Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘culture’

The origins of Halloween lie with the church. This video shows how medieval Christians saw Halloween as “a final fling” for the powers of darkness, safe in the knowledge that the Light  is always stronger. (For more on the thinking behind the video, read this).

And please share on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Vast armies undead do tread through the night and
In hordes march towards hapless victims to frighten.
They stumble in step with glass-eyes on the prizes;
Bunched hither, hunched over in monstrous disguises;
In sizes not lofty but numb’ring a throng;
To unleash on their prey the dreaded DING DONG.
Small faces with traces of mother’s eye-liner,
Peer up to the resident candy provider.

And there to intone ancient threats learnt verbatim;
They lisp “TRICK OR TREAT!” Tis their stark ultimatum.
Thus: region by region such legions take plunder.
Does this spector-full spectacle cause you to wonder?
Just how did our fair festive forebears conceive,
Of this primeval practice called All Hallows Eve?
The answer, if anyone cares to research,
Surprises, it rises from old mother church.

On the cusp of the customary All Saints Day
The Christ-i-an kinsfolk made mocking display.
These children of light both to tease and deride;
Don darkness, doll down as the sinister side.
In pre-post-er-ous pageants and dress diabolic,
They hand to the damned just one final frolick.
You see with the light of the dawn on the morrow,
The sunrise will swallow such darkness and sorrow.

The future is futile for forces of evil;
And so they did scorn them in times Medieval.
For this is the nature of shadow and gloom;
In the gleaming of glory there can be no room.
What force is resourced by the echoing black?
When the brightness ignites can the shadow push back?
These ‘powers’ of darkness, if such can be called,
Are banished by brilliance, by blazing enthralled.

So the bible begins with this fore-resolved fight;
For a moment the darkness…. then “Let there be Light!”
First grief in the gloom, then joy from the East.
First valley of shadow, then mountaintop feast.
First wait for Messiah, then long-promised Dawn.
First desolate Friday and then Easter Morn.
The armies of darkness when doing their worst,
Can never extinguish this Dazzling Sunburst.

So… ridicule rogues if you must play a role;
But beware getting lost in that bottomless hole.
The triumph is not with the forces of night.
It dawned with the One who said “I am the Light!”

Read Full Post »

NoCompromiseLast week  someone asked me where I thought it would all end? All these adaptations the church seems to be making to culture. We used to get hung up on keeping Sunday special, but who is bothered anymore? It was only 20 years ago that the Church of England allowed women priests, but who can deny that women bishops will shortly follow? Right now, much ado is being made about gay marriage, but won’t that also seem like an outdated scruple in years to come. Isn’t the trend basically one of distinctives gradually eroded away?  And all those conservative Christians who have fought so hard, won’t they just watch their children accommodate themselves to the very compromises they so feared?

Trouble is… that predictive model is based on the very thing that is shifting most fundamentally. It’s based on the idea of ‘Christian Britain’ and a church that can expect (and demand!) the state to be at least Christian-ish.  But it seems plain to me that this is the one thing that’s really changing. Or rather, this is the reality that’s most obviously being revealed in all the other changes. The culture is not Christian-ish.  It’s not even Christian-ish-ish.  The church doesn’t have the political voice it wants to have. And shouting louder is not helping.  It’s basically communicating peripheral issues as our central message (that’s what’s being heard anyway).

But what if we extrapolate from the real change that’s occurring – the realization that the Christian vision of work/rest, men/women, sex and sexuality really isn’t the world’s?  What then?  Maybe then we’d see church as the place where true rest is enjoyed, true gender relations modeled and true  enjoyment of singleness and marriage nurtured. And we’ll see the world as a place that almost must find the way of Christ baffling and wrong.

