Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Abolish the cross!

Read something today that I quite liked. A chap called C.S. Song (no idea who he is) said that the task of Christian mission is "to work towords the abolition of the cross", understanding the cross as "the height of human cruelty and the depth of God's suffering with humanity." Another guy, building on this said, "The reverence for the cross in the church appears unrelated, or even counter, to the struggle to end the suffering of the oppressed...The anthropology of the cross sets out God's concrete solidarity with victims, and a sharp critique of the collective mechanisms of violence turned against them."

I like that. I think it was Moltman (a concentration camp victim) who famously talked about the crucified God - the cross as God sharing solidarity with the victim. Girard's stuff also shows how through this solidarity the mechanisms of scapegoating are unmasked. I like the idea that in this way the cross works to end all such similar atrocities - darfur, guantanamo, bosnia, zimbabwe. It makes me think about the stuff Jesus said about "do this in rememberance of me" functioning a bit like Holocaust Day - remembering so nothing like this would ever happen again.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Torture and Guantanamo

Listened to "The Moral Maze" (available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00cm9pd//b00cm9n5 until tuesday 29th July 2008)

It reminded me of why we are thinking of doing some action to try to make some differences on Guantanamo. Michael Burke says,

"In the week that the first of the suspects held at Guantanamo Bay goes on trial for war crimes, there is a growing sense of unease that we have given up the moral high ground by using torture to fight the so called, 'war on terror'. The Americans acknowledge using techniques like 'waterboarding' (a sort of simulated drowning) to get information. Last week a Canadian court ordered the release of a video showing a sixteen-year-old prisoner at Guantanamo pitifully begging for his mother after being deprived of more than three hours sleep at a time for 21 days. An American government lawyer is on record as saying, "torture is a matter of perception". Here, at the weekend, a Commons committee accused our government of 'out-sourcing' torture of British nationals to others, notably the Pakistani security services."
And, don't forget, the inmates of Guantanamo have, on the whole, not been charged with anything.

What more reason do we need than to do something about this?

Friday, 25 July 2008

End of Sola Scriptura?

I can't say I'm wanting to defend Sola Scriptura (the Bible alone), but I have been rather shocked by its abandonment within Conservative Evangelicalism. I've noticed this in some of personal chats with conservatives and really taken aback to see it in "The Jerusalem Declaration" (the declaration by conservative Bishops in the light of Lambeth). It reads:

"The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading. "

Of course, the church has a clear historical and consensual reading, doesn't it?

The need to add this clause about the historical and consensual reading belies a lack of confidence in the Bible to clearly state that homosexuality is wrong. So resort has to be made to a historical reading of it. It clearly demonstrates to me that their claim to be the ones holding to the Bible is just simply not true.

What was great about Sola Scriptura in its day was that it gave the individual the right to interpret the Bible, without recourse to Popes, Bishops or Priests. It meant that practices that were accepted simply because this is the way they are always done, could be questioned and challenged. We might not be wanting a return to Sola Scriptura per se, but in the light of the homosexuality debate today, surely we need, more than ever, to not just accept things because that is what has always been believed, but to weigh it against Scripture, experience, common sense and justice.

Banksy Bouncing #5

Slightly different one this week - what's this one provoke in and from you?

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Community Risks

Read Naked Pastor website the other day and two blogs really struck a chord with me (this one and the one below).
This one matters to me a lot. This is what NP said:
"I want to talk about the difficulty community brings to friendship. Being in the church has its good parts. When it’s good it’s awesome. But it is also a very difficult way to live. Like one friend said to me recently: she’s found the church to be a place of incredible pain when it comes to relationships. She’s surprised she’s still committed. But she’s right. Which is why mixing friendship with religion and community is incredibly delicate, risky and often painful. I could choose to have a few friends, kindred spirits, and keep it at that. Then go to a church where I can remain anonymous, get my liturgical fix and go home to my buddies afterwards. But no. That’s not me.
Or I could just keep faith out of my relationships altogether. Don’t even bring it up. But unfortunately faith isn’t just a hobby with me, an intellectual pursuit, a passing interest, an anthropological obsession. Somehow, faith, spirit, religion, relationship with I AM, has gripped my life to such an extent that it’s become essential to who I am. It is integral. To neglect it or deny it or suppress it in my relationships would be at least inauthentic and at worst suicidal. I can’t stand relating on a superficial level, pretending to be something I’m not pretending you’re someone you’re not. I have to be all out there or not at all. I resist becoming a rubber stamp endorsing what others do just to avoid conflict and make the mood in the room comfortable. I wish not to dial down just to stay in relationship with someone. And this has brought me the loss of many, many friends. It continues to happen to this day. And it tears my heart out every single time.
Let’s see: keep friends but deny who I am and live on a superficial level; or live freely as who I am and risk the loss of relationship? Believe me, the choice is a difficult one. "
I could have written practially all of that. Certainly, mixing community and friendship has not been a very positive experience for me. The closer the Christian community the more I've been hurt and very few friendships have come out of it. I have made more friends in situations where the community has not been so 'close' (do I mean 'intense'?) I want a church that allows distance. I want a few close friends and not much more. And yet, I can't practice my faith outside community. Herein lies my dilemma.
Your thoughts are most welcome.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

