Tuesday, 16 September 2014

ISIS, Mirrors and Freedom

The news of the beheading of David Haines over the weekend has, for obvious reasons, been the focal point of conversation and news stories. As with so many others my thoughts and prayers go out to the families of David Haines, James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

If you're like me what shocks me the most is the sheer brutality of the act.  Now I have not watched any of the videos that have been released and have no intention of doing so, but that does not stop me from recoiling inside at hearing of the brutality of the act.

How is it that one human being can literally cut off the head of another human being?

As I have reflected on the nature of this violence I reflected on my own ability to act violently.

I am not a violent person, yet I wonder if there were certain circumstances and situations where I could spiral into a place where I no longer viewed the person in front of me as a human and lose all sense of compassion, empathy and common humanity and so inflict upon them brutality like we are witnessing in Syria?  If I was stripped of my identity, if those whom I loved were ripped from me, if I was deprived of sleep, food and peace could I commit these acts?

I have heard many times from many different people that if someone harmed their children they would do whatever it takes to exact vengeance upon the perpetrators. People speak very candidly about their ability for violence when the scenario of violence against their children is suggested.

Perhaps there is something within all of us that is able to act in ways of extreme brutality to another human?

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Divine Comedy

'I'm not telling you the right way to think, but I am telling you that the way that you are thinking is not right.'

This phrase has been rattling around in my head for a few days.  I'm not sure if I have heard it somewhere before, but it made me think about the parables of Jesus.

When Jesus speaks in parables it is not because he is telling us literal truths and laying down new laws to live by, rather it is to subvert the cultural and religious ideology and wake people up to a new reality.

The parables of Jesus subvert the absurdity of a lived reality and calls people into a new way of life.

This is what true and 'real' comedy does.  We laugh because we recognise the absurdity of it all.

Jesus is a stand-up comedian with a twist, because rather than simply point out the absurdity he subverts it and calls people to imagine what might be if we allowed ourselves a transformed imagination.

What if the way I think about the world is not right?  What if the way I live is not right because of the way I think?  What if I woke up to this, how might I think and live and love in this new reality?

The subversiveness of Jesus' parables means that we are invited to use our imagination without creating new laws or ideological systems that trap people in old habits.  Rather, the parables invite us to think and theologically wrestle and imagine and create and love creatively and speak out imaginatively and embrace diversity because of collective imagination.

'Why do you see the speck in your neighbour's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?'

This is the finest type of comedy.

Jesus does not say what the log or speck of dust is, rather he highlights through subversive comedy that we, whoever 'we' is, are blinded by our own judgemental attitudes and need to see with a different perspective.  He is not telling us the right way to think, but he is telling us that the way we are thinking and seeing is not right.

Jesus is Divine Comedy and we need to learn how to laugh.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Rack Religion



I snapped this today...

In many ways this sums up ideology within religion. People become a commodity that is used to further a myth system that in turn continues to raise the powerful and destroy the oppressed.

In order to do this the ideology has to marketed and promoted to draw people in to its system. In our culture and climate the market is fierce and extremely volatile, so your ideology has to be attractive and competitive.

So you hang it there, dress it up and lure people in with false promises of success, happiness and fulfillment; buy into this ideology and all will be well.

Monday, 28 July 2014

'This is My Design'

*Warning* - Not for the faint-hearted...

Hannibal is one of the slickest, smartest and well thought out shows around. It is certainly not for the faint-hearted providing a depth of darkness and insight into the ability of humanity to walk in darkness and violence.



Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter are fascinating characters, two sides of the same coin, symbols of a curtain that draws back and reveals truths into our common humanity that we can all too often be blind to. Will Graham exemplifies the human propensity to imitate one another. Indeed Graham reveals how such imitation leads to violence, a desire to kill or discredit another whom we see as our rival because in fact they are so similar to us.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Consumer Christ

Let's be clear, Jesus is not some self-help guru here to make our lives a living luxury. His purpose is not to straighten you out, smarten you up and propel you into heights of finally fulfilled potential, status and recognition. He has not set you goals and targets, a weight loss plan and a seven week programme to transform yourself into someone who can stand in front of the mirror and say, "I am beautiful. I am successful." Jesus did not incarnate himself into the grit and grime of this broken and beautiful cosmos simply to make you the centre of it and help you become a somebody. A life lived with the effervescent God is not to make all your troubles disappear, relieve you of all concerns, keep you safe and sound or to choose you not to die in a plane crash. As Bonhoeffer said, we  have confused peace and security, with security and success now the idols of our age.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Taking God's Name in Vain

There are times when I read Christian blogs and news stories and simply despair. I genuinely gasp in horror sometimes at the things said and done in the name of 'God'.

