Category Archives: Religion

Mutually Assured Distruction

I hadn’t realised how long I’ve been away. I decided to take a short break from blogging and then decided on time away from Facebook.

Work has been bust, frustrating, quiet and annoying. I work in a “customer facing position” which means I have to interact with people (customers, suppliers and colleagues) whether I’m in the mood to or not. This had led to several frustrating conversations over the last few months. Yet all my customers and most suppliers and colleagues say how happy I am and always ready to laugh and joke.

Most of the time I would like to converse via the means of an AK47 or a tactical nuclear strike. In fact, my default position for any problem is now to say that “it would be easily solved with a tactical nuclear strike”.

Screaming kids? Annoying colleagues/customers? In considerate motorists? Wotld debt and inequality? Striking tanker drivers, trade unionists (of which I am one) and foolish government ministers? All these problems would be solved with the aid of a tactical nuclear strike.

That’s where God has changed. What happened to the Old Testament God? Why don’t we have the plagues, the droughts and famines, thunderbolts and lightning very, very frightening me!!! Galileo! Galileo! Galileo! Figaro!! Magnifico-o-o-o-o!!!

Sorry lost myself there 🙂

At Easter we celebrate the death of Jesus and the resurrection that followed. After all what point would the resurrection be if we had no crucifixion to precede it?

And this is the thing… Easter saw the change in |God’s image to mankind. Out went the scolding God of the Old Testament and in came the kinder, gentler God who seeks to forgive and not punish.

I know, I know, this is an over simplification but that’s how most people think.

Sometimes it would be nice if God returned to type and threw a few thunderbolts and plagues. I’m sure that many people would be happy if they could still hear the voice of God – not that of some televangelist or boring preacher – directly. Mind you, people who claim to hear it are usually written off as nutters.

Yet I think that this is what my absense has been partly for. I want to get some peace and quiet so that I can recharge but also find a way to reconnect to that God I miss. The one that I used to feel very close too but seemed to lose for a while.

As such we have returned to our old chapel in Newport, where I grew up as a Christian, and which has always felt like home. Slowly I am beginning to find that life is a challenge but one that I can beat, with God helping. One where nothing is really that problematical – well easily overcome with either God’s help or a tactical nuclear strike.

The Parable of The Short Tempered Christian

Every night I have to cross the Second Severn Crossing to get home. This should be easy but every so often you get stuck for no apparent reason. Tonight was one of those nights.

I car-share and only have to drive every third week; this week is one of those weeks.

My 2 colleagues know I’m a Christian and I’m often asked about my faith. I’m only to happy to share my faith with them and answer any questions they have. Tonight was not one of those nights.

As we queued to get to the toll booths we had people trying to push in front of us. Some just pushed and others indicated. Now I had one of those days where things have gone well but something started the “going home whinge”. By the time we got to the toll queue I was in a very bad mood but for no apparent reason.

A woman in the lane next to us had tried to push in front of a few cars in front of us with no joy. People in the lane on the other side had just forced their way in and I was getting annoyed. I made it clear that I was going to move forward relentlessly.

The colleague next to me asked why I wasn’t a “Christian Driver”. I pointed out that I could find no eveidence in the bible that we had to be. I said I’d seen nothing about giving right of way to someone else’s chariot or ass. However I relented and let in the lady in the next lane and saw that a car in front of her had broken down.

I tried to brighten my mood but could only do so for a short time. My colleagues started to playfully suggest that I should do something to get them home quicker, as they would if they were driving. I pointed out that this was slightly impossible (in slightly different words) as the lanes were all congested.

Then the people who had changed lanes moved back and we moved forward faster. However as we approached the booths we found that the people to our left had actually been queuing between lanes and were trying to take advantage of this fact by moving back over, without indicating.

This time I decided that nothing was keeping me from that toll booth. So I moved forward and left no gap for anyone to get in front of me. The guy at the front looked rather upset as about 5 other cars in front did the same but he hadn’t indicated, just tried to force his way in. Having driven in London for 10 years I know how to stand my ground.

Again my colleague commented on my “Christian Driving” (or lack of it).

When I’d dropped them off I started thinking. Was this the way to advertise my Christianity to others? I don’t suppose it is. Yet, aren’t Christians allowed to have an off day as well? Aren’t we subject to the same highs and lows as anyone else?

Maybe I should have been more inclined to let people move out in front of me. On the other hand does being a Christian mean that we should be a doormat for the world to wlk over? How do we know when we are being to far over on either side of the equation?

More importantly, have I damaged the image of a Christian in the eyes of my colleagues?

Who Is Right?

