Friday, 30 January 2009

Blind Faith


Ben Elton’s brilliant recent novel ‘Blind Faith’ describes a dystopian post-apocalyptic world with frightening similarities to our own.


The following conversation is, I think, fascinating:


‘Let me put it differently. Don’t you ever want to understand something?’

‘I’m going to sleep.;

‘The Lord made Heaven and Earth. The Lord made us. The Lord does this, the Lord wants that. We don’t know how or why, we don’t need to know, it just happens. There’s never any explanation, it’s all a miracle. Children are born, some die, it’s God’s will, we can’t change it. Don’t you think that, in a way, that’s sort of . . . sort of . . .?’

‘Sort of what?’

‘Pathetic?’

Whatever else Chantorria had expected him to say, it clearly wasn’t this.

‘Pathetic?’

‘Well, to just . . . give up . . . leave everything to God. I mean why did he bother making us in the first place if the only function we serve is to believe in him and then die. Isn’t that a bit pointless?’

‘I wish you wouldn’t talk this way, Trafford. It’s weird. Our job here on Earth is to have faith. Faith is an acknowledgement that there is something bigger and more important than us, which I certainly hope there is. What’s pathetic about that?’

‘Well, perhaps I want something else in my life, something other than faith.’

‘What could there be other than faith?’

Trafford struggled to think of the word. He knew there was one, he had heard it used in different contexts, but this was the context for which the word had been coined.

‘Reason,’ he replied.

‘A reason? … Isn’t your daughter a reason? Aren’t I a reason?’

‘No, not a reason. Reason itself. I want to work something out in my own mind. I want to arrive at a conclusion because I’ve thought it through, not because I’ve been told to believe it. I want to take part of my life back from God.’

‘Trafford,’ Chantorria replied, and there was fear in her eyes, ‘you can’t deny God! They’ll burn you!’

‘I’m not denying God!’ Trafford said hurriedly. For all his brave words, he was a long way from wishing people to think him a heretic. ‘Surely you can act independently without denying God? I would have thought that any God with half a brain would expect that of his children.’

‘Trafford!’

‘I mean wouldn’t faith itself be more valuable if it was arrived at through question and doubt? What’s the use of blind faith? Seriously, it’s not difficult saying you have faith if the alternative is being burned alive. But does that mean you really have faith? That man this evening, the Chris-lam. He had faith.’

‘Trafford, he very nearly got beaten to death. You want to get us both beaten to death? Is that it? That man was mad.’

‘Of course he was mad to do what he did. To risk dying for his faith. You wouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t do that. Faith to us is anything we’re told to believe. If Confessor Bailey told us that a cherry alcopop represented the blood of Diana we’d worship it without a thought. But that man tonight –’

‘Who could have been killed –’

‘That man had arrived at his faith despite what he has been told. His faith was personal. He’d thought about something and decided to act upon the conclusions he’d drawn. I’d like to do that.’

‘You want to get beaten to death?’

‘You’re not listening to me! What I’m saying is, wouldn’t it be an astonishing thing to act independently? To think something through? Decide upon a course of action and then follow it. Wouldn’t that feel good?’

‘How would I know? Who’s ever done that?’

(pp. 134-6)

Thursday, 29 January 2009

OK I love cars...

Today, my tattered and battered old Astra is in for it's 160,000 mile service. Here's a photo of it from a year or two back which took a bit of planning:


And here's one of my Dad's motorbike (a Yamaha 125) taken recently:
(ten fat ladies!)

Liberal Backslider

I just took the Larknews EQ test - How Evangelical Are You?
I scored 40 - which apparently makes me 'Backslidden'!
So, me and Martyn together then...



Liberal Backslider - Martyn Joseph
I'm a liberal backslider I've been sliding ‘bout ten years
People ask me how I'm doin' and I confirm all their fears
I'm swearing like a trooper, and I'm drinking like a bum
I'm a liberal backslider and it sure is a lot of fun.

Been Following these footsteps now for many a year gone by
But you always upset someone there no matter how you try
Well the good things they're forgotten if a bad thing comes around
Now all these stones are flyin' they're gonna knock me to the ground

I'm a liberal backslider….