There's no Santa!

This is a compendium of comments on a blog by Naked Pastor that really rung a chord for me:

"The other day a friend of mine who is a member of our community was feeling overwhelmed by the incredible weakness and immorality that is displayed in the church - the whole church in general and ours in particular. He came to the rather alarming conclusion that there’s no evident difference between believers and non-believers, Christians and non-Christians. We’re all the same. Believers and church-goers are no more holy, righteous or good than anyone else, but just as crooked, lustful, adulterous, hateful, angry, greedy and self-centered as everyone else. I agreed, having come to that conclusion decades ago. It’s sad to watch someone suddenly realize there’s no Santa, and that’s what these experiences always feel like to me.

If Christians are as depraved as non-Christians, then presumably non-Christians are just as good and hopeful and peaceful and generous and risk-taking and grace-filled as Christians, are they? Let’s start from the life we have in common. Then we can begin to make a difference.

The problem is, pastor, that when the gospel is sold to us, we are told that Jesus will change us, as he has changed others. Then we become Christians and realize that he isn’t changing us and he has never changed anyone. That’s the problem. People’s behaviour, mine included, prove the inability of a non-existing being to change lives. Change by Jesus is another broken promise of the Christian faith.

I understand what you are saying Lorena. By all appearances it does seem that Jesus doesn’t change lives. I agree that we don’t look different. I think the “Jesus is the answer” kind of Christianity actually leads people to leaving the faith because they see that it is truly a bankrupt position to take. "

Would value people's thoughts on this exchange.

Monday, 21 July 2008

How great their Art?

NT Wright on the call to take up paint, chisel, quill, etc in telling the story of good news -

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Feel powerless on Zimbabwe? Do something now -

Courtesy of CAP -

In the last week a small but significant dent was made in the government's policy of destitution. Gordon Brown removed the immediate threat of deportation hanging over the approximately 11,000 Zimbabweans refused asylum in the UK.

At Prime Minister's questions, Gordon Brown said the government is "actively looking at what we can do to support Zimbabweans in this country who are failed asylum seekers, who cannot work and who are prevented from leaving the UK through no fault of their own."

Whilst he and the Foreign Office have been actively advocating regime change, the Home Office and UK Borders Agency have just as actively been trying to starve thousands of people back to Zimbabwe. One arm of the UK Government wants to build the capacity of exiled Zimbabwean civil society, but another arm is working hard to denigrate the skills of the future of leaders by making them destitute and banning them from working. It is tragic that it has taken the gruesome events in Zimbabwe to force the government to think again about its policy.

While this is in the news this is an excellent time for you to contact the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith. We have a special website that gives you a template and automatically emails it to her. Please take few minutes to do this here.
Also if you also have time, write to the Foreign Secretary to make the point to him that Britain's foreign policy interests and responsibilities are best served by letting Zimbabweans work. Do that here.
Thank you for your efforts,
Strike while the iron is hot.

Alan Thornton
(Church Action on Poverty)

PS. If you want to know what destitution is like read this week's blog from Revd Canon Nick Sagovsky, of Westminster Abbey, who is living on the food and income of somebody refused asylum.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Seriously - don't

Courtesy of Ecclesia Collective flickr

Shift yo ass

So Abraham was credited with righteousness - for what - for shifting his ass in trust.

It's all about do be do be do be do (not just thinkycorrecty!). A call for us to shift ass into something for Gods sake - that's faith you know! Here is the first recorded text message fresh from the latest archaeological data dig -

Friday, 11 July 2008

Two Great Podcasts fron N&J - Shane Claiborne & Pete Rollins

Pete Rollins with Nick and Josh - I was knocked sideways by his simple now obvious comment on fore-givness at about 17mins Click here

Shane Claiborn with Nick and Josh - Click here - and check the Litany that is refered to here

Love this, just do

Banksy Bouncing #3

Hopefully this one might tie in with Marks post below and also 'How Much?!'.

