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)
Hope is a human desire. I have no doubt about that. From childhood onwards we believe in something that is not yet attainable. Our capacity to dream has given many great thinkers the ideas, designs, and aspirations that have shaped history. From Reformation to the iPad, hope has been the inital idea and the driving force behind it.
No believing in hope can lead to a so-called ‘healthy cynicism’, a sense of purposelessness. It can also lead to a questionable response to charity and other acts of altruism. Hope is, for example, why students attend exams; Hope makes our daydreams in to action; Hope can motivate us to keep hold of our beliefs.
I believe that a sense of hopelessness has affected our belief in humanity. A recent survey had 10% of people believing that an unruly child at age 10 is a lost cause. Aged 10?!? What does that say about us? Does this mean our society would rather such children grew up to be unable to positively contribute to the wider community? Am I naive in believing that each human being has the capacity to mature and transform their life?
Injecting hope in our day can make an immense impact. Progress is only possible when we believe in hope. I can’t imagine living without the not-yet possible. I wouldn’t like to believe in a life whose mantra is ‘If you don’t try, you don’t lose anything’.
The Bible tells us that ‘Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it.’ (Hebrews 11:1). Faith and hope go hand in hand. I believe therefore I hope, I hope therefore I believe. The Hope found in the everlasting God is rooted on always having someone and something to believe in. There is always hope somewhere, and the Church is part of this hope-sharing mission for the world.
What I want to underline is that negativity is short term, hope is eternal.
- Faith is about the Journey (johnrconverse.wordpress.com)
- Gotta Have Faith… (strugglingwoman.wordpress.com)
- A New Year, Life, Love, and Body (realitynibbles.wordpress.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)
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 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.
I remember September 11th 2001 really well. I was with a close friend of mine with her baby son and my baby daughter, watching Scooby Doo on Boomerang. I then received a call from another friend telling me had I’d seen what was going on. I flipped to a news channel to see one of the towers spew out smoke. After being aware of that the other tower had collapsed stopped me dead in my tracks; I couldn’t comprehend that what I saw was real.
I went into a self-protection mode, trying to ‘suck it up’ and duly flipped back to the cartoons. My wife came home, seeing if we were OK as she was moved by what the TV showed. It was a confusing time for everyone, even if you’re far away from what happened, you had to have some kind of reaction to it.
This was 5 months since I was baptised as well. I had my first attack on my faith. This was the first time I mulled over a crisis of faith; not so much did I change what I believed, more being able to articulate it better. To not reflect on your relationship with the God of power, creation, and peace at a time like that is putting the proverbial head in the sand.
What I’m glad to see now is New York City is rebuilding itself, psychologically and physically. There are memorial waterfalls in the space where the towers used to be; A new Tower One is being built and will be even bigger than the previous buildings; there’s a new underground train network being put in place as well. This is not a city seeking revenge; It’s a city transforming its future.
I find the ideology of hope being practised here. .We could look on the evils done in the name of religion, politics, and nationalism. But being motivated by hope and trying to encourage hope is essential for future generations to see the advancement and evolution of society.
Hope is a hard to explain concept: Believing in something that we can not see fully materialise. Hope in, say, getting a job helps you find employment. Hope is associated with faith because whatever I believe is possible has not reached fruition yet.
A popular phrase in the Bible says faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrew 12:1). Faith and hope are welded together as we walk through life from glory to greater glory. The idea of ‘blue sky thinking’ is ancient, and as essential to our thinking now as it has always been.
This hope came with the early church, who was willing to continue in faith because they were inspired by hope in Jesus Christ (ff 1 Thessalonians 1:3). God gives all followers living hope in life (ff 1 Peter 3). Basis of the Christian faith in the resurrected Lord is faith, hope, and love (ff 1 Corinthians 13:13).
Following such an audacious idea – living hope from the resurrected Lord – has encouraged followers throughout the centuries. My dream is for hope to never be a concept but an attitude for everyone to practise.
- Falling Towers (thepauls.wordpress.com)
- And Now These Three Remain … (pastorpaulvbsblog.blogspot.com)
- Overwhelmed? (sabinspirations.wordpress.com)
I would like to help with the rational argument regarding the existence and nature of Jesus Christ, God as man. What I want to share in a rational conversation is that rationalism can only take us so far. I believe that it isn’t so much belief is irrational; it’s that Jesus is a paradox.
Let me explain:
Jesus is God incarnate – The supernatural and natural together in one person. This means that something physical and metaphysical were not side just by side, but together in Jesus.
Jesus’ death – The immortal dies (as Charles Wesley once put it). How can it be? He is the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega, the first and the last. And yet there was a three day period where He was dead.