I take a stand on justice, I take a stand on race
Gonna take me a TV evangelist and punch him in the face
I sing about the hope that's in me and ask why the poor aren't fed
But if I don't tow the party line, it'd be better if I were dead

I'm a liberal backslider….

So I'll be asking for forgiveness then until the day I die
Though I can't be sure of what I've done I think I'd better try
Thank God you're not the jury, thank God I'm not the judge
Here's to a bigger picture, here's to the bigger love!

I'm a liberal backslider…

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Hip-Hop and the book of Revelation

Thanks to Tim for a couple of links to hip-hop use of the book of Revelation:



And Pigeon John has a couple of tracks on the album "Pigeon John and the Summertime Pool Party" which you can listen to as samples on Amazon:

Doctor Who

The double episode "The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit" from Series Two has many references to the Book of Revelation. Here's one of the most obvious:

Doctor: “You need a power source with an inverted self-extrapolating reflex of six to the power of six every six seconds”
Rose “That’s all the sixes”

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Prince - Seven

The wonderful song 'Seven' by Prince has been a regular feature in my cassette/CD/iPod playlist for many years. But it was only yesterday that I got round to trying to identify the texts behind the imaggery. Comments are welcome:

CHORUS:

All 7 and we'll watch them fall

Revelation 16:1 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, "Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God."

They stand in the way of love and we will smoke them all

Revelation 18:9 And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning;

With an intellect and a savoir-faire

No one in the whole universe will ever compare

Revelation 18:17-18 And all shipmasters and seafarers, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off 18 and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning, "What city was like the great city?"

I am yours now and U are mine

Revelation 3:5 I will not blot your name out of the book of life; I will confess your name before my Father and before his angels.

And 2gether we'll love through all space and time

So don't cry

Revelation 21:3-4 God himself will be with them; 4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.

One day all 7 will die

Revelation 12:3 Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.

Revelation 12:7-9 And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world-- he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

CHORUS

And I saw an angel come down unto me

Revelation 20:1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain.

And in her hand she holds the very key

Words of compassion, words of peace

Revelation 3:1 These are the words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars:

And in the distance an army's marching feet (Hut 2 3 4, hut 2 3 4)

Revelation 19:19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against the rider on the horse and against his army.

But behold, we will watch them fall

Revelation 19:20-21 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed in its presence the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21 And the rest were killed by the sword of the rider on the horse, the sword that came from his mouth; and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.

And we lay down on the sand of the sea

Revelation 12:18 Then the dragon took his stand on the sand of the seashore.

And before us animosity will stand and decree

Revelation 13:5-6 The beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven.

That we speak not of love, only blasphemy

And in the distance, 6 others will curse me

Revelation 17:9-10 the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; also, they are seven kings, 10 of whom five have fallen, one is living, and the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain only a little while.

But that's alright (that's alright), 4 I will watch them fall

Revelation 18:2 "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!”

(1 2 3 4 5 6 7)

CHORUS

(Never grow old)

And we will see a plague and a river of blood

Revelation 15:1 Then I saw another portent in heaven, great and amazing: seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is ended.

Revelation 14:20 And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the wine press, as high as a horse's bridle, for a distance of about two hundred miles.

And every evil soul will surely die in spite of

Revelation 20:9 They marched up over the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from heaven and consumed them.

Their 7 tears, but do not fear

4 in the distance, 12 souls from now

Revelation 22:2 On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

U and me will still be here - we will still be here

There will be a new city with the streets of gold

Revelation 21:2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,

Revelation 21:21 and the street of the city is pure gold,

The young so educated they never grow old

Revelation 21:4 Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.

And ah… there will be no death 4 with every breath

The voice of many colors sings a song that's so bold

Revelation 14:2-3 And I heard a voice from heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder; the voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, 3 and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the one hundred forty-four thousand who have been redeemed from the earth.