So - Whats this one make you think, feel, want to do?

Answers on a postcomment

Tribal Wives

Been watching "Tribal Wives" on BBC2. Each episode shows a British woman spending a month with a tribe. Last week it was about a woman visiting a Muslim tribe in Ethiopia. In the tribe each woman is circumcised. I can't say I know too much about female circumcision, but they took away a lot more than I expected! - not just the clitoris - the whole thing was just flat! (Have I said too much?!) This made childbirth hundreds time more painful than it is anyway. Women were routinely beaten as a matter of course by their husbands. And the women did hour after hour of hard labour while the men lazed around. It was pretty horrific - a lot of the other tribes that have been shown have not been at all like this - it is oppression pure and simple - and yet...

...here's the thing. The woman who visited them was a deeply unhappy, recovering alcoholic, and she commented on how happy and contented these tribal women were. Why is it that they can be so happy, despite such bad lives? Or, more to the point, what is it that has made people in the UK so deeply unhappy? What forms of oppression is being imposed on our population to make them so perenially discontented?

I guess it is part of the problem with choice. The Afar of Ethiopia knew nothing else and they had no choice. They accept their lot and don't know what they're missing. We are presented with a vast array of choices and the array itself causes unhappiness because we ask: what if we had chosen something else? If I can have anything I want, why haven't I got it?

And who sells us the choice myth? Well, predominantly advertising. By giving us the illusion of choice and fanning our sense of need we become constantly dissatisfied.

So who's up for a bit of serious subvertising?

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Knowing the mind of Christ?

This week I was listening to BBC 5live and there was an amazing interview in the wake of the CofE vote to allow women to be Bishops. Richard Bacon was interviewing a conservative Canon who felt deeply betrayed by the decision and Bacon asked him why he objected. After a few words on tradition that Bacon gently challenged the Canon stated, about the fact the Women should not occupy this position, that 'we know the mind of Christ' on the matter. Bacon was audibly taken aback by this amazing statement and asked something like 'sorry, you are saying you know exactly what Christ thinks about this?'. He continued by pointing out that the very office of Bishop only arose after Christ. Yet the Canon was adamant that he 'knew the mind of Christ'.
Now I guess I kind of admire the single minded and sure place of the Canon but I, like Bacon and probably many millions of listeners was disturbed by the absence of humility and open acknowledgement of interpretation and 'faith' that lay behind this statement. It was not in anyway provisional and so sounded almost tyrannical. Worse still it did not see tyranny in its own construct, its obvious complexity and its vulnerability to being used as a tool of oppression. The saddest thing was that the bearer of this position did not take responsibility for all this, for his interpretation and its potential, but all the images of tyranny that it conjured were projected not even onto the church but straight into the very mind of Christ. Whether or not one agrees with the Canon on who can be a Bishop surely this is dangerous stuff.
I don't think I can ever 'posses' the mind of Christ but I am, by the spirit, possessed by Christ. That's very different. In 1 Cor 2 Paul does say v16 "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ. Wow but I see Paul says we 'have' not 'know' - it is not ours to instruct God - how crazy, proud and ultimately self destructive for all of us would that be. So what is it to 'have' the mind of Christ, it seems to be about being indwelt by the Holy Spirit v10-12 The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.
So for me all this 'knowing the mind of Christ' might better be knowing/communing with God in me to understanding just what God has gifted me (which is perhaps a very different emphasis to telling someone else what God has not gifted them). Interestingly in the very next lines of his letter Paul begins to address divisions in the Corinthian church. The 'jealously and quarrelling' that have arisen from them still thinking and acting in a worldly way using their facts as power over another rather than thinking 'spirit'ualy . Craziness, we are the temple where God's spirit lives, how can we even think of violating one another.
Actually, says Paul, don't ever claim to wise at all - be fools - Ch3 v 18Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.
So perhaps it would be better to lay down this anti wisdom of 'I know' and take up the fool's cap. Acknowledging that for now we see in part and that our call is to continuously seek by faith after an obvious oxymoron - the understanding of the unimaginable gift of God. And this seeking is not just in thought but in deed. And in so doing we may, in a very humble way, on 5 Live and everyday, be able to point people beyond our own straw Gods to Christ.
Phil 2 v5-8 (NKJ) Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
I am sure that in the background of my mind behind this post is not just the affable ex Blue Peter Mr Bacon but also the great book I just finished by Pete Rollins - 'How (not) to Speak of God' - buy it, its great, heck I'll buy it for you if you want.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

