Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Monday, March 27, 2006
Meet the Home Secretary
Well this is how I see the Right Honourable Charles Clarke M.P.
Nice to know our liberties are safe - well sort of!
Changing one's mind - the prerogative of politicians
From Private Eye
JUST FANCY THAT!
“Water is a public resource not a commodity to be bought and sold by the pint.” –
Early Day Motion opposing water metering laid by Elliot Morley MP in 1995
“In many parts of the country water is a precious resource which we can no longer simply take for granted… Metering will have an important role to play in helping to reduce this demand as well as sending a signal about the benefits of water saving.” –
Announcement by Environment Minister Elliot Morley, March 2006
Actually I think he was right in his recent comment but the current Government seem to have such a mega difference in what they say in Opposition and what they say in Government that I haven't a clue when to believe them.
Finished essay draft
Oh, this morning I finished my draft of an essay concerning how Islam might adapt to today's world. This could be my last essay ever!
Bring on the champagne!
Christians free from the jaws of death
During the past few days, there have been two stories that have concerned me concerning Christians whose very lives were in danger. The first of these was the story of Abdul Rahman who faced death in Afghanistan for the heinous crime of converting from Islam to Christianity. That Mr Rahman has had his life spared is a relief although the reports suggest that he might have been taken to a psychiatric hospital. Excuse me but this leaves me feeling somewhat uncomfortable. You see, I remember how in East Europe, all too often political dissidents ended up in such institutions. Let's be straight on this matter. Mr Rahman came to a conclusion that a religion other than the one he was brought up in, was now what he believed in. That should be the end of the matter. However, some people are so convinced of their rightness that they were prepared to have this man killed. All I can say to such religious fascists is, "Tough on you! Grow up and get over it!" If people have nothing better to do than to demand the death penalty or indeed any other penalty over a matter of conscience, then they should take up knitting or some other trivial pursuit.
Part of my irritation at this case, however, is that the actions of the mob and the craven cowardice of the Afghan Government in not repealing such laws, serves to lesson the possibilities of religious dialogue. For much of its history, Islam has been more tolerant than Christianity. Certainly the Muslims who liberated Jerusalem in 641 CE treated the Jews much better than the Christians who had previously held sway. Melanie Wright from the Centre for Jewish-Christian Relations in Cambridge contends in her book, "Understanding Judaism;"
"Yet for much of the medieval period Jews fared better in Muslim lands than in Christian ones"
She is right. Too often in our history, it is Christianity that has shown the face of intolerance. Yet today, I know of no Christian country that has legal sanctions against Christians who convert to Islam. Why should it be otherwise?
I have listened to my Muslim friends with sympathy about events in Chechenya, Iraq and Palestine. Many of their concerns deserve to be taken very seriously. However, stances on human rights cannot just be based according to the self interest of one's own group. Nothing would demonstrate Western Islam coming of age more than for it to take a lead in campaigning against penal measures which are directed against those who change faith anywhere in the world.
I appreciate that there is within Islam a concern regarding apostacy. However,the Quranic concern and that within the early Islamic community, was surely down to the difficulties of a community fighting for its existence, a community who morale could easily be sapped by deserters.
To me the true Quranic message is;
"There is no compulsion in religion"
The other Christians freed in the past few days were the three surviving members of the Christian Peacemaker Team who had been held hostage in Iraq. Whether they were wise in what they did is a matter concerning which a range of opinions might be held. There was to be fair a certain irony in their rescue coming through the military given the pacifism of CPTs. However, I cannot but hold these guys and other members of their teams in other places in high esteem. They challenge my all too easy going Christianity with their brand of heroic courage in following the Biblical injunction to be peacemakers.
In a world that is all too wedded to violence as the means of solving problems, their brand of non violence serves to remind us of another way that I see in its fullness in Christ.