Sing it while we watch them fall (Fall)

CHORUS

(Never grow old) {x3}


Friday, 23 January 2009

The 'Holy' Bible

Thanks to ASBO Jesus for this one!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Colloquium Quotable Quotes

Well, the colloquium on Baptist hermenutics is over... Helen and I are very tired!
Lots and lots of good stuff, and one or two laughs...
Some anonymised (to protect the innocent) quotes:
  • “There is nothing like having the Bible at one’s disposal to foster the idea that the Bible is at one’s disposal.”
  • “Like a good wine I don’t travel very well – It stirs up the sediment and makes me bitter.”
  • “I could more easily accept the Pope as the vicar of Christ on earth, than the Queen of England as the head of the Church in England.”
  • “In Wheeler Robinson’s last days in his nursing home, he refused to speak anything but Hebrew, in the belief that he was already in Heaven.”
  • “Brevard Childs wrote his Old Testament Theology because he got so bored in lectures with the historical critical method that he thought, ‘Blow it! Let’s just look at the text!’”
  • “The greatest contribution of biblical criticism has been to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that these texts are composite in nature, that is they are vibrant, alive, and living…”
  • “I’ve always said it must be very unpleasant to be a textual gloss: Conservative scholars deny you exist, while liberal scholars dismiss you with a curl of the lip as a ‘mere gloss’”

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Advice for theological students

Ben Myers, over at the Faith and Theology blog, has published some Advice for theological students: ten steps to a brilliant career.

They're all worth reading, but I would like to particularly emphasise #9:

9. The goal of theological education is a good career: preferably an academic career, although in some cases you might have to settle for pastoral ministry (or worse, just a regular job). It’s never too early to get your career on track: every essay, every conversation with a professor, every question you ask in class – these are the opportunities to show the professor how deeply you share their opinions, and how superior your own insights are to those of your classmates. In all circumstances you should revere, admire and emulate your professors. Even if they are neither wise nor virtuous, your goal is to become their perfect reflection, mirroring back to them their own opinions, preferences and prejudices. To show that you are the professor’s true protégé: this is the beginning of wisdom, and the bedrock of any good career.

Waiting for the end of the world...

From "The Secret Policeman's Ball" 1979 benefit for Amnesty International.



Thanks to Louise...

Terry Pratchett on Realised Eschatology

The few warriors who hadn’t already jumped into the water fell to their knees, terrified. [Mau] looked into their eyes.

They can see me. They worship me, Locaha said. Belief is a hard thing to believe, is it not? For now, at this time, here in this moment under these stars – you have the gift. You can kill them with a touch, a word, by the passing of your shadow. You have earned this. How would you like them to die?

‘Take your captives to the shore and leave them here,’ Mau said to the nearest men. ‘Pass this command along and then go. If you stay here, I will close my wings over you.’

That is all? said Locaha.

Thoughts pieced themselves together in the chill on Mau’s mind as he turned and headed across the cocral.

‘Yes,’ he said, ‘it is.’

I would have acted differently, said the voice of death.

And I would not, Locaha. I’m not you. I have choices.’

This day turned out well for you, said the voice of Locaha.

May still said nothing. Behind them the Raiders’ fleet was boiling with terrified activity. There will be so many new mouths to fee, he thought. So much to do. Always, so much to do.

I am not often surprised, said Locaha, and you are wrong. There is one choice I can make, in the circumstances. . .

The sand under Mau’s feet turned black, and there was darkness on every side. But in front was a pathway of glittering stars.

Mau stopped, and said, ‘No. Not another trap.’

But this is the way to the Perfect World! said Locaha. Only a very few have seen this path!

Mau turned around. ‘I think that if Imo wants a perfect world, he wants it down here,’ he said. He could still see the beach around him, but it was indistinct, as if it was behind a wall of dark water.

This one? It’s far from perfect! said Locaha.

‘It’s a little more perfect today. And there will be more days.’

You really want to go back? said Locaha. There are no second chances – there are no chances at all. There is only. . . what happens.

‘And what does not happen?’ said Mau.

That? That happens, too, somewhere else. . . Goodbye, Mau. I look forward with interest to our next meeting. You turn worlds upside down . . . Oh, and one other thing. Those others I mentioned, who have been shown the glittering path? They all said the same thing as you did. They saw that the perfect world is a journey, not a place.

