Monday, December 04, 2006

Ideology and God part 2

I'm a big fan of the current crop of US crime shows, CSI, without a trace, and crminal minds. we get them late in the UK so apologies to US readers, but last week criminal minds (was a feb edition in US i discover!) ended with Mandy Patinkin delivering a great quote from French playwright Eugene Ionesco. "Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together."
this spoke to me very much of what i was grasping at in my earlier post on 'is God and idealist'.

the Ianesco quote has quite a web presence, much of it quote sites but there are some other pearls on them from Ianesco, but also some comment worth checking. I am not surprised others are grabbed by it too!

for me it says this: ideology is that thing people create when they want the answers sown up so they can say who is right and who is wrong, or in or out, or good or bad....ultimatley ideology is the means of exclusion of making a world of division of 'them and us'. but it says more than this, 'dreams and anguish unite us'. now the last part for me makes clear sense, the common struggle of the human expereince draws us togehter, often releases compassion, even for those we thought we despised or feared despised us. but what of those dreams? do our dreams unite us? on a superficial level perhaps not, indeed my dream may be your nightmare...and the state exists to make sure it does not become so, but struggles to acheive this....indeed should it achieve this? but at another level there is something here, when i get beyond the dreams of persoanl indulgence, of my own comfort, and begin to dream fro all, of the world i wish all could share, of my dreams for justice, for peace, for laughter and delight in life for all....are these dreams that really do unite us?

for me this is what the mission of God is about, the ushering in of the kingdom, the dream of jusitice love and life for all creation and not just humanity at creations expense or one person's at the expense of another's. i am reminded from preaching recently about Halloween and the Allhallows season, that Paul reminds us we have no human enemies, and Jesus tells us that our enemies are indeed to be treated as out friends, not the ideology that divdes, but the dream of the kingdom come on earth as in heaven that unites and blesses all and soothes our common anguish.

but does the church live I live this?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Interview/ Hong Kong meeting

John Smulo who blogs at 'smulo space' has just published a two part interview with me. John was someone I met at a recent gathering in Hong Kong, a group of us under the auspices of the Lausanne committee for World Evangelization looking at new spiritualities. A fascinating group of people from Australia, the US, UK and Denmark, but also meeting with those connecting with the Taoist and Buddhist faiths in the east. We have a lot to learn from each other! Check out john's blog, there's some good stuff!

we met at Tao Fong Shan (above) a Christian monastery built on the lines of a Buddhist one, using Feng Shui! Worship in 'the Christ temple' was in Chinese style fused with western tradition. The surroundings themselves asking us the kind of questions we grappled with. Can a Christian use feng shui, or for that matter Tarot. To communicate the Christina message? Is this potentially to compromise ones faith, or at the other end is it a con trick on those who follow such practices? alternatively can we see the spirit of God at work in 'unlikely places'?
personally i think God speaks through many things and Christian have no monopoly on this! for me this doesn't compromise my belief that Jesus Christ has a place in the spiritul search of all people, but i hope it should keep us a bit more humble and open than we sometimes can be. i'll post some more on this but for know what do you think?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Have pastors become shopkeepers?

As ever Bob Carlton has found a really interesting piece to put on his blog

the basic idea is that pastors have turned into keepers of a 'shop' called 'church' and behave like marketers and consumer pleasers in order to make their own shop successful. Read the article by Eugene Peterson (of 'the message' fame) and see what you think? My starter is that such could be true of many seeking to make church evangelistic in today's culture, so is this a stark warning or a reactionary misinterpretation?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Is God an idealist?

OK kind of sounds a stupid question, of course God is an idealist and Christians should be idealists. I am inclined that way myself too! But recently I keep hearing things that make me ask the question with more seriousness. Firstly someone who had written a book on Israel and its troubled history, for her the idealists were the problem, the people sure they were right and prepared to fight for their truth. I heard and understood, but? More recently a discussion on Nazi Germany, if I remember the quote, but this is pretty close if not bang on, 'the vast majority of people who commited these atrocities were not bad people, they believed what they were doing was good, but they where convinced by ideology and this is what enables good people to do evil things'. This by the way was a commentary on Shakespeare plays, and a profound one. The moral? It was the pragmatists who if you like held the moral heigh ground. The ones who valued community, the brining on of all people over the ideology of a certain group.

as an Anglican priest this has a lot of resonances with the current issues that threaten separation in the world wide Anglican communion. But then the issue cuts in all directions, we aren't just talking about those idealist, we are talking about ours. I am talking about my ideals which I hope are drawn out of God, but may in truth be a part of the idol we all build and call God. Can pragmatism in this sense be a means of a divine discovery, of God beyond our own construction of God?

mm. Perhaps the issue is what ideology? If it is to grow the church, to bring people to Christ, to help this nation to be Christian, perhaps then and in so many other ways, all we do is mold the gospel to our likekness. perahaps God does have an ideaology, but one that wants everyone in, that is not interested in preserving this or that doctirine (look at the way the prophets spoke of isreal's worship or how jesus acted toward it). perhaps 'compromise' may hold the deepest value of all, that which is seeking the kingdom of God above my ideaology, which will bear with others seeking that kingdom, beacause it is a kingdom for all.