These are from the BBC report regarding the government’s announcement regarding the proposed legislation to allow Gay marriages to take place in places of worship:

Men and women the world over just live together without ceremony of any kind: why can’t same sex couples do the same? It’s far easier to walk away from the relationship too. We can’t help who we love but it is again the minority we hear from bleeting and baaing about what they want. Get on with living together and shut up. The law of God and the Bible will not be rewritten for you – having a ceremony of whatever kind is hollow in the grand plan – can’t you just live your lives? Kathleen Steward, Leicester

If you are a Christian, you believe that homosexuality is immoral. Why any church would allow a gay couple to get married in their church is beyond belief as it’s a contradiction of what the Bible tells Christians. If you read the article carefully however, the title is very misleading. Most churches are not allowing the marriage of gay couples. Only the very liberal and left wing churches are considering it. Scott, Walsall, West Midlands

The church has to move with the times or die painfully over a long period. There should be no distinction between couples, as long as they are happy and are willing to commit to each other then why marginalise gay couples. This form of apartheid has gone on for long enough and the Church should open its mind to higher and more important values. Mark Woolfson, Leeds

We are falling behind a number of EU countries that have actually moved from a formal partnership to a marriage. Why doesn’t the UK be one of the trend-setting innovators to allow gay marriages in religious settings; church, mosque or temple. Craid Chadwick, Leeds

I do not agree with Mark or Craid. The church has no need to adapt its teachings to comply with any government legislation on this subject. What right do we have to compromise on the teachings of God? Just because some disagree with them, does not make them wrong!

I agree with Kathleen, God’s law is not rewritten just because parts of society may not agree with them. Some things are not to be compromised on.

That does not mean that I condemn people who disagree with my opinion. That is not my place to make a judgement; I have plenty of faults of my own. Yet I do not see why my faith should be compromised to satisfy a minority. Nor do I believe that politicians have the right to dictate to the electorate. Democracy is supposed to be about the views of the majority but no one ever seems to bother finding out what those views are.

Civil law is different to moral and divine law. People cannot be expected to go against their beliefs, no matter which side of the fence they are on.

Disconnected

Recently I have been finding that I have a few disconnections in my life.

I am, unsurprisingly, no longer happy at work. I have the feeling that I no longer belong here. Motivating myself every day is becoming harder and harder. The work just seems to get more and more, the time to deal with it less and less and the enjoyment fading extremely quickly.

What makes things worse is that I am beginning to feel that I no longer want to do the job for much longer. There is no longer any fulfilment in it for me. I don’t have a clear idea as to what else I want to do though.

In my Christian life I’m feeling a sense of emptiness as well. Yesterday I realised that I haven’t been to chapel since the Sunday before Christmas. Ok, so last week I was due to preach away and let FW doo the sermon, after I led the rest.

Yesterday I was tired after going to Liverpool on Saturday for the football, it was a long day. Yet FW and I talked and I realised that I no longer felt rewarded by the chapel experience. I like the people in our chapel but feel less and less connected. There is something missing from the entire experience.

As I lay in the bath I thought that my chapel life is no longer rewarding because it lacks leadership and real involvement, other than a Sunday morning. With the exception of the Monday night prayer for youth outreach, there is nothing else for me to take part in.

I have also begun to feel that God wants me to do soemthing different. That he has a plan for me that involves more than just being a member of the congregation. Exactly what He has planned I don’t know but I finally feel ready to hand things over and let Him lead me forward.

All I know is that I want things to change and just changing a job or chapel wouldn’t be anything other than a temporary sticking plaster to hide the problem.

well Travelled

Last weekend saw us undertaking a mini tour of the South East.

On Friday we drove to Dunstable for the “Wedding of the Month”. Dunstable was everything I remembered, it is like taking a failing Welsh town and dropping it into the prosperous South East of England.

The wedding was held in an old Anglican (Heretic) Church that will celebrtae its 900th anniversary soon. The vicar(ess) apologised for the builder’s rubble outside but said that if she could make us laugh twice then we should contribute towards the rebuilding work.

After the wedding finished I made my apologies and went back to the hotel to watch the Welsh lose to the Australians. This was a good thing as the meal at the reception was lamb – T&E does not eat family members!!!!

I returned for the evening to find FW in a very merry mood. She assured me that this had nothng to do with her efforts (and those of her friends) to drink the EU Wine lake dry.

Sunday saw us heading further East to the deepest, darkest depths of Suffolk. This is a strange county where you almost expect Wicker Men to be burning in the fields or hordes of inbred locals cruising the roads looking for fresh “outsiders” to disembowel.

We had a great end to the journey where the road to the village was closed, about a mile short, and we then had a 5-10 mile detour to reach it.

Many thanks should be expressed to Tiffer and Mrs Tiffer for looking after my wedding ring (for 4 years) and the warm welcome we received.