Terry Pratchett, Nation, London: Doubleday, 2008. pp. 352-4

Saturday, 17 January 2009

O Lord, it’s hard to be humble



Oh Lord it's hard to be humble

When you're perfect in every way

I can't wait to look in the mirror

’Cos I get better lookin’ each day

To know me is to love me

I must be a hell of a man

Oh Lord it's hard to be humble

But I'm doin' the best that I can

(Mac Davies)


Screwtape to Wormwood:

Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is specially true of humility. Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, “By jove! I’m being humble”, and almost immediately pride—pride at his own humility—will appear. If he awakes to the danger and tries to smother this new form of pride, make him proud of his attempt—and so on, through as many stages as you please. But don’t try this too long, for fear you awake his sense of humor and proportion, in which case he will merely laugh at you and go to bed.

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Ch VI.


Philippians 2:1-8

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-- even death on a cross.


At last night’s Bristol Anabaptist Network meeting, we were talking about the subject of ‘humility’, arising out of our reading David Augsburger’s chapter on ‘Habitual Humility’ from his book ‘Dissident Discipleship.


We found ourselves laughing about the old problem of how to ‘aim’ for humility, without then feeling pride at having achieved it! We also spoke about the problem of ‘false humility’, which when it comes down to it is really just another form of pride.


It occurs to me that maybe there’s another way of looking at this.


If trying not to be proud, or trying to be humble, is actually making ‘humility’ a goal to be worked towards, maybe we need to try something else instead; and I wonder if the issue here is one of self-worth.


Maybe humility should not be thought of as a goal at all, but rather a result of how we perceive ourselves. Maybe pride and false humility are also results: the results of our constant desire to measure or prove our worth against other people. Either we’re proud of our perceived superiority, or we over-state our perceived inferiority, both in an attempt to give ourselves a sense of worth and value when measured against other people.


Perhaps the trick here is to seek our sense of self esteem not from measurement against others, but from a sense of security in who we are before God, with our giftings and shortcomings recognised as just being a part of who we are; with ‘who we are’ being loved totally by God. As Philip Yancey says in ‘What’s So Amazing About Grace’, ‘Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us any more and grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us any less.’


So, the first step towards humility is learning to take our self-worth from God, not from others. But I think there’s more to it than this. It’s not just about me and God – other people still have to come into the equation!


I think the thing to focus on here is love. Do we genuinely love the other? When someone else excels at something we would like to be good at, are we envious or pleased? Jealous or delighted?


If we can learn to love the other, maybe we can then be thrilled at their achievements, and not covetous of their accomplishments.


So here we have it – love of the other, and a greater appreciation of God’s love for us. Result: humility…

Friday, 16 January 2009

The Book of Revelation in Contemporary Culture

This page is a resource for the course 'Apocalypse Now' which I teach at Cardiff University.

Film
Music

Literature
  • The Four Bikers of the Apocalypse in Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman book Good Omens
  • 'Revelation' by C.J. Sansom
Art
T.V.

Other
If you know more - please tell me!

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Post Rapture Pets


"Organisation is the key to success" a friend of mine once said.
Well, thanks to a heads-up from John Lyons, those pet-owners among us can now look forward to the Rapture with total confidence...
Check out Post Rapture Pets - "What will happen to your pets who are left behind?"
Alternatively, choose a pet from Isa. 11.6-7: A wolf, lamb, leopard, goat, calf, lion, cow, bear, or ox would all seem to be a pet you can take with you into eternity. Those with cats, dogs, rats or other assorted pets should make other arrangements as detailed above. If you are a herpetologist, you'd probably better give up (cf. Isa 65.25).
Whilst you're organising your post-parousia legacy, you might want to write a Rapture Letter.

Overcome by consumption

"And I am a weapon of massive consumption,
and its not my fault it’s how I’m programmed to function."




"Without consumerism our beautiful way of life will surely collapse"

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Baptists, Hermeneutics, and Evolution...

Next week I will be co-hosting, with Helen Dare, a colloquium on Baptist hermeneutics.

