I am reacting to a story about how the Secular Society have now made it unlawful for prayers to be said in local council meetings. This case was highlighted by an atheist council who felt ‘disadvantaged and embarrased’ by prayers by a local minister in council meetings. The Secular Society also spoke non-believers having their human rights breeched. The future campaign for the society is the exclusion of bishops from the House of Lords, prayers being banned from all Houses of Parliment, and for community schools being banned from daily worship.
I am struck by a lot of the claims here. It seems to be something resembeling a trantrum rather than a case of freedom of choice, free speech, and personal choice of lifestyle.
Firstly, to have prayers at council meetings banned, rather than to encourage councils to vote on this, is going the opposite way. To believe it’s a black and white issue, with no opinion in-between, is triumphantism over group autonomy.
To believe that someone’s human rights is being breached is comaparing atheism to human trafficking. A person’s opinion is improtant, but if this is to the detriment of other people’s lawful opinions shows the derogative practise of European convention that ensured everyone (not only one individual) can live as a full member of their community, country, and continent.
To exclude bishops from the House of Lords is to exclude 25 public figures (who serve the common good in this country) from a house of 788 (3% of the entire house). To believe that having such voices silenced in the Lords can also be seen as discriminatory. Becuase controversial ethical Acts have been rejected from the Lords, it is the bishops (rather than the majority of members) who are blamed for not adhering to a change in ethical opinion and belief. A number of members of the House of Lords are non-politicians; all of these voices are important in a fee democratic society that can choose for and against such decisions of choice.
If anyone can tell me of any community (i.e. no-church sponsored) school that has daily acts of worship, please inform me. I am unaware of any school, church-affilated and otherwise, who do this.
May the local church be a light to the world (Matthew 5:14), the house of reason (Proverbs 4:6-7), and an open house of uncoditional love (Roman 12:9-10).
- Councils banned from saying prayers before meetings after legal challenge (menmedia.co.uk)
- There’s something very un-English about the secular zealots fighting council prayers (blogs.telegraph.co.uk)
- Council prayers ruled illegal (recoveringagnostic.wordpress.com)
The UK has less than one in ten people attending a church service regularly (once a month or more). The Lord Spirituals have been blamed for having influence on potential law changes being passed through the House of Lords. Religious leaders are told to keep out of political discussion in the public arena. The neo-secularist mantra of ‘religion is the root of all evil’ has gotten louder. Yet, some how, there is a noticeable number of people who call the UK a Christian country. How is this possible? What viewpoint can someone have that says the church is a welcomed part of life for most people?
We must stand up and admit that we live in a post-Christian era, and have done for decades. We could sulk, hark back to a bygone era, point out the pluses of the Christian faith. Or we can be far more proactive and become more public with our faith. The idea of being nice and not causing a fuss has now been taken by non-church-goers. Giving time and money to charitable causes is seen as good, rather that Christian, acts.
The sooner we understand our place in society and how to live the life possible through faith in the Risen Jesus, the better.
I believe the classic hatch, batch, and dispatch ceremonies (i.e christening, weddings, and funerals) are a huge part of the outward image of the church. The local church supporting the local schools (both church and non-church), with Christmas services and assemblies for example. The vilage chapel providing creche, holiday club, and elderly people events have been part of church life for decades.
The church is the defining character of the greater good. This is possible through following the ways of the Jesus of the Gospels. We need to remember the actions of faithful of history and carry on their mission of shining the light of Christ in all things.
- A Pulpit For The Masses: YouTube, Christians Click (npr.org)
- Present day falling away? (pastoronmain.wordpress.com)
- Article: Robert Pattinson & ‘Bel Ami’ in The Christian Post (belamifilm.com)
Tim Teebow has had an interesting couple of months. If you don’t him, he has become the quarterback (read: linchpin of the entire team) for the Denver Broncos in the NFL (that is, American Football). He has had incredible success (despite his short-comings), and his team are a step further towards being World Champions. What has been getting as much coverage has been his celebration after his team scores. He goes down to one knee, bows his head and says a little prayer. Considering that, like other sports, there is an explosion of excitement when your team scores, it goes against the grain in a big way. When he played at university, for Florida ‘Gators’, he was know to write Bible references under his eyes(rather than a simple line for his anti-glare eye black).
This has started a debate in the US media about professional sport and religious expression. Can a player express his or her faith during a game? Are you upsetting other faiths by sharing your publicly? Should all things about God be left behind before the opening bell/whistle/klaxon?