there is a mission lesson here i think. the mission of God is about reconcillaiation not exclusion, to many ideologies want to exclude and not to reconcile. OK reconsilalitation at any price? well God gave his life for it, what price will we pay? what price am i prepared to pay?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

God is a DJ

Thanks to the man who seems to live online and comes up with some real gems, Bob Carlton. follow this link to a couple of awesome little vids... i particualry love the first one, just how difficult is it to solve the worlds problems with some decks? and check out Bob's blog too

Return to the monastery, or why doctrine is not the issue in mission

With the start of 'the convent' we first got to see 'return to the monastery' see . It made fascinating viewing as the 5 men returned to the place where they made a 40 day retreat and a surprise hit TV series. These 5 where whittled down from hundreds of people wanting to spend that time in a largely silent monastic order. What can we learn from this?

firstly that contrary to what some will tell the ancient is deeply attractive to many wanting to explore spirituality today. These people wanted something challenging, something to be part of and something with mystery. Even those who came in cynical found they were effected, and some very deeply, read the stories on the BBC site.

secondly though many came with intellectual questions about the Christian faith what they found was experience of the faith which made the questions seem less central. This should not be a surprise. Our 'post-modern' age has shifted continually away form the very modernist approach in which truth is about facts which are demonstrated by reason and proved by scientific experiment, toward truth as 'experience' make sense of what of happening to us and to others. This world tends to make 'facts ' relative, something may be 'true for you but not for me' because the benchmark is my personal experience, not some universally agreed statement of fact.

the church I think is still very often operating in the world of doctrinal fact, thinking it needs to convince people of the truth of Christianity. The monks wisely took another course, the discussed feelings as well as thoughts but above all they invited people to an experience, and experience of God but also one shared with others. How might we make evangelism about an invitation to an experience rather than to a change of opinion?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Da Vinci Code

Well for more 'serious' engagement do get my new Grove Book on this (you know you want to ;o) this BTW is not about arguing the facts but IMHO the more important issue of understanding why this book has been so successful and the issues behind the facts that matter much more, oh it's also about responding to the book without looking like Dan Brown must be right that the church is doing a cover up...Something others are spectacularly failing to do ...Roll up the Roman Catholic Church single handedly doubling film attendance and belief in Brown's thesis by trying to forbid people from seeing it...Ably assisted by a clutch of conservative evangelicals and biblical scholars. But far more fun than my book is this wonderful post by the awesome betty bowers the bus theory is clearly right (see may 1st)

how to do evangelism?

follow this link to a really useful vidoe guaranteed to help in your evangleism....or more likely to laugh uncontrolably. thanks to Paul Roberts for this one!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Orthodox or Authentic?

not blogged for a while but they may now come like UK buses...the saying is you wait for one for ages then three come at once! We shall see

a number of things have lately made me think a lot about what we consider 'orthodox' and why. A writer on Israel heard on radio talking about how ideology was the big problem, those who held no ideology were open to peace and reconciliation, as opposed to those who did. Perhaps I wondered they held a different ideology, but I got the point. A day or two later someone quoted the adage 'doctrine is what you kill for but faith is what you die for'.
my suspicion is that these sayings speak into a place we all increasingly inhabit. A place where we are called to opt for certainty or challenge and have to discern where is God in all this.
it has been said that Mission is always connected to the 'heretical imperative' not I think meaning some abandonment of all that has been 'Christian' but rather a realization that mission always calls us to the new, not in opposition to the old, but out of it, out of it's trajectory if you like, but forward into the 'heretical' because it has not been orthodox before.
I suspect mission id never in this way 'orthodox' but always 'hereteical' - the two BTW are opposites, orthodox and heterodox.
But can the heterodox be authentic? I suspect it can indeed often is the authentic tradition of Christ and God's mission. Do I mean that simply by being heretical it must be authentic? Not at all. To be 'authentic' it needs to be connected to what has gone before. The point is though that the truly authentic witness follows the Christ pattern in which that which conventional doctrine condemns is in fact the way forward. To embrace the potentially heretical becomes the most authentic way to be Christian when the desire to affirm the orthodox can become the pharisee tradition that Jesus, the Jewish heretic, so often opposed.

what we so often perhaps fail to grasp is that Jesus might well come today in such a way, condemning our orthodoxy as Pharisaic and condemende by the church as a heretic.

the challenge then may be to live authentically, and this is not to make Christ as we would wish but follow him, in all the challenge that involves, as he was and is and will be. and that may not look 'orthodox'

Friday, February 24, 2006

Britain's psychic challenge

UK's channel 5 has recently been running a reality psychic game show of this name, whittling 5,000 self professed psychics down to a final three. The finale was last Sunday.

it's been an interesting series. Firstly worth noting that 5,000 Britons want to enter and believe they are psychics is something in itself.

the programmes have had a panel of skeptics who at each turn have often pointed to the weakness of the supposed powers of the contestants. Very often this has related to the vagueness of information offered and the way this may often be almost a fishing technique looking for affirmations that may help the psychic go in a certain direction. All of this would be familiar to those who have observed stage magicians like Derren Brown deliberately fake psychic phenomena. I don't think any of the psychics in the show were deliberately doing this but I suspect it is sometimes learnt behavior not consciously adopted, after all it works!