Jesus’ resurrection – Being resurrected from the dead. If death is final, how can anyone be brought back to life, especially through crucifixion which means you die from asphyxia, and lying alone in a dark cave with open wounds?
Jesus’ message of anti-establishment/establishment bias – He embraced and reject conventional religion and political authority. He spoke up against religious sects that they spent more time practising piety rather than practising compassion. He also encouraged prayer, temple worship, and Scripture reading. He stood up against the legal authorities, and encouraged a law-abiding movement that would ‘go the extra mile’ for those in charge of the city and towns, even those who oppressed Christians.
Jesus’ movement started from the ground up – He went to the poor, marginalised, and influential to start this great religious movement. This is movement that changed the world did not start with eminent politicians, did not have any influence until the time of Constantine, and caused followers to be ostracised by family and peers, and even lead to death. Yet these people still were willing to give their lives to follow Jesus and were willing even to die for Him, as He died for all of mankind at Calvary.
This is why I believe rationalism only gets us so far in understanding Jesus Christ. Let us continue to honour and praise the understandable yet unfathomable, the spiritual yet accessible, and the profound yet comprehend-able Lord of All
- Answering the Mysteries of Jesus Christ Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com (thechristiangazette.wordpress.com)
- Did Jesus Christ really exist? How best to answer this question (cantuar.blogspot.com)
- The Bible is not God (signposts02.wordpress.com)
- The way to Heaven (ourcreator.wordpress.com)
In the Catholic Church, and in some parts of the Church of England, there are Sundays which are without any title like Trinity Sunday, Mothering Sunday, or Advent Sunday. There are thirty three Sundays in the calendar that are known as ‘Ordinary Time’ (e.g. this Sunday is the twenty third Sunday of Ordinary Time).
As we all go back to our pre-summer lives, I am reassured that we have no definite church celebration on the horizon: The ordinary, mundane, unspectacular are all there is right now. This period of time, when we seem to be doing nothing is actually the time we can stand still guiltlessly. It is not time to fill this time with even more activity; it’s a time to appreciate what’s already happening. It’s not a time to look forward, but merely gaze forward. This is the time to not carpe diem. This is the time for stocktaking, resting, and re-acquainting with the here-and-now. It is these times when we remind ourselves that God is always there. He is in the religious experience and the washing up, the Sunday morning worship and during the Monday morning blues, at elevenses and at the school run.
The Psalmist writes that even in the heights of life and the depths of death, God is present (Psalm 139:7-10). The Prophets wrote that there’s no hiding place with an omnipresent loving Lord ( Isaiah 57:15, Jeremiah 23:24, and Amos 9:2). The New Testament has God of forever being the reason all things exist (Colossians 1:17).
I hope your summer was a great one. I hope the next couple of days are restful in the knowledge of the great promise: Knowing that He is with us always, even to the end of time (Matthew 28:20).
I was struck by a quote from G K Chesterton recently:
A man can no more possess a private religion than he can possess a private sun and moon
When we are informed we need to keep our religion out of our non-religious work, it shows the ignorance of the advocate of this statement. If I follow the ideologies of, say, Nietzsche, do I put it to one side in my professional life? If I am an atheist, must I ignore my convictions when I choose a school for my child? Should I ignore my vegetarian ethics when I eat in a restaurant?
Obviously, what we believe in affects our understanding of everyday life and informs all of our decisions. When we ask certain people to practise something we do not do (namely, leave aside our particular point in favour of others) we are revealing an undercurrent of immense intolerance. To recognise differing opinions is different to quashing them and yet we do this in the name of nice-ness, watered down ideology, and for a cause that actual makes every one the same, ignoring the wonderful and unique qualities that we all posses.
The Bible recounts conflict of ideology and spirituality. It also reveals the people who in their uniqueness left an immense legacy of faith. The Hebrew prophets, before they were born, were chosen to exercise a radically distinctive mission (see Isaiah 49:1 and Jermiah 1:5). Jesus was ‘set apart’ to fulfil the mission of saving mankind (see John 10:36). The church is called to be counter-cultural, alturistic, and to follow a unique supernatural way of life set by the only begotten Son of God (as seen in Romans 12:2).
I hope we stop this tolerance ideology and embrace a theology of acceptance,benevolence, and serving all men and women in the way of Jesus Christ, the most unique public person of them all.
- Religion Vs. Spirituality (createamelody.com)
- The Promise Of The Spirit And The Blessing Of Abraham That Israel Continually Rejects! (soulrefuge.org)
- Catholic? Say What? (mydivinereason.wordpress.com)
- Religious Doubt (singlechristanwomen.wordpress.com)
- The religion of pity (mrbenblogs.wordpress.com)