve written or take any time to listen to their views.

Why?

Because they both, in my opinion (and it is just an opinion) have a very abusive view of women. Martin Luther once said, “women are the gateway to hell”. Driscoll famously has said, and i paraphrase here, that since the husband is the head of the household, if he wants anal sex, he gets anal sex.

Those are worldviews that those men hold that I cannot get around and its not simply a case of removing those remarks when I come to look at them. I cannot come to a text of Driscolls or Luthers and ignore what they’ve said. Those remarks infect everything that they have to say. It is behind everything that they have to say.

Krish suggests that he can learn from any flawed person and I commend him for that. But I cannot do that.

Let’s imagine Hitler wrote some great literature. I could not sit down and read any of it without thinking “this man had over 6 million people killed”. I cannot just conclude that he’s a flawed human and get past his actions. They are what makes him. It is part of who he is.

Now I’m not comparing the actions of Driscoll or Luther to Hitler. But…if we believe, as many say, that all sin is the same and that sin by its definition is anything that causes a breakdown in relationship with either ourselves, others or God then maybe its perfectly acceptable to do so.

So, over to you. Does any of this make sense? Do you think this is helpful or is there some way of getting past your convictions in order to learn from people like this?

I Hate Christian T-shirts: A Rant

That title is maybe a little strong. I don’t hate all christian t-shirts. But I do hate some of them.

especially the ones below that I saw today:

If you will be so kind, let me spell out why I hate these two particular t-shirts.

GOSPEL- God’s only son provides eternal life

Now late me say I have no quarrel with the statement. I believe it. My issue comes with what is says overall. the word gospel means so much more than just Jesus giving us eternal life. the word in greek is euaggelion. It was a a word that existed before the new testament writers used it and they used it for a particular purpose.

‘gospel’ alluded to the birth of a new roman emperor. It forecast a new and prosperous era. It was a political term.

Mark chooses to start his story of Jesus with this line:

1The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

This statement was an ‘up yours’ to the Roman Empire. It was subversive. Mark was saying, “here is the start of a new era. And it’s not brought about by a Roman Emperor. It’s brought about by Jesus. The true son of God. (the term ‘son of god’ was also a political statement as roman emperors referred to themselves as god’s son).

So do you see why I have issue with this statement? The gospel is so much more than Jesus giving us eternal life. It is about the coming of a new era. A new kingdom. It is about liberation. Other wise there is no point in mark including the story of Jesus’ life. It might as well just focus on his death and resurrection. But it doesn’t. it focuses on his life on earth as well. It focuses on his message. The gospel is about the gift of eternal life but to somehow say it is just about that reduces its impact considerably.Now on to the second one…

BIBLE- Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth

In some ways this statement angers me even more as it represents a completely distorted picture of the coming of God’s Kingdom. Jesus did not come to say us somewhere else. In the book of revelation it says:

1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.

The word new is kainos in greek which is better understood as renewed. Our hope is in the fact that the earth will be renewed. It speaks of God coming to dwell on earth. Not us going somewhere else. What is remarkable about the gospel story is that the eternal logos came and took on flesh and lived here. It is the coming together of body and soul.

Revelation speaks of the return of the earth to how it was meant to be. Not its destruction. If we are simply going to go somewhere else why bother about this earth at all? e might as well just speed up its demise. What kind of message is that?

Well my rant is almost over. I could go on to say that reducing the bible to an instruction manual is also ridiculous but I think I’ve said enough.

I don’t hate all christian t-shirts but I DO HATE THESE ONES!

Rant over.

Blessed Are The Truly F**ked Up!

Next week, our Sunday night youth fellowship (for want of a better term) will start looking at the beatitudes. The beatitudes were eight statements or announcements that Jesus chose to make at the start of ‘the sermon on the mount’ and ultimately his ministry. They are not something I hear preached on very much and that is precisely why I wanted our group to look at them. Maybe it’s because we don’t like what they proclaim or we just don’t understand them. But that’s no excuse not to look at them. For me, they summarise everything that Jesus had came to announce. I’m going to focus just on the first one for now but you can see all of them below

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Thanks to Tom Wright, William Barclay, Dave Andrews and Rob Bell for their insights on this subject.