however sometimes the skeptics are clearly stumped, the eventually winner did this twice when she was able to find a hidden person in a wilderness faster than a professional search team with sniffer dogs, indeed on both occasions simply going straight to where the person was guided apparently by instinct. Even more unnervingly they used her, 'Rosanna Arquette Medium style', to help with an unsolved murder case, she seemed to almost become the victim and then proceeded to walk the police around areas they knew where key to the murder with running commentary of the events. She finished by supply a description of the murderer that we were not allowed to hear (as was true of some other bits of information, so as not to jeopardize the case) but we were told was accurate to one of the original suspects.

similarly we also have just had series exploring alternative/complimentary medicine under scientific conditions by a an initially skeptical doctor who became convinced at least that some do work in scientifically measurable ways.

all this is part of growing trend to treat the supernatural, the alternative and the psychic seriously in the British media, part I think of an increasing openness to it here.

how should Christians respond? Increasingly I think the tide is running out for the sort of mid 20th century liberalism that sort to demythologize faith and dismiss the miraculous as fanciful stories to be reduced to their meaning devoid of any supernatural content. The other tradition has tended to be to dismiss all such things as occult or demonic witchcraft. Yet what seems to be emerging is a middle space in which it looks as if scientific explanation may be given to some such phenomena, in which it might be true to say they cease to be supernatural at all. I think Christians are increasingly going to have to be open minded to such phenomena.

in the end I also want to question the attitude that thinks primarily of protection of the faithful, that seeks always to weed out the wrong the risky and the dangerous. I am not sure God and those who claim to be in God through Christ need defending from the 'supernatural'. Rather I would like to see people who actually seem to believe that God is bigger than this and that perfect love really does drive out fear. All of this is think should not be viewed as a worrying trend but as a wonderful opportunity.

what kind of Christians can take such an opportunity? I suspect it will be those who are equally open to the mystical, the miraculous and the unexplained in their own faith tradition, and not scared to walk alongside those exploring such in any and every tradition. The problem is that none of the current tribes of the church fit this bill. The liberals are open to questions but often closed to the miraculous, the Catholics bearers of the mystical but often not the uncoventional, the evangelicals keen to engage with the faith of others but closed to the mystical and the unexplained within in their own faith, the charismatics seeking to manifest the miraculous but usually demonising it in others. Time perhaps for some new expressions of faith that transcend all our traditions, holding together the insights of all and rejecting the fears of all. And I see this emerging in places,

indeed I suspect that many of the debates that divide Christians today are not really between the different tribes or churchmanships but between those seeking to be faithful in the age in which we are, an age of psychic challenge, and those who are still living in an age that is no more.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Beyond belief?

UK channel 4 are just running a programme's series by biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins, with the above tile. His thesis 'is religion the root of all evil? Ok that is I bet the TV take but for Dawkins religion is indeed a major root of evil and we must abandon it for rational science to stop wars killing and blood shed. Trouble is the some of the religious he showed (including a Christian mega church in Colorado springs) seriously backs up his argument.

trouble is I agree with his comments on the religion he showed us...But aware that it is finding the worst case to prove your point. Granted there are some toe curlingly awful Christians and I find myself ashamed of them and then maybe some fingers point my way too?

but I could create a programme in which atheism was the root of all evil, I would look at communists and their repression of religion and intellectual free speech or Dr mengle and awful experiments on humans viewed as mere animals. I might talk of capitalist business and the abuse of humanity in the name of market forces and then look at how religion has spawned care, teaching, indeed the science Dawkins lauds. But this would also be a one sided programme. In truth it s easy to set up straw men and knock them down. It is also easy dismiss those we see doing this and send down the good points with the half cocked shots.

I was left wanting to have Dawkins round to dinner. I bet he'd enjoy good wine and food and we might talk openly (yes I think we really might) I would try to get us to offer our best to each other and talk about that rather than offer our best to their worst. I am reminded of a Dietrich Bonhoeffers comment that so much Christian evangelism was 'sniffing around in other peoples rubbish bins looking to catch them out' and that we needed to meet people with faith at the points they were strong.

another thought. Tributes today in the UK to radical MP Tony Banks who died yesterday. Whatever you think ( and he is a controversial figure!) this quote hit home as wise. An Mp shared how when he was new TB took him on one side and said 'this is something really important to know, your opponents are those in the other parties but your enemies are always in your own party'. As I heard it I knew he could have been talking about religious groups, churches and groups within churches. I then remembered I am supposed to love my enemies. And I was also reminded that Paul wisely told us our struggles were not against people. I guess that even means that appalling pastor of that church in Colorado who lectured Dawkins on human arrogance as he delivered a master class in it himself. I asked myself which person here is undermining the work of Christ? I decided it was not Richard Dawkins, and then realized I was called to love them both.

I want to learn with Bonhoeffer to meet people, both my opponents and my enemies ;o) at the point heir are at their best, and meet them with love. Indeed this is perhaps the true heart if the Gospel