So long as you ...new

You are Christian only so long as you constantly pose critical questions to the society you live in, so long as you emphasize the need of conversion both for yourself and for the world, so long as you in no way let yourself become established in the situation of the world, so long as you stay unsatisfied with the status quo and keep saying that a new world is yet to come. You are Christian only when you believe you have a role to play in the realization of the new kingdom, and when you urge everyone you meet with holy unrest to make haste so that the promise might soon be fulfilled. So long as you live as a Christian you keep looking for a new order, a new structure, a new life.
Henri Nouwen
'Continue to work out your salvation...for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose... so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God... shine(ing) like stars in the universe'
St Paul
(Top quote courtesy of Mclaren who grabbed it from Van Eck and of course the excellent Henry Nouwen -if you ever face depression or love someone who does than I really recommend Nouwen's little book 'The Inner Voice of Love', not as a cure but as a companion (and we all know companions heal)

Vomenz Bishvoops

So the CofE has decided - they will have women bishops
I'll let ASBO Jesus comment...

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Here's to you Sentamu

I love this guy - He is a big black bold African living in genteel York and was voted Yorkshireman of the Year in 2007. He pleaded for peace in the Middle East by fasting and living in a tent in his own Cathedral and then jumped out a plane to raise money for soldiers injured in Afghanistan . He is Bishop #2 in the CofE yet he cut up his dog collar on live TV and refuses to wear it till Mugabe is gone.

At the weekend he gave a great address just ahead of the Women Bishops debate / Homosexuality debate at the General Synod in York. His central message -
"Our call is to reach out to our neighbours with God's message of love in Jesus Christ. To be a servant in the Church of God, you too are volunteered. The call is addressed to people who are not expecting to be invited – and not those who have become their own good cause!"

To read more click hear - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/7448

And lets pray that the guys in York decide to focus out not in.

Monday, 7 July 2008

How Much?!

Have you noticed that everything in the supermarket costs a bloomin fortune these days. Bread, milk, meat, veg - everything.

With oil and food prices at record highs on the international markets it costs more to make our stuff and transport it to us so we get hit in the pocket (and amazingly some of the firms involved are recording record profits - hmmm....!). So this combination of scarcity and selfishness means that a loaf that was 60p a few years ago is now £1.20. That's a 100% increase - ouch!

But lets say I live in the less developed world on a, well, I was going to say 'extremely low' wage but lets get our head round the fact that over 1 billion people, 1 in 6 on the planet live on less than about 50p a day - anyway lets say I make 50p a day, 7 days a week 52 weeks a year, that's £182.50 a year. Because I am very poor I spend much more than the UK average of about 9-15% of household income on food. I spend more like 50% on food. Ok lets do the maths-

Income £182.50pa
Spend on food £91.25

Food prices go up by 100% in last few years but of course I get no increase in wages so -

Income £182.50
Spend on food £182.50

Oh shit! - no rent for our home, money for schooling kids (get them working, what else can we do), no money for antiviral drugs to keep Mum and Dad's HIV at bay, etc, etc...

Feel like baking our own bread and doing something to help people who are being hit in the coffin rather than pocket?

Try this link for more from the Jubilee debt campaign - if there ever was a time when the global poor should be using their money to put food in bellies, skills in kids and medicine in bodies and NOT PAYING BACK DEBT SO THE RICH GET RICHER - its now.

Click on the logo to send a message to Alistair Darling and the G8 right now.

And seriously - anyone know how to bake bread, grow veg etc?!

Worth a chat - Ecclesia Collective

Was thinking of inviting one of these guys to have a blog chat with us on our site or maybe doing a audio interview that we could have up as an mp3. Sounds interesting stuff and might be some good encouragement / ideas for our fragile future. Who else would it be good to strike up conversation with do you think? Click on logo for their site.

1 John and Narnia


Trying to kick off a weblog for Gracesheffield this is the first post.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Crying out for Justice with Bartimaeus

Thought you'd be interested in Fr. Jarrett (friend of our friend Ched Myers), who has just been sent to prison along with 33 others for protesting about Guantanamo Bay. They represented themselves in court. Here is some of Jarrett's closing statement:

My name is Father Emmett Jarrett, and I speak today for one who cannot speak for himself, Osam Ahmad, a prisoner at Guantanamo prison camp in Cuba. We defendants stand charged under 40 USC 6135, which makes it a crime to "parade, stand or move in procession or assemblages in the Supreme Court building or grounds". We came to the United States Supreme Court on January 11, 2008 in the costume of Guantanamo detainees. Our intention was to put dramatically before the court and public opinion the plight of the men and boys detained at Guantanamo and elsewhere. These are detained without having been charged with any crime, without legal counsel in many cases, without knowing the evidence against them and being able to confront their accusers, and without the right of habeas corpus - not to mention their human right as guaranteed by Geneva Convention...