First off, contrary to some opinions, the beatitudes are not a list of things to do in order to be blessed or to have God on your side. They are not eight steps to know God more. They are statements. They are announcements. They are just how things are. But who are the poor in spirit?

To some this has been translated as, ‘those that realize their need for God’ and in some sense this is true but that again is something you have to do. Something you have to work at. That doesn’t seem to be what Jesus is on about (to me anyway).

The poor in spirit then are those that are just that, ‘poor in spirit’. Those that don’t have all the answers. Those that mess up time and time again. Those that are addicted to things they know they shouldn’t be. In other words…

“blessed are the adulterers, the prostitutes, the drug addicts, the paedophiles, the murderers, the liars, the time wasters, the dirty minded, the porn stars, the dictators. Blessed are those who get it wrong time and time again, those that continually do what they shouldn’t do, those that society calls scum, useless, irrelevant, passed it, unnecessary. Blessed are the tax cheats, the rapists, the space cadets, the abused. Blessed are all of those who society or religion or communities have deemed sub human.”

Does that sound wrong? Offensive even? Surely God doesn’t love everyone like that? Why would he?

Let me ask you a question then. Why did Jesus have to have dinner at a tax collectors house who had cheated hundreds, if not thousands, of people out of their money? Why did a man throw a banquet in which he invited the low lives and the degenerates to? Why did Jesus walk around healing people?

He just did. Why does God love these people? Why is God on their side? He just is.

“…theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”. That’s the gospel. That’s (one of) the message(s) that Jesus came to proclaim. It may not be fair. You might think it’s not right but it just is.

When Philippe Petit illegally walked across the twin towers on a tightrope in 1974 everyone wanted to know why. He couldn’t understand why people would ask him this. He said, “i’ve just performed something miraculous and all they want to know is why. There is no why”.

It’s the same with God. There is now why. It just is. There is a place for all those people at the banquet. Jesus didn’t come to announce his message to the rich in spirit or those that had it all together. He said, “he came for the ill”.

The Kingdom of Heaven is for everyone and when we start becoming the gatekeepers, saying who is and who isn’t in, then we deface what God had in mind. What Jesus had in mind with the first beatitude. Let’s live our lives with this proclamation stamped on our minds and on our hearts.

“Blessed are the truly f**ked up for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs”.

Should Christians Be Causing More Chaos?

I watched “The Dark Knight” again last night and I am still pretty much in awe of it. Both as a film and as a series of ideas, of which there are many.dark_knight_ver4

This time around what I was most intrigued by was the Joker’s conversation with Harvey ‘Two Face’ in the hospital. He said, and I paraphase slightly, that when things go according to plan, everything is fine. People Don’t react. But when you don’t follow the plan, you bring about chaos.

Christians, by there very focus on the hope of the Resurrection and the eventual return of Christ and the merging of Heaven with Earth do not follow the plan of the world. We see things differently.

Should we then be causing more chaos?

As a youth worker seeking to discuss with young people the hope of Jesus, should I be encouraging them to cause more chaos by the way they act?

To the point, is there such a thing as good chaos?

What Would Jesus Say to Bruno?

In 2006 ‘Borat’ brought to light the xenophobia at the heart of America. ‘Bruno’s’ attack was a little more scattershot. Over the course of 86 minutes he took aim at celebrity culture, fame, homophobia and how Osama Bin Laden looks like a “dirty wizard”. As Tim Berroth says on “Hollywood Jesus”, it would be too easy to dismiss the film as juvenile filth (but I am sure many will). Cohen is toobruno_poster intelligent for that.

But if we can sit through the film, what else can we come away with apart from sore ribs and an off taste in our mouth?

1 Corinthians 4:5 reads,

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.” Bruno seems to be doing God’s job here.