If we follow that trajectory then, yes, we’ll have to accept persecution as part of the deal. But I’m pretty sure we all signed up to that at the outset, and, on the upside, it means that we’re not at all destined to ever-increasing compromise. Nor are we doomed to fight all our battles for peripheral issues like sex.  In fact we  might actually find our churches modelling a counter-culture more distinctive than ever.  Meanwhile, those who focus the battle on Westminster may find that they are being just as defined by the culture as ‘the compromisers’ (even if negatively).

I’m no kind of culture-vulture and I couldn’t spot a political trend if it tap-danced on my face. But it seems to me that whatever trajectory we’re on, it does not need to end in a loss of Christian distinctives. Instead in might be the birth of some real distinctives. What’s more it may help us re-assign resources to the true front line – the church – as we re-centre ourselves on our true mission – proclaiming Jesus.

Read Full Post »

dawkins_southparkYesterday, Richard Dawkins drew much criticism for the following tweet:

Andrew Brown of the Guardian tells of the fall-out.

Seems to me one response would be to point to this Dawkins tweet from last month:

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander I’d have thought.  The supernatural (for want of a better short-hand) might seem absurd to the naturalist, but, well, it would.  But you can’t do theology by common sense either – and certainly not naturalistic common sense!

Anyway, perhaps the best response is just to list some of Dawkins’ other clangers from the last few weeks and let them speak for themselves…

[now deleted] What kind of person throws chewing gum in the streets, where it sticks to shoes? What kind of person chews gum in the first place?

Greetings to all atheists. But please, not so many athiests, aethists or aetheists. Greek theos: god. Hence theist. Hence a-theist.

I re-tweet for a reason. I know not everybody likes it. They are free to unfollow.

Comparisons often made of Jesus with Horus, Dionysus, Krishna etc. Any real scholars out there confirm each one? pic.twitter.com/IuN1u7McNq

then, when called on such tired and lazy comparisons…

Was it seriously not obvious that I posted that set of other gods because I was SCEPTICAL of the alleged similarities to Jesus?

If you’re used to the obscurantist smokescreens of religion, the sudden shock of the unambiguously clear voice of reason can SEEM aggressive

Dear Americans, please understand that “grade” as in “7th grade” is not part of the English language. Please state the child’s AGE in years

People outside America truly don’t know what “7th grade” means. In Britain we’ve “Year 10” but don’t expect others to know what that means.

If you only care about communicating to Americans, “7th grade” is fine. But there’s this obscure little place called The Rest Of The World

I’m NOT arguing for British English. “Year 10” not part of the language either, which is why I wouldn’t use it in an international medium.

“Hit a home run” great metaphor, understood internationally. But “7th grade” conveys precision. Don’t you WANT to be understood outside US?

Struggling with London tube notice: delays because “customer” taken ill on train earlier in day. Sorry for sick passenger, but why DELAYS?

Read Full Post »

meatDear Mr Lama, (Reverend Lama?? Your holiness???)

I’m sorry I’m not trying to be rude, I don’t know how to address you, not being Buddhist myself.

I heard your “teaching” (sorry if that sounds patronising, I don’t know what you call it :-?) at a uni thing put on by the Buddhist Society. A friend invited me and tbh I was there for the free lunch. Lol! – no offence.

Anyway.  You’re clearly a good speaker and you seem like a nice guy.  But this is why your teaching is SO INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS.

In the interests of full disclosure, let me tell you that I am A PRACTISING CARNIVORE. And proud of it!  Right now I’m half-way through a cornish pasty and I’m LOVING it.  That probably sounds BLASPHEMOUS to you, but it’s WHO I AM.

I can’t remember a time when I haven’t enjoyed sausages, steaks, fried chicken, you name it.  And I can honestly say it has NEVER done me ANY harm. (Alright, there was that dodgy kebab last week, but you can’t judge a whole food group by one salmonella infection).  You preach about meat but you’ve never had a bacon sandwich yourself, so how on earth can you comment??