The ‘plainly revealed' Word of God? Baptist hermeneutics in theory and practice.

Unfortunately, it's not an 'open invitation' - so if you're not invited, you can't come! But, if you're interested, you can read more about it, together with a list of abstracts, here.

The following recent exchange in the Baptist times, on that old chestnut evolution, demonstrates perfectly the problems we face when considering the topic of what it means to read the Bible as Baptists:

"Origen, Calvin and many other Christian scholars down the millennia have recognised that the Bible is a theological text in which the writers have been inspired by God to use many different literary forms, including metaphors and other figurative language, to express theological truth and that to read it as a source for scientific information is to misuse it." - Revd Dr Ernest Lucas, Bristol Baptist College. Baptist Times 25 December 2008.

"Instead of exegesis - reading out of Scripture what it plainly says - thsoe who would add evolution and millions of years to Genesis are guilty of eisegesis - imposing onto Scripture ideas that originate outside the Bibile, and attributing greater authority to the ever-changing theories of fallible humans than to the unchanging Word of the Almighty God!" - Jenny Yates, Yarmouth. Baptist Times 8 Jan 2009.

As Homer would say:

U2 and the book of Revelation

It's great when someone does the hard work for you!
@U2.com have identified a long list of Biblical references in U2 songs.
Here's the ones which relate to the Book of Revelation.

"Tomorrow"
  • "Somebody's knocking at the door...Open up, open up, To the lamb of God"
  • Revelation 3:20 "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will eat with him, and he with me."
"Running To Stand Still"
  • "Sweet the sin, Bitter the taste in my mouth"
  • Revelation 10:10 "And I took the little book out of the angel's hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter."
"Sunday Bloody Sunday"
  • "Wipe the tears from your eyes"
  • Revelation 21:4: "He will wipe every tear from their eyes..."
"Where the Streets Have No Name"
  • Revelation 22:1 "Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city."
  • Revelation 22:21 "The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass."
"The Playboy Mansion"
  • "Then there will be no time of sorrow, then there will be no time for pain"
  • Revelation 21:4: "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."
"The Wanderer"
  • "I went out walking through streets paved with gold"
  • Revelation 21:21: "The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass."
On the subject of "The Wanderer", here's the version of it sung by U2 at the Johnny Cash tribute. An 'apocalyptic' song in so many ways:
I went out walking
Through streets paved with gold
Lifted some stones
Saw the skin and bones
Of a city without a soul
I went out walking
Under an atomic sky
Where the ground won't turn
And the rain it burns
Like the tears when I said goodbye
Yeah I went with nothing
Nothing but the thought of you
I went wandering
Wonderful stuff.

Biblical Imagery in the Music of U2


There's a great article by Andrew Davies here on Biblical Imagery in the Music of U2
My favourite U2 song (possibly my favourite song of all time, although Martyn Joseph's 'Treasure the Questions' is right up there too) is 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For', and here's Davies' anaysis of it:

To illustrate the album’s biblical dependencies more specifically, let us briefly consider one of Joshua Tree’s more famous tracks in a little more detail. “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” is clearly a song about a quest. Whilst in its proposing and dismissing of alternative priorities for living, the song might be thought to have similarities to Qoheleth, essentially it offers a liberationist reworking of the Exodus motif that to my mind pervades the album as a whole, and I think this is reflected in the sound scape of the song as well as in its lyrics.
For example, the track begins with open, accented repeated notes on the lead guitar with a solid and regular beat at a good marching pace. It seems to express a consistency of motion and momentum that is evocative of forward progress through drudgery and effort — perhaps a march onward through the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land. The next instrument to be added is the tambourine, which is not only something of a biblical instrument but also has particular resonance with the Exodus narrative as the accompaniment to Miriam’s song of praise after the Red Sea crossing. The march aspect of the music is more obvious still when the band joins in toward the end of the introduction; the effort and drudgery entailed is, to my mind, emphasized by the bass line, which retains essentially the same pattern throughout the song, with only subtle changes to allow for a slow build in intensity. The same basic pattern is repeated many times over to fade at the end, emphasizing once again the ongoing nature of the search in question, in addition to the writer’s determination and persistence to pursue it despite the effort entailed.
Lyrically, aspects of the Exodus and Conquest motif continue throughout the song too, with mountains needing to be climbed, fields to run through, and city walls to scale in the quest for the object of the writer’s affection. There is, of course, an apparently Christian final verse to the song, and the religious tone of this part of the song is emphasized by the introduction of an organ into the arrangement. This third verse is also interesting for combining something of the language of fundamentalist evangelicalism (emphasized further by the use of a gospel choir in the live version of the song that appeared on U2’s next album, Rattle and Hum) with more progressive religious concepts such as the idea that we are “not there yet,” and talk of “colours bleeding into one.” Perhaps, we are seeing here something of a rejection by U2 of traditional ecclesiastical formulations of Christianity in favor of a more inclusive but engaged approach. Is Bono saying that what he is still looking for is a believing Christianity that rejoices in the operation of its transformative power — for the faith community to assume its responsibility to deliver change in society?