Since returning, Norman Kember has been the subject of some of the most vile abuse that I can recall. A General who should have known better was within hours on television criticising Mr Kember for an alleged lack of gratitude. As pointed out by Jonathan Bartley of Ekklesia, the criticisms failed to take account of the trauma that Mr Kember had been throughor the fact that he had only just learnt of the death of his American friend Tom Fox. Incidentally, I was shocked to read that a clearly devout Christian such as Colonel Mike Dewar could tell the nation through Jeremy Vine's Radio 2 show that weapons are God's "tools" for "use." For what it is worth I find that sort of comment to be blasphemous! That does not mean that the courage of soldiers should be ignored even by those of us who have huge difficulties with the notion of military force.
Anyhow, I am sure that both of these stories will continue to reverberate around the world. They raise issues that are impossible to ignore.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Methodist Blogs Weekly Roundup
From Locusts and Honey comes the Methodist Blogs Weekly Roundup
I am in it. Nice one John!
Monday, March 20, 2006
Return of Alan B'Stard
I guess it's a sign of how far we have gone from the hopes of May 1997 that Rick Mayall's wonderful creation of a Tory MP on the make Alan B'Stard is making a return in play but as a defector to New Labour
Great for entertainment and as a fan of the original series, i would love to watch it but it really is a sign of how our Government is going downhill that most people now see it as being at least as sleazy as the Tories. The current loans affair in which the treasurer of the labour Party didn't know about over £14million in loans (two sets of books?) is really the last straw.
When even the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott is unsure whether such loans have been rewarded with peerages you know that things are pretty bad.
The most famous cash for perages scandal in which Lloyd George brazenly sold peerages helped to lead to the Liberals being out of power for the last 80 or so years. How ironic if the folly of Labour's most successful leader electorally, should lead his Party into the wilderness.
Guns for Sale
Your chance to blow anyone you don't like away
Seriously, this video is quite a reminder of our need to take a moral stance against the evil that is the arms trade.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Sermons and the test of time
At the risk of sounding like a total Toady, I think John Wesley was a great man. Indeed, I think it was a scandal that he was not included in the top 10 Greates Brits. He certainly had a more profound effect on society than the likes of John Lennon and Princess Diana.
Indeed, coming from Cornwall I am very aware of how he changed the lives of many of my ancestors. Brought up two miles from Gwennap Pit I still get a thrill when I visit the place and imagine ow thousands of Cornish miners were brought to faith in that great ampitheatre. In fact one of my most exciting experiences as a preacher, was in taking one of the Sunday afternoon services that are held in the Summer in the Pit.
However, I have always suspected that I would find Mr Wesley rather difficult to get on with. He was just too demanding for an easy going guy like me and I have to admit that his authoritarian rule over Methodism, howver necessary it may have been in an emerging movement, is the sort of thing that brings out the Bolshevik in me.
Last week, one of the things I had to do at the Probationers Committee was to answer questions regarding two of Mr Wesley's sermons. This freaked me out somewhat as I have a rather deficient memory and I really messed up on this at my interview to become a local preacher in 1989. Sometimes, I think that the only reason they passed me was because the minister who had been my tutor was about to leave and I was his only chance to preach at a local preacher accredition service before moving to his new appointment.
To make things easier I used a modern translation of Mr Wesley's sermons which had been put together by james D. Holway. However, I still found them rather heavy going.
Anyhow, as I read the sermons that I had chosen to look at, "The Almost Christian" and "The Catholic Spirit" I found myself exploring the question ast to how these sermons would go down today with our 21st Century congregations.
I found "The Almost Christian" to be a rather priggish sermon. I was struck at how much Wesley expected of an "almost Christian." Such people are expected to have a level of seriousness that seems quite extraordinary in today's world. I guess the time gap is there. At times, I find Wesley rather condescending in the way he sees their motives. Their charitability is describes as that which helps others "as long as it doesn't cause them inconvenience." Sorry Mr Wesley but I believe that altruism doesn't only occur amongst Christians! As for in the section on their "honesty" suggesting that this includes the avoidance of debt, I see how different our world are for today the explosion of house prices means that many are mortgaged up to the hilt and other goodies such as student loans and increased opportunities for gambling, mean that debt is today a simple fact of life. Indeed, I rather suspect that the British economy would collapse if we all decided to get out of debt.
As for becoming an "altogether Christian" I feel that Wesley comes close to being one of those who expects comparable experiences to himself if one is to be seen as a Christian. I find this an unhealthy trait in religion. Indeed, whilst in this sermon, wesley suggests that he was not a Christian until his Aldersgate experience, other writings by him at a later date suggest a very different conclusion. Which is his definitive view, I am not sure.
I like what Wesley has to say as what is an "altogether Christian" in terms of basic attitudes. I just struggle with those who think they can make what Good Queen Bess describes as "windows into men's souls." The problem is that this can be a controlling form of religion.
Anyhow, on to "The Catholic Spirit." My first thought is that it is based on a scripture that is wrenched out of context. Jehu is hardly an advert for any form of toleration. He is best remembered for massacring the relatives of Ahab and he demonstrates not so much a "Catholic Spirit" as the mentality of a psychopath. I was always taught that to take Scriptures out of context in such a way is to do violence to the Scripture. Still, next time I do it, I can claim to be following Mr Wesley's lead.
Much of the sermon is attractive. Writing at a time of religious intolerance, Wesley seems to be ahead of his time. I think, however,that the liberty lies between different types of Churchmanship rather than within one's own denomination. Still, Wesley has much to offer us about about seeing Christianity in other parts of God's Church. He is right in pointing out that we should not go down the sort of meaningless road which says that differences of worship and faith don't matter. Such a road can easily lead to the sort of Christianity that is without passion and conviction. It is as false a road as is the demonisation of those who are different than oneself.
However, in stressing loyalty to one's own congregation, I feel that Wesley doesn't make the point that to me is at the heart of ecumenism. this point is that one can be enriched by fellowship with those of other traditions. A book that made this clear to me was David Butler's "Dying to Be One which has a survey which shows that different traditions have different strengths and weaknesses. Certainly I have been enriched by the times when I have stepped out of Methodism and been enriched by Baptists, Roman Catholics and Anglicans amongst others. Surely, whilst roots are important, so to is the chance to experience what other traditions can share with us also important.
Anyhow, none of this is intended to diminish the great respect I feel for John Wesley. Much of what is within his sermons is inspiring in today's world just as it was over two centuries ago. However, like all preachers, some of what he preached is somewhat alien to us today.
All of this brings me to a simple question. Will what I preach soon be outdated? And if as I suspect the answer is that much of what I preach will seem meaningless all too soon, how do I work at having something useful to share in ten years time or will I simply fossilise? You see, John Wesley for all that is dated, seems to stand the test of time much better than most.
Friday, March 17, 2006
I want to be a Lord
In view of recent revelations concerning wealthy donors/loan makers to the Labour Party reveiving honours, a site has been set up to help those with cash and a desire to to exchange the prefix Mr with Lord to take advantage of the exciting possibilites to enjoy the Blair Government's opportunities to experience social mobility first hand. A spare £1m is always helpful.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Probationer's Committee etc
At present life is frantic. During the past couple of weeks I have been a little below par whilst trying to get on with both work and study.
Anyhow I have the Probationers' Committee Meeting on Tuesday morning and would appreciate prayers for that meeting which hopefully will approve me for ordination in June up in the mists of Edinburgh.
Because of the above, I will probably not be blogging for the next few days. However, there are are thoughts on my mind to share. This concerns the murder/martyrdom of Tom Fox. I am convinced that the Christian Peacemaker Teams are doing God's work in a most heroic way. Most of us wouldn't have the courage to do what they do but we should have the decency to uphold them and their families in our prayers. I hope that one day the church will make clear the need to stand for peace as the only option rather than as often in the past, providing the holy water for violence.
Still it'sd back to my books and tomorrow's service preparation.