There is a readiness to speak the name of God over the words and actions of so many of us, willing to contend that the words I say, the actions I do are ordained and appointed by God.

Of course I am only too aware of the considerable and towering presence of people of faith throughout the world who care for the sick, provide for the poor and work tirelessly to relieve the suffering of so many. History is radiant with the colour of compassion.

So it is a paradox at times, for there is also no doubt that there are things said in 'Jesus name' that make my heart sink as well as sing.

Perhaps many of us have simply taken the name of God in vain.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Waking on Water

Whether we are a religious fundamentalist, a strident materialist, someone who is a convinced theist or whoever, we all live our lives in a state of trust or, for more specifically, faith.

Each morning I get up (sometimes somewhat reluctantly...) I do not for one moment consider whether or not I will float to the ceiling when I step out of bed. I have not once in my life thought that there may be a possibility that the gravitational pull that keeps my feet on the ground will have changed so dramatically that I no longer find it is able to keep my from floating off in to the air. Not once have I considered that this might be a possibility.

This is down to faith.


Before I ever learned about gravity I have always found myself connected the ground. When I was little if I leaned out of my bed I would fall. When I jumped I came back down again. When I crawled as a baby I stayed on the floor. When I learnt to walk I never floated away. Indeed helium balloons amazed my because they seemed to do something that was entirely different to my own experience. How did they float? Why did the balloons at my party that we blew up not float? Superman was amazing because when he jumped he flew. Then at school we discovered what gravity was. But here is the thing, gravity as with so many other things in this world, exist of course, but their existence is a reality to us because of mental impressions, our consciousness and shared conceptual paradigms. In other words, our consciousness is what makes these things a reality to us and in doing so we have faith in the way the world is, often never even questioning the way things are.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

(Un)Certainty Maybe

We need to embrace uncertainty and doubt for it is here that a deep and fascinating relationship with God is birthed.

Certainty, whilst appealing and seemingly safe, can lead us into anxiety, fear and misguided trust.

Let me give an example to highlight this.

I am certain that the grass is green. Indeed, I am so sure that the grass is green that I am willing to put my very life on the line for this proposition.

However, when I walk outside to prove to you that the grass is green I am confronted with a garden full of brown grass because the sun has shone persistently upon my garden, I have not watered it, and so the grass is now brown.

So the grass is not green, it is brown.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

I Am (Not)

We are a people of memory.

Indeed, the moment you spent in reading each word in this sentence has become a memory. You may go back and read the same words again, but that unique moment when you read those words is now a memory. Our entire lives are a memory, formed by every movement, encounter and moment.

Perhaps this is why God alone is called 'I AM'.

You are you for sure. You exist in the sense that others can be hear/see/smell/touch and encounter you in some way. You are a part of this material world, created from the dust of the earth, formed in your mothers womb, born into an uncertain world.

Yet can any of us ever say 'I am...', for to say 'I am' is to say that you exist wholly in the present, no longer determined by memory. Perhaps the best any of us can do is to say 'I was...' for the moments that define us will always be memories.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

New Atheists, Mermaids and the Non-Existence of God

My seven year old daughter loves the idea of mermaids. We have a story book that explores legends and stories of mermaids and how we continue to have a fascination with these mythical sirens of the sea. Indeed you will often hear of 'shocking' discoveries that mermaids are indeed real, with apparent proof from video footage.

New athiests and religious fundamentalists are simply seekers of sirens.

You see the quest for mermaids is basically a quest for an object. So we are dealing with language of 'subject - object'; we are the subjects seeking out an object.

New atheists and religious believers alike are seeking to prove the 'existence of God' which Tillich helpfully describes as 'half-blasphemous and mythological.' In other words, once we seek to prove God's existence like we try and prove the existence of any particular object we have ceased to talk about the God of Christian orthodoxy. The only reasonable response to trying to prove the existence of God is atheism, because such a god is as observable as the sea sirens my seven year old is fascinated with. No wonder then that early Christians were called  atheists. And it is no wonder too that Christian mystics have often used atheistic language when speaking of God.