Maybe I’ve now committed some “”sin”” by tempting you with the wonders of bacon but, honestly, I think if God – or whoever – exists he wants you to be happy :-)

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried your whole Buddhist thing.  Well, I tried giving up meat anyway.  When I was 16 I dated a sweet vegan guy called Chris. He made it all sound so convincing at the time. (Love does strange things to people!)  I gave it my best shot for three long months.  But it REALLY wasn’t for me. I know that in my heart of hearts I have always been – AND I ALWAYS WILL BE – a meat-eater. SORRY!!

In fact, no, NOT SORRY! And this is why I’m writing.  When you told us that your branch of Buddhism denounces meat-eating, my blood  l i t e r a l l y  boiled.  Like literally!  I wonder if you realise just HOW OFFENSIVE that is???  One of my best friends is studying agricultural science and next year he’s returning to manage the family farm. Do you denounce him??  My cousin Joe works in an abattoir, but HE IS THE NICEST, MOST BUDDHISTY GUY YOU COULD EVER MEET. Do you denounce him????

And just now I Googled Buddhism and found out that many branches of your own belief system ALLOW meat-eating. So not only are you out of touch with the real world – YOU ARE DISAGREEING WITH YOUR OWN WIKI PAGE!!

From personal experience, I know how damaging it is to fight your omniverous desires. When my boyfriend pressured me into veganism I felt guilty, repressed and seriously protein-deficient.  Your message is one that makes us hate other people and hate ourselves.  And don’t give me that crap about ‘love the meat-eater, hate the meat-eating’!  That’s just patronising.  In the end it’s just thinly veiled CARNI-PHOBIA.

You gave out your details in case we wanted to find out more about your religion but seriously, NO!  I do NOT want to know anything more about your sick, demeaning life-philosophy.  You said that if we spent time chatting you could make me understand your position on meat.  You said that it fits in with some cosmic understanding of life, the universe, karma, compassion blah, blah, blah.  All I know is that I’m a Meat-Eater and if the universe hates me for that then we’ll have to agree to disagree and go our separate ways.

So no, I’m not getting in touch to find out more. I’m getting in touch to say PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE stop the hate-mongering!  Meat is food too.  Carnivores are people too.  And now, if you don’t mind (AND EVEN IF YOU DO!) I’m going to finish my pasty, nom nom!

yours respectfully,

Jenny.

Read Full Post »

The True Myth

Lewis Tolkein

During mission week at Falmouth CU we showed The Dark Knight Rises. I was going to give a short talk at the end but we had some technical problems halfway through so I gave the talk in the middle instead. Thankfully it didn’t affect the talk too much since it wasn’t based on the plot of Batman but on the concept of myths.

Audio

Slides

JRR TOLKEIN: ‘The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories… But this story has entered History… There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits.”

CS LEWIS: “The story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others but with the tremendous difference that it really happened.”

Read Full Post »

unapologetic_cover_2372637a

This might only make sense for those who have read or are reading the book… but I don’t have much time so I’m not going to spell things out too much.

Read this extract from chapter one to get an idea of the book.

The whole ’emotional sense’ thing is a brilliant idea. And it’s wonderfully written.  Here are 6 thoughts:

1) The book connects every time it’s about sin and Jesus. It floats away on Spufford’s soaring prose the rest of the time.

2) Spufford continually speaks of sin as the “human potential to f*#k things up”. That’s very well put. If I was Spufford, I’d object to any priggishness about the term. ‘Transgression’ and ‘iniquity’ don’t describe transgressions and iniquities the way we  experience them today. “F#@k ups” do.  Jesus meets us here or not at all.

3) “Yeshua” – his Jesus chapter – is the stand-out. (Surprise, surprise).

4) Jesus shines. Spufford’s “God”, on the other hand seems simply to be a “Shining” and so, ironically, he doesn’t.