We were taught the important things in life – Mr Tiffer is only a curate and will not become a vicarage for 3 years; not all Anglicans are heretical backsliders; not all people in Suffolk are inbred; that some children (other than my nephews) are fun.

Many thanks to Abigail for entertaining us with her little giggles and squeeks. Having a small child break into a smile, jump up and down and wave in respone to your wave was fun.

We made it back to South Wales after a 3 drive across the UK. Our SatNav brought us home via Leicestershire and the M42 – thus avoiding the carnage that is the anti-clockwise M25 at the moment.

Jesus Was HIV Positive?

I saw this story on the BBC website.

I am astonished at the reaction of the South African church to what this minister has said. Jesus did align himself with the poor, the needy and the sick. These are people who were treated as outcasts by the religious authorities at the time. Jesus showed that they were as valid as anyone else to receive the salvation that God had sent him to offer.

Ok, so saying that Jesus was HIV Positive was not the best way to bring this about but what the minister was doing was linking the suffering and alienation that HIV sufferers feel today. Many are ignored by the authorities, refused treatment or shunned by their own communities.

Yet these are people that should have the love, acceptance and salvation shared with them. Ignoring their pain and suffering helps no one, least of all them. Yet that is what many in Africa are doing. They associate the problem with homosexuality but the disease is spreading throuoghout the hetrosexual community because churches and politicians are not facing up to the reality of the problem.

This minister is trying to warn his congregation that not only are they at risk themselves but that they need to stand up for those already struckdown with the disease. Christians should give a lead to show that these sufferers are not alone, that people do care for them and that God has not rejected them because they have this disease.

As many seem to have reacted against this teaching from a stance that Jesus is somehow devalued by this interpretation, then they have as much to learn as the Pharissee and Sadducees did.

The Dove Has Departed

Following my post yesterday i have noticed that it is no longer possible to visit the Dove World Outreach Center. I was interested to see if they had published my response, knowing the outcome really. However you are no longer able to connect with their site on the globalwideinterwebnetthingy.

Whether their ISP took them out or they collapsed under the weight of criticism, obscene comments or threats I don’t know. Maybe the were destroyed by the B52’s I sent over to bomb them back to the stone age (c Pentagon media spokesnong). Maybe my shock and awe tactics, i.e. being kind and thoughtful, completely overwhelmed them.

I pray that they will actually see sense and call off their protest/action. Unfortunately the damage has been done. No one will remember if they called it off, only that they wanted to do it. Instead of drawig people in they have alienated themselves but also damaged the wider church.

As it said in the BBC coverage, one of the weaknesses of the “Free Church” movement is that there is no over-riding authority but each church answers only to themselves. Therefore people are free to highjack Christianity to push their own warped and dangerous ideas. There will always be someone out their who will follow.

So Saturday could see the burning of the Koran. As that great philosopher Heine said: If you burn books today, you burn people tomorrow. That was 200 years before the Holocaust. It starts with little things and slowly builds from there. That is how it began in Germany in the 1930’s.

It may seem rather dramatic but that is what history teaches us. People will stand by and let things escalate. Muslims would be demonised, excluded from things and then segregated more and more. Look at the way the French have treated the Romanys – has taken 2 years beofre the world noticed.

Epistle to The Dove World Outreach Center

I do not expect to see this published on their blog or to receive a reply from my e-mail that I also sent to them.

Greetings in brothers and sisters in Christ.

We are one and the same body through the sacrifice of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. As we suffer together we also share happiness together. As we rejoice together so we also face ridcule and persecution.

When we follow the Lord we walk in His way and follow His teachings. We are here to shine a light in the darkness and to act as salt to add flavour to a tasteless world. It is our duty to show others how the compassion, love and forgiveness of Jesus can change the world.

As we are told in Matthew 7 v 1-2: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

So we are to be careful how we judge others and do not overlook our own sins. We need to remember that when we judge others, people also judge us by our actions. If we are self righteous in our judgement then others will see Christ reflected in this. That is not what Christ is about.

We are human and we react as humans, even as Christians. Our judgement is not “righteous” there is only one Righteous Judge and that is God. As we are told in Psalm 7 v 8: Let the Lord judge the peoples. Judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity.

Therefore we have no right to judge others by Christ’s standards because we are not Christ.

We are also taught that we should love our neighbour as ourself. Is this how you choose to love your neighbour? Do you really loath yourself so much? Yes, the world is split into those who are believers and those who are not. Yet we are not hear to insult those who believe differently to us. We are here to show them the greater love that could be their’s by believing in Christ.

Does your hatred of fundamentalist Islam stop you from seeing that you are equally hateful in the eyes of others? Is this really the Christlike image you wish to project?

We do not need to be accepting of those who are sinful, hateful or persecute us. Yet we have a weapon that is far stronger than any that they may possess – we have the love of Christ. Have you thought why they hate us? Because the love of Christ shows how sinful and retched they are, and this scares them.

I understand how horrifying the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon was to Americans. You finally came face to face with the terrorism that the rest of the world has faced for years. As a trusting and welcoming people this must have shaken your foundations. How could people do this to you?

Yet is the burning of the Koran really the way to show Muslims the love and forgiveness of Christ? Do you wonder why they distrust the Western World so much? Your reaction only angers them and provides evidence to the radical elements that Christians want to destroy Islam. So you are perpetuating the hatred by your actions.

Do you not also consider the members of your own country who are face to face with Muslims day after day? Those people who are serving your country in Iraq and Afghanistan will bear the brunt of the reaction from those elements – not you in Florida. Do you want their deaths and injuries on your conscience?

Are you not surprised that Christians throughout the world are angered and ashamed of your reaction? You are like the Pharisees of Christ’s age – blinded by your own self righteousness. You do not recognise that the Christ you worship is not the Christ who came to Earth to save all mankind, without favour. We are all sinners and fallen short of God’s grace.

So please hear the call of your brothers and sisters in Christ and turn away from your planned event. Consider the full impact of what you would do on your countrymen and your fellow believers.

By your deeds you will be known. Please think carefully on this. You are loved as members of Christ’s family and what you do reflects on all of us.

Sermonising

This weekend FW is off to visit friends in that posh Spa town in Gloucestershire. For the day and a bit she is away I get to write a sermon and then give it. At lease it is a bank holiday so I get to recover on Sunday afternoon and Monday.

I am still being an idiot as I am writing a new sermon for every service, even when I could get away with recycling one given elsewhere. I think that I actually enjoy the process and want to keep things fresh, if only for me. I also think that it is the Spirit that provides what is said – it must be because most of the time my initial ideas never get into the sermon.

However I have realised that trying to cram a sermon into a working week can be a difficult thing to do. I take time to think about what I would like to say and find myself thinking about things during quiet times in work and at home.

I’m also a believer that a sermon is as much about trying to interpret the message into our modern life. That doesn’t mean watering down the message, or changing the meaning, but finding out how those events, or lessons, can impact today. I also think that just lecturing the congregation, as one of our lay-preachers does, means that many turn off.

If we can’t apply the message of our faith into our lives then how is it relevant to us and, more importantly, those who do not believe?

Fiction Breeds Religious Thought

I have almost finished C J Sansom’s Revelation. It has thrown up a few intriguing questions about non-conformist belief.

For those unaware. The series, of which this is the fourth, is set in late 1530’s and early 1540’s during the reign of Henry VIII and the reformation of the church in England. He manages to bring Tudor England and the religious turmoil very well.

What sets this book apart is that it deals with a serial killer who is following Revelation’s story of the angel with the 7 vials. This is a pre-cursor to the end of the Whore of Babylon and Armageddon. Thus the beginning of the Second Coming.

The other thing that this deals with is the way people at the time were struggling to come to terms with the change in the uprising of Protestant belief and the downfall of the primacy of the Catholic church. The people are divided between past forms of belief, the new form that is beginning to spring forth and a king who let the genie out of the bottle, and struggles to put the lid partially back on.

We also encounter people who were former reformers but are no longer certain of their faith. The writer sees the good and bad in Christianity and shows that they are uncomfortable with present fundamentalism.

Christianity was changing in ways that people have still not come to terms with. The Christianity of the Catholic church was ordered and had a basis of theology that was regimented and known to all. Then came the Protestant form. Here anyone can claim their own theology and interpretation of scripture. They also have a get out of jail free card, in the form of the Holy Spirit.

Any fool can claim that they can interpret scripture, wihout any theological training, just by claiming that the Spirit spoke to them; for example, the Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses etc. There is no way that you can disprove their claims totally so Christianity is weakened and divided.

One of the things highlighted is that many fundamentalists believe that they are the elect of God – the chosen who are predestined to be saved. This is a Calvinist trait that I’ve always had problems with. If God created with free will then we choose to belief or not. Equally, Christ’s sacrifice is belittled because God has already chosen who will and will not be saved. So why did he sacrifice Himself on the cross, the deed was unnecessary?

Neither am I saying that the Catholic church is right in all its teachings. Neither am I saying that Protestant belief is any more accurate or wrong. In addition we do not have the right to reinterpret the scriptures and bend their teachings to fit our own time and place in history.

I think that Christians need to discuss their beliefs, to see where there is common ground and also where there is poor, and non scriptual, theology. We should be working together to unify our faith but seem to be happy to remain entrenched in our own particular denominational ghettoes.

Then again, if we did this then people may actually become more interested in Christianity. Then where would the world be? Better to muddy the waters, and argue over obscure theological points, than actually do the work that Christians are here for.