My reflection on this is a little left-field. Firstly, should all expressions of honouring the dead come under the same scrutiny? Secondly, does this mean that openly praying before and after games come under this rule? And thirdly, is excluding God possible in anything?
One of the attributes of God is that He is everywhere. Psalm 139 has God present in the heavens, on the earth, and even in the depths of death. Jeremiah 23:24 tells us that we cannot hide ourselves from God. Proverbs 15:3 has God seeing all that is good and evil.
From my personal prayer life, The Bible’s teaching, and from my experience as a member of the church, I have found His ever-presence something of comfort. I am never alone in my life, He is looking out for me, and He cares about all that I do. I can’t exclude God in anything, that’s what I believe.
This debate is not going to go away. At least the argument for Tebowing can be clarified.
- Book Acquired 1.03.2012 – Tim Tebow Edition (biblioklept.org)
- Tim Tebow: Will Tebow Ever Get a Full Season to Prove He’s an NFL QB? (bleacherreport.com)
I find this time of year fascinating. Hallowe’en’s finished, Bonfire Night is over, all that’s left is Christmas and New Year. Yet in late November you’re aware that Christmas decorations would be odd, having parties for the season is too early, and we are left in a form of limbo in our lives. We are awaiting the waiting period to Christmas.
Advent is a warm-up act, a nostalgia trip, an opportunity to prepare for a time of something special.
A big lesson from Advent is that it is a time of waiting. One of the big issues of the economic crisis we’re struggling through is the fact that we’ve all believed that we can have it all right now. I can mortgage a house without considerable savings. I can pay for a new kitchen on the never-never. I expect to be able to get what I want, and not worry about the consequences.
An attitude of restrain is always going to be unpopular. But we can learn so much from merely holding back. In a way, Advent is like Lent version 2.0; a time of reflection, self-assesment, and refocusing.
A challenge for us at this time is simply to re-evaluate ourselves. Am I able to be still in my week? What is most important to me? What’s happening in the future for me?
Advent is a time of waiting, reflecting, and preparing. A wonderful anecdote for the Christmas rush.
It’s Advent time and the sermons are being written. Irregular church goers make their regular pilgrimage. The regulars are excited with a full chapel. Now for the message… The theme of ‘true meaning of Christmas’, ‘Easter is what it’s all about’, and ‘Keep coming back’ are good for the season.
I believe there needs to be additional themes for the season. How about some of these ideas?
‘Christmas – A New Hope’. Jesus’ birth is a turning point in history, where the access to God starts on a one-to-one basis. We find hope in believing in the omnipresent Son of God who wil be with us for all of eternity (ff Matthew 28:20). All prayers are heard, anyone can belong to the community of faith, and imperfection is not unusual on the road with God who accepts you and morphs you into holiness and perfection that last for eternity.
’A New, New Way’. Jesus came into the world to complete the way of the people of Israel and to open up the new way of God. The temple of God, the eternal presence of God, and the way of God lives in one man. To follow His way is to experience what it is to follow the way of the God of Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David.
‘The New Beginning of Everything’. John’s Gospel begins with the words ‘In the beginning…’. It is a repeat of the beginning of the Old Testament (or Hebrew scriptures), with the onus of something starting again. Jesus is our opportunity for a Mulligans or a do-over in our lives. Telling the God of Jesus Christ that we want to start again in life, and asking for God to put it right, we can start all over again in our life of faith.
’Jesus – The Meaning of Life’. Further along in John’s Gospel it reads ‘The Word was made flesh…’ (John 1:14). The Greek word for Word is ‘Logos’ (λόγος) means a number of things. It’s where we get the word logo: a picture or group of words that are dynamic. We can also read Word (with a capital ‘W’) as the Hebrew Scriptures becoming visual, alive, and physical in one man. This Greek word is also where we get the word ‘Logic’. The reason for existence, the ultimate point of understanding, and the start of our search for the meaning of life was born in Bethlehem thousands of years ago.
The Christmas story is exciting, deep, and a defining point of what it is to be human. This point of history starts of God’s salvation story for humanity. The gateway to the divine was born for everyone to meet.
Good News for Christmas and beyond.
- Will We Follow Jesus? (lifereference.wordpress.com)
- The Meaning of Life (jasonmcintyre55.wordpress.com)
- The true meaning of Christmas (lovemysnoopy.com)
I have previously blogged about my hope that the Occupy protests around the world would stand highlight the issues of corporate greed, rather than the protesters themselves. My wish has been unfulfilled.
I agree that the church started with a mixed response (Reaction to such protest will do), but we have reached the stage where the intentions of the protesters are far outweighing the cause they congregated for. The Occupy movement is also in Bristol (where I live): This too has had more bad press than good. The global movement (in the US and Germany, amongst others) has caused similar ill feeling. The talk of indefinite residence of tents, legal action, bad behaviour, and annoying resolve has made the cause less significant. This is not how it is meant to be. What kind of response is expected? What action from which authority will appease such protesters and create a better world for many more?
I’ve heard about the current Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker, and how he protested, as a councilman, in 1999. He was so dismayed by an area where open drug trafficking was rampant that he went on a ten day hunger strike living in a tent in the very area this was happening. He then lived in a modern mobile home in the area, and stayed for 5 months. His protest for better social housing, law and order, and education for the residents eventually lead to the council bringing in such change. His diligence and public support lead to greater social change for many. I believe that a culture of avarice for the few has lead to millions of people being affected.
I believe that the electorate need to stand up and tell the banks and traders this. I believe that a new form of capitalism (much closer to Adam Smith’s ‘On the Wealth of Nations’) needs to be practised. I do not want the right to dissent to over-ride the human rights of those who have lost so much from the economic downturn. I would also like to argue that you and I are also part of this problem. The sub-prime mortgages, the ease to get credit cards, the living beyond our means? We have made decisions that have affected our home-life and the world as a whole. Jesus once said: ‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?’ (Matthew 7:3). The Bible, again, speaking about the modern world.
This is an important message: The main thing is to make the main thing the main thing. I pray that this becomes a mantra for the Occupy movement.
- Small group of Occupy Newark protesters brave cold for cause’s sake; overnight plan unclear (nj.com)
- Occupiers ousted in Ottawa (canada.com)
- WATCH: Why Are Tents So Important To Occupy Denver? (huffingtonpost.com)
I remember in 1996 when the completion of the A4174 was stopped by protest group ‘Scrap-it’. The halt in operations cost millions in tax payers money, put the project back by years and affected local business who had prepared for these changes. The fact that the area in question was already flattened, that the protest for the whole A road had ceased years ago (which had started in the late 80s), and a huge housing development was already built with the road in mind was only the start of it. The fact that local residents were fed up with the protest and wanted the road built made the protest seem, well, meaningless.
A new supermarket chain was opened in the Bristol area that was famous for its independent local traders. A ‘peaceful’ protest against the development lead to rioting, car fires, and riot police. Again, local residents would rather have the store than the protests that endangered their lives and was a lost cause quite a while ago.
I share these stories in response to the protests because of the anti-capitalist protests in Paternoster Square in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral. My only advice for the protesters is simple: I hope your cause is more important that the protesting. Sadly, the national government, some of the press, and even some of the St Paul’s Cathedral staff have made the issue more about tents and inconvenience than anti-capitalism, injustice, and standing up for the little guy. The simple fact of FTSE 100 directors earning a 50% pay rise last year and some of their employees receiving a pay rise less than 3% seems unjust and, frankly, unexplainable.
Let’s look out for the little guy; Jesus did. He stood up for the slave, the poor, the single parent, the disenfranchised, the homeless, the unpopular. His mission on Earth included showing the Roman Empire for what it was: A system that favoured the rich, the influential, and the well-connected. The parallels to today’s system are unmistakable.
I hope that the protesters can be heard, that their message is acted upon, and for more people to stand with them against this unfair system.
- Outside St Paul’s Cathedral sits a mess, but it’s a holy mess (guardian.co.uk)
- Occupy St Pauls Cathedral! (bigthink.com)
- St. Paul’s Will Not Challenge Occupy London Legally (newsfeed.time.com)
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has been on a southern Africa tour, which included visiting the troubled nation of Zimbabwe. He celebrated Holy Communion publicly in a sports stadium with thousands of Anglican Christians. He even had afternoon tea with President Mugabe, seeking to find answers about Anglican churches being force-ably closed, and Anglican ministers and congregations being threatened, abused, and even killed in their hundreds. He got no answer from the ‘despotic’ President, however.
It’s encouraging that he was the first UK leader to visit the country in a decade. This is certainly what the church needs to be doing on the international stage: Standing up for the oppressed, standing up for Christians believe, and standing up when no one else is.
The crime that the Anglicans have committed to cause such action: Ordaining gay men. Sexuality ethics is an enormous issue in the African continent, more so than in western Europe. To respond like this is going against the entire message of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to save the lost, not to destroy. We may disagree with other believers, but if we do not speak the truth with love (ff Ephesians 4:15) then we are more concerned with being right, and for everyone to know we are right and that everyone else is wrong.