5) Spufford is strong on the uncontainable, unreachable, beautiful-yet-bonkers teaching of Jesus. On the issues of forgiveness, generosity, worry and non-violence, Spufford captures the irrepressible overflow of the kingdom.  These sections are very refreshing to read, but…

6) …Spufford doesn’t follow this same trajectory when he treats Jesus’ teaching on sexuality and hell. He hides it away saying, on the one hand, that Jesus speaks very little about sex and, on the other, that the church doesn’t really believe in hell anymore, so…  Well, so Spufford should have treated Christ’s teaching here, the way he treats it on every other subject: bonkers-but-beautiful,  demanding more from us than could possibly lie within us – and, at the same time, speaking of a Kingdom and King in which these things are and can be.

Spufford points attractively towards a fruitful line of gospel engagement. Let’s pray others follow.

Read Full Post »

top-10This is my 369th post for 2012 and here are the top ten in terms of views.

But wait, before the big reveal… Here’s the blog’s new Facebook page. LIKE ME!

.

10. Jonathan and Charlotte – a Parable of the Kingdom

Here are some other responses to cultural phenomena:

What Jimmy Savile, Jeremy Forrest and Lance Armstrong teach us…

Living beyond the end of the world (a reflection on the Mayan apocalypse)

Bert le Clos’s “Behold My Son!”

.

9. What is sin? Falling short? Rebellion? Something else?

This was probably my favourite post of the year.  I had a pop at some other evangelical shibboleth’s in these:

It’s not about rules it’s about Working Hard at My Relationship With God…

Accountability

 “God’s work and our work”?

Grace is not a cheese sandwich

Idolising idolatry

Genesis 12: Key to the OT?

Memorialist Communion (in church and in marriage)

Memorialist Preaching

Memorialist Prayer

.

8. Five minutes on the bible and slavery

Here were the others in that series:

Five minutes on the bible’s sexual ethic

Five minutes on the conquest of Canaan

Five minutes on the bible and gender equality

.

7. 321 – The Story of God, the World and You

Exciting things happening with 321, I’m looking forward to developing them in 2013.  Here’s some of the philosophy behind it:

The importance of explaining Trinity and original sin and “union with Christ” in evangelism

321 and the Gospel EventsCreation, FallRedemption and Repentance (part onepart two)

.

6. The Road to Emmaus – Sermon on Luke 24:13-35

On the subject of preaching, here are posts on my three favourite preachers

Paul Blackham

Mike Reeves

Steve Levy

.

5. Legal recognition of marriage and the way of Jesus – by Paul Blackham

Paul wrote some other excellent guest posts for me this year:

Translating “Son of God” – Paul Blackham

The Insider Movement (a series of 4 posts) – Paul Blackham

Paul Blackham: A Sermon on Fear

.

4. Bible Read-Through in 120 Days – wanna join?

This read-through was very popular and Matthias also organised a Greek audio bible too. Download it for free:

Free Greek Audio Bible

.

3. A Trinity Sunday / Jubilee Sermon

Other more thematic sermons of mine:

Five Talks on Isaiah

Does God exist? How does He fit with Science?

What happens when we die?

Why is there so much suffering?

.

2. Stephen Fry offers good advice on depression – by ditching his atheism

This was a provocative post looking at the interaction between pastoral care and evangelism. If your “gospel” can’t help you deal with life it’s no gospel. And if you have to borrow Christian convictions in order to care for people, that might point you to the good sense of Christianity.

On the theme of pastoral theology, here are some posts that were close to my heart.

“This woman you put here”

Jesus is Utterly, Horrendously, Maddeningly Infuriating

Death because resurrection

Helping the Helpers

.

1. Fear and Faith: Derren Brown undone in 60 seconds by his own subject

I’m a big fan of Derren Brown but his claim to have shown God as the ultimate placebo was just silly.  Here are some more posts about atheism:

Not the God story, the Hero story

“Just show me the evidence”

An introduction to humanism – transcript and comment

“A universe with a god would look very different to a universe without one.”

Beginnings and Before Beginnings

.

There you have it.  Thanks for making blogging so enjoyable.  And don’t forget to LIKE ME, LIKE ME, LIKE ME!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »