Thursday, February 21, 2008

Say One Thing

I've heard it said that whenever you're faced with a live TV or Radio opportunity the golden rule is to first think hard about what you want to say and then whatever question you're asked turn it around to say what you want to say. You can see politicians doing it every day on the 6 o'clock news. In practice its a heck of a lot harder to do than you might think. This morning I was interviewed on the BBC Radio Manchester breakfast show, it was a really good slot just before the news at 8. It seemed to open well enough, although I was worried that I perhaps came over a bit defensive at first. Then, fairly quickly we seemed to get taken away on a conversational detour away from the One Thing I really wanted to say. And the thing is, when you're the guest, the interviewer really is in the driving seat, it's really hard to steer it back on track.
So what was the One Thing I really wanted to get across? Well, I was really hoping I'd get a chance to talk about the way that whilst faith is always personal, it's never private. Nice little media-friendly soundbite there too. But it wasn't to be. Hang about, what am I saying, "It wasn't to be" - what a dumb fatalistic expression. Truth is, I missed the moment and am left feeling a tad gutted about that. If you were listening feel free to score my performance out of 10. If the general consensus was that yes, it was the worst moment in contemporary broadcasting history then in the immortal words of Tony Wilson (the other Tony Wilson, not my dad), "I'll commit suicide by throwing myself off my own ego."

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"...but this is a Christian nation!"

"...but this is a Christian nation!" So ends another whining diatribe against the latest secular or islamic or humanistic or homo-erotic or politically correct initiative / incident / news story.
Two things collided this week to remind me again just how misguided these passionately held sentiments are. Firstly, I've been reading the Old Testament books of Jeremiah and Daniel, alongside Brueggemann's 'The Prophetic Imagination'. Then, midweek, Channel 4 showed 'Kingdom of Heaven' and whilst the film as a whole was largely a disappointment to me it was still thought provoking on a number of levels. At one point in the film Jeremy Irons delivers a line about Jerusalem (and I wish I could remember it) that evokes the contradiction at the heart of that much used phrase "Christian nation." The blood that has been shed over that dusty bit of land is utterly heinous. Jesus himself made it absolutely clear that his intention was not to establish a Kingdom with geographic borders but a Kingdom defined by a Way of life, exemplified by people of every ethnos living in relationship with him and harmony with one another.
And where do Jeremiah and Daniel fit into that? Well they are just two of the characters we meet in the grand timeline of biblical history who are doing exactly what we (Christians in 21st Century Britain) ought to be doing - working out by our daily choices and actions exactly what it means to honour God and live for him in the midst of a society that revolves around a very different centre of gravity. The quirk of global history known as Christendom is over and we find ourselves living out the same question as our biblical forebears - those who sweated in Egypt, wept in Babylon and faced down Caesar's lions... "How can we prove the value of our convictions over-against the current socio-political backdrop?"

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Emergent, Evangelical, Fundamentalist

In the context of my recent blog entries and the various comments they have provoked, I chuckled when this little cartoon appeared in the footer of an email I received today...

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Location of Evil

It's been dawning on me of late that we live in a world that teaches us to always locate evil outside of ourselves. This is manifest in the blame culture, the demonization of certain people groups and sub-cultures and the blatant hypocrisy of mass media. And this isn't just a problem that resides in secular society, the church is equally possessing of this worldview. We have a particularly effective way of ensuring we are not troubled by the thought that something within us may be wrong. Religious imagination weaves a spell constructing a Satan with powers out of all proportion with the character described in the pages of scripture. He is omnipresent, he knows our thoughts, he afflicts us with sicknesses of body, mind and spirit. Before long we actually begin to shift our focus away from the author and perfecter of our faith and begin addressing our prayers to this imposter - beckoning him nearer by the volume of our declarations that he must flee.
It is two millenia since the Master first warned us that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him unclean, rather 'all these evils come from inside' (see Mark 7). Why then do we still fail to allow the transformational potential of these words to affect our discipleship? Are we so blinkered by pride that we fail to see that the seeds of every human evil lie dormant below the carefully raked topsoil of our hearts. I hope not but fear so. Don't get me wrong, I don't expect every believer to walk around in a state of permanent shame and unworthiness, I just want to hear less blaming of the devil for issues that are self-generated and need dealing with honestly in the privacy of the 'secret place'.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Part 3 of the satire triptych

This won't make any sense unless you've seen the other 2 first so scroll down to get with it...


Thanks to fensterbme for the original shot

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More satire...

The second installment in my little foray into satire, and an effort to balance the scales somewhat ;-)


Thanks to Lean Makin for the original shot

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Friday, February 08, 2008


Stimulated by a conversation with a mate in the pub last night I have decided to pluck up some courage and try a little bit of satire...


Thanks to assbach for the original image.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Contagious holiness

In contrast to the traditional view that uncleanness was contagious, Jesus regarded holiness as contagious. The physician is not overcome by those who are ill, but rather overcomes their illness. Thus Jesus touches people who have leprosy, or who are unclean or sick or women, without fear of contamination. Jesus is not rendered unclean by the contact; rather, those whom society regarded as defiled are made clean. Holiness, he saw, was not something to be protected; rather, it was God's miraculous power of transformation. God's holiness cannot be soiled; rather, it is a cleansing and healing agent. It does not need to be shut up and quarantined in the temple; it is now, through Jesus' healings and fellowship with the despised and rejected, breaking out into the world to transform it.

Walter Wink, The Powers That be: Theology for a New Millennium

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Some thoughts on fasting

I'm preaching at an Anglican church tomorrow and so have discovered that we're on the brink of the Lent season (which starts on Wednesday). Lots of Christians use the Lent season to fast from various things. This got me to thinking that it’s easy to get the wrong idea about fasting. Let me explain:
There’s a dangerous idea around. It’s been around almost as long as the church. It’s an idea that would have us believe that the bodies God has given us, the bodies that he created and described as ‘very good’ - are in fact evil. It’s an idea that would have us believe that in order to please God we need to somehow reject the bodily life he has given us in favour of a purely ‘spiritual life’.
And this idea has been widely applied to the practice of fasting - going without food, or chocolate, or TV, or the many other recent additions on the theme. I’d like to suggest to everyone who is thinking of fasting this Lent, that fasting isn’t about that at all.
Fasting isn’t a way of us rejecting our bodies in search of some ‘purer’ spiritual self. Rather, fasting fosters deep within us an awareness of the fact that our spiritual self sits right at the heart of our physical self. Fasting reminds us that God has made us whole people and that there is a profound connection between the way we feed our physical desires and the formation of our spiritual identity.

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