...It has been noted by the defense that the defendants in this trial have gotten further along in the criminal justice system than any of the men who are imprisoned at Guantanamo... The U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo... is both a symbol of national apostasy, and the place where these crimes are committed in our name... Those arrested outside, on the steps of the Supreme Court, were kneeling in prayer. Their First Amendment rights were violated because they were not informed of their option to continue their witness on the public sidewalk...

...This morning several of us prayed with a Franciscan community in Northwest Washington. The reading from Scripture was the story of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar (Mark 10:46-52). He cried out as Jesus was going through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem to confront not only the Roman Empire but his own people's apostasy in the name of the God of justice. When the poor beggar cried out, everyone told him to be quiet. But Bartimaeus would not be silent. He continued to cry out until Jesus heard him, asked him what he wanted, and restored his sight. Then Bartimaeus followed Jesus on the way. Today we, like Bartimaeus, cry out for justice for the prisoners held by our government at Guantanamo. We, too, cry out for justice, not just for ourselves but for them. We seek to give voice to the voiceless.

We plead with you to join us in acting to end torture and to restore habeas corpus to prisoners at Guantanamo and elsewhere. Become our companion on the way.


If you are enjoying the idea of Revelation as 'Culture Jamming' and the Banksey stuff then checkout

Culture Jammers Network-
We are a global network of culture jammers and creatives who are working to change the way information flows and meaning is produced in our society.

I'll blogroll them on engage - any other blogroll suggestions?

Friday, 4 July 2008

Banksy Bouncing #2

So - what you make of this....

Guantanamo Bay!

Schof's blogs about Guantanamo have got me thinking. First, I thought we should do something about this - not just talk about it. That is, after all, what we've all been saying isn't it? Our spirituality feels a bit shallow if its not backed up by action. I like Laul's suggestion that if we don't do anything, then we don't really believe. So, I found a website with a few really helpful things we could do about Guantanamo:


But, all this got me thinking about what kind of things we want to do. Do we want to be a group who pops out an occasional list of things we can do - letter writing, petition signing - that kind of thing?

Do we want to be the kind of group that organises gigs/awareness raising stuff / money raising?

Do we choose something that is really on our hearts to focus on or spread ourselves lightly on any subject that comes our way?

Do we just encourage each other's activities rather than have specific "Engage" activities?

Do we want to be involved in local areas of need offering time and advice?

All of the above are perfectly legitimate, but honest, realistic answers to these questions would be helpful.

Re refining Schof

Thanks Mark

Your point that there should be some concrete intent to move from (conceited? - me saying this not you insinuating it) reflection to positive kingdom building action is a really good and welcome call. I like that we can be honest in dialogue not just when talking out to blogosphere space. So thank you. You know, very honestly - I did think about it as I posted. Here's what I thought:

I know what my reaction to this (Banksey #1) is but I won't share it as it might close down debate and someone else might miss out on verbalising their own reaction (which can be very helpful to do I find)

That is very open to critique but I do struggle with the fact that a few hundred years ago, before time and space got so compressed, I would have probably lived in a pre industrial agrarian community and know about 30-40 people well and my horizons would have been pretty defined (unless I was upper class or new money). That means my opportunities would have been limited but also relatively defined. Now I enjoy unimaginable wealth and freedom of opportunity compared to that age but I envy the simplicity and focus of that time when I could more easily scope out the world of difference that God might want me to make (although he might have wanted me to nail 95 things to a door which would help lead to all of this!).

I know that is a massive simplification but in a world where I could now conceivably keep in touch with everyone I meet and reach into the lives through giving our volunteering of millions of the worlds neediest I find it really hard to know what to prioritise.

Over the last year or so I have come to a conclusion around, and heard in the emergent conversation an encouraging new emphasis about the real, central role of the Spirit in leading, guiding and empowering our action in the world - no really, lets get the trinity in place again - the REAL person of God indwelling us and us experiencing the leading, power, gifts and fruits of the Spirit of the living God. So I am interested in much of the Pentecostal movement and even more interested in how I walk in the spirit.

I guess I dream that I/we will quieten ourselves enough and seek enough to divest ourselves of the pride of busyness and expend ourselves in 'what god wants us to do' which sounds very woolly but what else are you going to do?

So - I want to be about orthopraxis - practical, creative and 'lovefull' things done for the other but I know I can't change the world - but I can humbly partner with Jesus who has, is and will.

just me....?