I hope the Archbishop’s visit starts an international response to the persecuted in Zimbabwe. I also hope for Christians to live out their faith without fear in the country. I know that God will exercise justice for all people.
I love the Bible. I don’t say this just as a Licensed Lay Minister, only focusing on the ethical and spiritual elements. I found my faith by dipping into bits of Matthew’s Gospel from an old Bible with a foreword from Billy Graham. The supernatural power is so strong with the Good Book, that critics are willing to remove any mention of it, almost as if fearing the words themselves would gain more converts to religion rather than, well, being religion critics.
Reading it sometimes feels like a treasure hunt: Linking up the Old Testament and the New, understanding the different references, and so on. It can be a wonderful history lesson: We can start to understand ancient non-Israelite cultures through the Old Testament, and something about life in the Roman Empire in the New. It can be read out loud, especially the King James Version: It was meant to be read for everyone to hear.
It always bothers me when some of the issues people have with the Bible. They either make God’s inspired Word into God, or that the Bible is out of date. Both of these ideas have been used by critics, as if both ideas are believed by all believers (n.b. You’ll notice a lot of critics using the word ‘they’ when talking about religion, as if I am living, working, and believing as you are. Weird).
The Bible isn’t God: It is the Spirit of God inspiring dozens of writers throughout the ancient world, who recorded what God is telling everyone for eternity as well as in that moment in time. The way the Church uses it has changed thanks to the printing press and increased literacy throughout the developed world. Reading it regularly is part of living life with Jesus as Lord. We must be careful in placing the Bible in its right place in the Christian life. We must ensure God – the inspiration, editor, narrator, and lead character of the Bible – is always our guide, with prayer, fellowship, and through following the ways of Jesus Christ.
The Bible is never out of date: If we read the verses and believe we follow them verbatim, then we think God lives in a book. But with study, support, and good Sunday church preaching, we see much, much more. We might see texts against witchcraft (Exodus 22:18, Leviticus 11:31), and not see that the bigger emphasis is holy living (1 Peter 1:15, Phillipians 4:8). We can see the wars mapped out in the Old Testament and not see God of Justice (Job 37:23-24, 2 Corinthains 7:11).
I’m standing up for the Bible as a beacon of enlightenment, a turning point for each human being, and a global Word towards Jesus Christ, Our Saviour, Our Lord, Our Friend.
- What bible verses can you say to help someone who is dying (wiki.answers.com)
- When do you here the Bible during Mass (wiki.answers.com)
- Follow A Reading Plan (Part I) (devotionalinsights.com)
I really enjoy the TED talks that you can find on the web. It’s a free-to-view catalogue of talks led by the eminent thinkers of today (TED meaning technology, entertainment, and design). They do have religion speakers – including Billy Graham and Rick Warren – and all these talks provide a vision for the future or an understanding of the past in the realm of ideas and ideology.
One of the most startling talks I heard was from religion writer Karen Armstrong (author of ‘The History of God’, which I highly recommend). She was promoting the ‘Compassion Charter’: A petition to encourage global compassion within our everyday thinking, religion, morality, and ethics.
During this talk she said: ‘… the Golden Rule [to love God and to love one another] is difficult. I sometimes, when I’m speaking to congregations about compassion, I sometimes see a mutinous expression crossing some of their faces because… a lot of religious people prefer to be right, rather than compassionate…‘
That is really hard to hear. Professor Armstrong speaks of the foundation of the ministry of Jesus, and has listeners upset because of a rigid comfortable ideology that exercises punishment ahead of justice, correctness over forgiveness, and action over emotion.
One verse that keeps coming up in the Old and New Testament certainly needs to be recited: ‘I don’t want your sacrifices but your mercy’ (Hosea 6:6, Matthew 9:13, and ff Proverbs 21:3, 1 Samuel 15:22). The Biblical text show us our need to embrace the Gospel by exercising great love to our fellow people.
Theologically it is our faith that rescues us from evil and death (ff Ephesians 2:8 and Romans 9:30 ). As well as, according to Jesus’ brother, ‘Faith without action is dead‘ (James 2:20). The church has always had a balancing act of social justice, evangelism, and non-boastful behaviour. Nearly all churches achieve this difficult aim.
My hope is that we continue this wonderful mix of qualities in reaction to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and for it to surround our local communities with compassion that’s been corrected by the Holy Spirit.