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Jesus the magician

"Media watchdog Ofcom has dismissed 540 complaints about a comedy sketch featuring Rowan Atkinson playing a Christian clergyman who joked that Jesus Christ was good at party tricks." - The Guardian - Monday 12 January 2009

Why I became a worship leader...

Asbo Jesus has finally rumbled me...

Sunday, 11 January 2009

'Bushisms'


The incomparable BBC has put together a wonderful and hilarious list of 'Bushisms' for all our enjoyment...

Saturday, 10 January 2009

The Gematriculator

My site has been rated by The Gematriculator, which uses the 'infallible methods' of gematria to rate websites.
For example, apparently the number 7 is important, because it is 'God's number', and 'In the Book of Revelation seven positively shines out: there are seven golden candlesticks, seven letters to seven churches, a book sealed with seven seals, seven angels standing before the Lord with seven trumpets, seven thunders and seven last plagues. In fact there are over 50 occurrences of the number seven in Revelation alone.'
Well, I'm convinced!

This site is certified 63% GOOD by the Gematriculator

Which is fine until you realise that it also means:

This site is certified 37% EVIL by the Gematriculator

N.T. Wrong Gone

The blogsphere is a lesser place with the departure of N.T. Wrong...
However, one mystery has been solved: His identity (or has it?).
Hover over the 'That's all folks' graphic on his final post...

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Whitley Lecture 2009

Yesterday, a number of us from South Wales Baptist College made a pilgrimage to Bristol Baptist College to hear Sally Nelson deliver her truly excellent 'Whitley Lecture 2009'
It is entitled: 'A Thousand Crucifixions: The materialist subversion of the church?' which doesn't really give the game away in terms of it's content, so I'll spill the beans here... It's an extended reflection on the theology of disability.
What follows are my notes taken during the lecture, and they therefore represent simply what struck me as she was talking, with a bit of my response thrown in. They are certainly not intended to be a summary of the lecture... If you're interested in the lecture, you can either hear it in person (see Andy Goodliff's blog for details) or order yourself a copy from Whitley Publications c/o Regent's Park College.