What is so alarming about the film is not the amount of screen time dedicated to Cohen’s manhood but to the dark hearts of human beings. Witness the parents who will do anything to get their children a modelling gig. Even if that means the child needs to lose ten pounds in a week. “She’ll do it”, quotes one mother. The mother is so happy when she hears the news that her child is going to be in the shoot even if that means the baby will be playing the part of a nazi officer pushing a barrel that has another child in it who will be “the jew” on their way to the gas chamber.

That when faced with homosexual PDA, a group of men and women storm the set, tossing chairs at Cohen and crying out for his blood!

That there are PR companies set up to find celebrities the “in” issue at the moment that if they campaign for will get them lots of media attention.

Justice has been served to these people. The real question is whether we should be laughing at them. If we ever needed proof that the world is slightly askew, then Bruno will do the trick.

The cult of celebrity also gets taken to town in the film as the main plot involves Bruno trying to find the best way to get famous. We live in a culture where people will do anything to be famous and this is highlighted several times by the film. Is this really what our life is meant to be about?

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

We have a God who loves us for who we are. Psalm 139 is a call to be content with who we are. ‘Bruno’ shows us how empty the pursuit of fame is.

Paul writes in Colossians 3 , ”

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

I think Paul would say today, “don’t get caught up in the fruitless pursuit of fame. God has something better in mind. Not something that constrains you, but something that frees you.”

Yes there are things in Bruno that many may find vile and offensive but maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it opens our eyes to the alternative.

And the walls came tumbling down

It’s only the start of the lent but I have still managed to break my promise. We had some family staying over during the weekend and I didn’t get a chance to get up early on Friday or Saturday to continue “my lent”. Hopefully that’s the last time it will happen.

Today, I was reading the account of the Fall of Jericho in Chapter 6 of Joshua. To be honest this is a passage that I struggle with. Maybe it’s because I didn’t live in that culture or I don’t fully understand what’s going on but in my western post modern mind I cannot understand why an entire city (men, women, children and animals) had to be slaughtered. There are many accounts like this in the Old Testament and I struggle with all of them.

What did these people do that was so bad that they deserved to be butchered? Most of us when we think of the holocaust are appauled that such an atrocity could take place but yet we, as Christians, accept this story of genocide. Im sure there are scholars out there who could tell me why it was justified but right now, I can’t find any reason.

There is a clear tension then inside of me when I read of these stories. Yes I can see the applicable lessons in this story:

God is faithful

Expect the unexpected with God

Trust God that he will do what he says he will do

but there is still the bitter aftertaste of genocide.

What then can I learn from this today?

To critically assess our faith. To not just accept things. To engage our brains when we read scripture.

I think we could all do with that.

ManHunt 2 and a question of censorship

I got my new macbook pro today. Yeah! Whilst I waited for it to move all my settings from my mac pro and install leopard, I had a gander at the entertainment news and spotted the story below.The BBC reported today that the BBFC have won the right to fight the UK release of the videogame Manhunt 2.

You may already know that the BBFC banned the game outright in June. Rockstar, the makers of the game, won an appeal earlier this month stating that the contents were ‘within the bounds established by other 18+ rated entertainment’.

Rockstar had hoped to have the film out by Christmas but now will have to wait until after the court proceedings on or before January 31st 2008 (that’s if it gets released)Is it right to censor? The prosecution states that even though the game would be rated 18 it would still get into the hands of minors.Surely that’s an issue that should be taken with the parents and retailers.

My mum let me watch my first horror film when I was 5. Freddy Kruegar (Nightmare on Elm Street) was my childhood hero when I was six. I do not agree that it probably wasn’t the best thing for me as I became in some way, addicted to these types of violent horror movies. But did I become a serial killer?

The issue is too big for my little blog but I wanted to write my thoughts down. I believe censorship, in any situation, is wrong. That has consequences sure but where then would you draw the line? The Chinese government sensor news. We would all agree that is wrong but why should a group of people tell us what is right and what is wrong?

Isn’t that why God gave us freewill?