Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Love Thy Neighbour

'It is easy to love the idealized figure of a poor, helpless neighbour, the starving African or Indian, for example; in other words, it is easy to love one’s neighbour as long as he stays far enough from us, as long as there is a proper distance separating us. The problem arises at the moment when he comes too near us, when we start to feel his suffocating proximity – at this moment when the neighbour exposes himself to us too much, love can suddenly turn into hatred.' (Enjoy Your Symptom!: Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and Out, Slavoj Žižek, p.8, 2001).

It is preferable for us nowadays to avoid 'the Real', that is, to adopt a sterilised or sentimental version of events in order to anaesthetise us from any given reality. Christmas is a prime example of this phenomenon. Take this recent advert,

Whilst the advert seeks to simply yet profoundly declare what Christmas is really all about, what it actually does is reiterate the nostalgic, sentimental and sterilised desires within us. The couple are typically white, middle class, the baby quiet, clean and happy. The home starts middle class, and ends in a stable scene, that is, a middle class version. Without doubt there would have been 'great joy' at the birth of Christ, but that joy would also have been accompanied with pain, blood, sweat, tears, fear and uncertainty. What the advert does is once again enable us to avoid 'the Real' and embrace nostalgia. This advert, like much within our church services over this Advent period have little to do with the Incarnation. Christmas 'evangelism' and church services feed off nostalgia and sentimentality, a sentimentality that pulls us away from the God who became flesh in the stench, shit and sin.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Why Black Friday Is Good For The Soul

In Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight we are confronted with the madness of the Joker. He is a character that deeply unsettles us because of his truthfulness. Take the following clip,

"I'm a man of my word."

The power of the scene is that we know the Joker is telling the truth. The Dark Knight is a film filled with lies where everyone except the Joker hides behind lies. The Joker is like a falling into an icy lake, shocking us into reality, recognising that things are bad, that we may not get out of this situation alive. Because the Joker tells us the truth he highlights our need for transformation, the stripping away of masks.

'This is how crazy Batman has made Gotham.'

A moment of madness exposes the reality.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Keep Calm and Trust the System

It is the System that is the problem, not the people within the System. Yet the people within the System become so enslaved to It that they are no longer able to see beyond it.

We can rage at the decisions and actions of those people within the System, and rightfully challenge their continued abuse and oppression, but they themselves are part of a bigger 'thing' that is out of their control.

At the next election here in the UK we are presented with a real issue as to who to vote for. None of the political parties are in any way unique or different, they are simply part of a System that controls them. Any party who gets into power in 2015 will simply become part of the oppressive System that continues to humiliate, indoctrinante and oppress.  And this is the very real challenge for those of us who are seeking transformation and redemption for and from the System.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Taken and Given

'...the violence we use creates new evil...It inculcates the longing for revenge, and for what the losers call "justice."' Walter Wink

The Taken films highlight Winks point well.

Now those of us who have watched the Taken films know that they are pure entertainment designed to make you root for the 'good guy' in his quest to kill the 'bad guy'.  Interestingly though they bring to the surface the very problem we continually face within our violent world of how our violence creates more violence, and the evil which we seek to overthrow through violence we end up mirroring.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

'Men Made It, But They Can't Control It'

'The owners of the land came onto the land, or more often a spokesman for the owners came...Some of the owner men were kind because they hated what they had to do, and some were angry because they hated to be cruel, and some of them were cold because they had long ago found that one could not be an owner unless one were cold.  And all of them were caught in something larger than themselves...If a bank or a finance company owned the land, the owner man said, The Bank - or the Company - needs - wants - insists - must have - as though the Bank or the Company were a monster, with thought and feeling, which had ensnared them.  These last would take no responsibility for the banks or the companies because they were men and slaves, while the banks were machines and masters all at the same time...The owner men sat in the cars and explained.  You know the land is poor.  You've scrabbled at it long enough, God knows.

The squatting tenant men nodded and wondered and drew figures in the dust, and yes, they knew, God knows.  If the dust only wouldn't fly.  If the top would only stay on the soil, it might not be so bad...

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.