  • The starting point for the lecture was Jesus' injunction to take up one's cross (Mt 10:38-39), and Sally shared how unhelpful it can be for those who are carers for the disabled to be told: 'Well, we all have our crosses to bear, don't we?'
  • Nontheless, she affirmed that the idea of suffering existing at the heart of our faith is something to hold on to.
  • She noted that faith in christ does not guarantee freedom from pain. Rather, faith offers a framework of meaning for all of life's experience.
  • Sally quoted Victor Frankl who says that it is not suffering per se which destroys people, it is suffering without meaning. This raises a very serious question for me as to whether there are in fact some forms of suffering where it is hard to find meaning. The example of dementia was raised, something we have experienced in my own family, and the question was raised of whether dementia might be an example of 'meaningless suffering?' Sally's take on this is that if we take Jesus seriously, then no suffering is meaningless, because it finds its meaning in the 'fulfilment of the life project'.
  • In suffering we share in the suffering of Jesus.
  • The question was raised of whether a disabled person is 'healed' in heaven? The answer Sally gave was 'yes - but they might still be disabled: It's just that the disabity doesn't matter any more.' This seems to me to be in accord with the social model of disability, whereby the impairment is physical, but its designation as disability is a social construct. By this understanding, the church can become the place whereby an alternative human community is modelled, where impairment does not necessarily entail disability or exclusion.
  • Sally suggested that Jesus' healing ministry is often about restoring a person to their place in society, or restoring them in terms of their personal relationships. And she wondered how would it be if we replaced the word 'healing' with 'restoring proper relationships'?
  • At this point, I hear an echo of Jeffrey John's voice: '[The healing miracles] seem to have been deliberately selected by the evangelists to show Jesus healing at least one of every category of persons who, according to the purity laws of Jesus’ society, were specifically excluded and labelled unclean, or who were set at varying degrees of distance from worship in the inner temple. The list of those who suffered some degree of taboo and exclusion contains menstruating women, lepers, Samaritans, Gentiles, tax-collectors, homosexuals, prostitutes, adulteresses, women in general, children, people with withered limbs, the deaf, the dumb, the blind, the lame and the dead. At least one representative from each of these categories is a subject of Jesus’ healing miracle stories… Each of these healings is, of course, a demonstration of Jesus’ healing power and compassion for the individual, but that is not the main point. Uppermost in the evangelist’s mind – and far more relevant to us – is the miracle’s universal significance: the overturning of social and religious barriers; the abolition of taboos; and Jesus’ declaration of God’s love and compassion for everyone, expressed in the systematic inclusion of each class of the previously excluded or marginalized. .. As we consider the meaning of these miracles for today, the question repeatedly poses itself: how far has the Church seen or wanted to see the implications of this systematic, subversive, highly risky inclusivism on Jesus’ own part, and preferred instead to create and cling to its own taboos?' (The Meaning in the Miracles, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004, pp. 10-11)
  • True inclusion is therefore not about the disabled person becoming different, but about society becoming more inclusive.
  • Sally then explored the metaphor of the church as body, as the place where equal dialogue between persons is possible. By this understanding, the church's address to the world can be transformative and healing, as the church subversively models to the world an alternative way of being human, one where diversity is valued, the 'other' is included, and brokenness and suffering are given a cohesive narrative.
  • A question I have at this point is: What is the role of the Spirit in this, as the agent of God's transformation in the world? It occurs to me that what we are looking for here is the miracle of Pentecost being repeated over and over, as the boundaries between humans are broken down and true community, which values diversity, is created.
  • In this way it is the church, understood as a dialogical and relational community, which God gives to us to equip us to face suffering. It is all about the church, this earthly yet unearthly community...
  • My frustration: In my experience the church all too often fails to be what it could and should be. All too often it is a place of exclusion, a place where difference is not embraced, a place where physical incompleteness is enhanced rather than made whole.
  • What would it take for our churches to become places of genuine healing? Where people are restored to right relationship - with God and with others - regardless of who they are? Where 'difference' is welcomed, and humanity in all its forms is valued, and where suffering finds meaning in the very heart of God's love.

If you open your mind too much your brain will fall out (Take my wife)

Thanks to Louise for the following link!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Thursday, 1 January 2009

All is quiet, on New Year's Day

Happy New Year!
A treat here from the greatest rock band of all time...



All is quiet on New Year's Day.
A world in white gets underway.
I want to be with you, be with you night and day.
Nothing changes on New Year's Day.
On New Year's Day.

I... will be with you again.
I... will be with you again.

Under a blood-red sky
A crowd has gathered in black and white
Arms entwined, the chosen few
The newspaper says, says
Say it's true, it's true...
And we can break through
Though torn in two
We can be one.

I... I will begin again
I... I will begin again.

Oh, oh. Oh, oh. Oh, oh.
Oh, maybe the time is right.
Oh, maybe tonight.
I will be with you again.
I will be with you again.

And so we are told this is the golden age
And gold is the reason for the wars we wage
Though I want to be with you
Be with you night and day
Nothing changes
On New Year's Day
On New Year's Day
On New Year's Day