[un]conscious-stream[ing]

Psalm 144:4 Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.

Monthly Archives: August 2011

Inspire

Having been disappointed and depressed by the rioting, I’m sure that you would appreciate something inspiring and uplifting.

Not all the world is bad, mad or sad and it was incredible to see the community spirit of Manchester as hundreds of people, all ages, shapes, sizes, religions, races, colours, political views etc. got involved in the clean-up operation. Of course, it happened in all the other major cities as well, but I’m generally most concerned about my local news so I’m not going to link them all!

In the big clean-up, we have seen that there are plenty of young people that are willing to live sensibly and honestly, be good citizens and work as volunteers for the good of the whole.
Interestingly, the word volunteer comes from the Latin ‘voluntarius’, which has the root concept of ‘willingness’ or ‘of one’s free will’. In France, the word ‘volonté’ means willingness, which describes to me a level or joyful participation in an activity as opposed to having your arm twisted behind your back and even more apt is the French word for ‘gladly’ – which is ‘volontiers’.

Lastly, not wanting to be smug or blow our own trumpet, but I was really impressed by my Kids over the last few weeks of their school term.
Kate had a letter from UNICEF asking for support for their mosquito net programme to prevent malaria in Mozambique.
Jacob asked her what it was about and since finding out, he and Lily have been feverishly making Hama bead mats and selling them at school, at church, to grandma and anyone else they can find, to raise money for mosquito nets.
So far they have raised over £90 which I think is really great and as you can probably tell, I’m pretty proud of them for it.
It has also led to the most amusing quote of the year from one of Lily’s school friends.

Child: “Mum, can I have £500”
Mum: “What? Why do you want £500”
Child: “Well, Jacob has made these mats that kill flies in Africa and I want to buy some to help out!”
Mum: “What? I don’t understand.”
Child: “or £1?”

The innocence of children!

That inspired me to run my ‘Birthday for a cause‘ again and plenty of people have been really generous. I’ll be closing the ’cause’ on the 20th August so there’s still some time to give if you missed me mentioning it elsewhere.

Let’s be inspired by these young people and children to leave the world a better place than when we got here.

Riot

I had sincerely hoped I would never need to write this post. On Monday and Tuesday, I was (prematurely and inaccurately) heartened that Manchester had not fallen into the same disorder and desperate, woeful state that parts London, Birmingham and Liverpool had.

It doesn’t even make me angry any more, it makes me desperately sad.

I’ve read a lot already on this and some very insightful people have posted some apposite and informed views. (see The competing arguments used to explain the riots, Rosamicula and Kester Brewin.

It seems to me that we are all to blame in some respect. And in all the different areas of trouble, the variety of those people rioting and looting is astonishing, see the Guardian’s article on who took part.

Yesterday, listening to a BBC correspondent who had spent the day in a magistrate’s court hearing those arrested and charged from some of the London rioting, I was somewhat surprised to hear there were a lot of young professionals involved in the looting. A graphic designer, a care worker, someone who had just joined up for the army. Not all of them were from the local area, many had driven in, taken part and then, to quote the correspondent: ‘driven off to the next location to cause trouble in their Golf GTIs’.

Last night’s trouble in Manchester is also not all from some kind of ‘underclass’ there seemed to be plenty kids from ‘middle class’ families looting for all they were worth. Kids as young as 9 (estimated) were seen in gangs, separating in two, one group to divert the police while another group smashed in and looted a shop.

I think there are many, many different and complex reasons for this upheaval but it is endemic of a society that has lost it’s way.

Maybe we all need to take a step back and have a long look at ourselves.

Why are we all so interested in the news about the riots? Is it perhaps because somewhere within us there is a deep need to acknowledge that this kind of behaviour is the kind of behaviour that we are capable of? Is it that by reading and watching about it, in a voyeuristic way, we can somehow, exorcise it from ourselves? Are we somehow connecting with it for cathartic reasons, in that were it not for other people committing these acts now, we indeed could or maybe would?

At a push, maybe I could loot somewhere to provide for my family if things got really bad. And scenes like we saw last night are just a couple of rungs down the moral ladder.

In an interview with Jane Clayson of the CBS Early Show on September 13, 2001, Billy Graham’s daughter Anne Graham Lotz commented on the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 and I think that much of what she said is relevant here in the UK at this time. (I have yet to find a full transcript of the interview but you might be familiar with the paraphrasing.)

“I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has
calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?”

What we see may be the result of many things building up to a flashpoint, but the one single common factor is the fact that by and large our country has turned it’s back on the values of true Christianity. The church is as guilty as the rest and I’m surely just as culpable.

We have turned our backs on God, we have not been careful about what we have let into our hearts and we have reaped the consequences.

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
Luke 6:45

For ‘mouth speaks’ read also ‘hands do’ or ‘feet follow’.

“You are what you eat” is the other phrase that comes to mind, and the diet that we feed our hearts and minds on surely impacts the actions we end up taking.

I am reminded of a story by Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek:

A man thinks he is a grain of seed. He is promptly taken to the mental institution where the doctors eventually convince him that he is not a grain of seed but a man. But, just when he’s apparently cured – convinced that he is not a grain of seed but a man—and permitted to leave the hospital, he comes back instantly, trembling with fear: his next door neighbour has just started keeping chickens and he is afraid the chickens are going to eat him. “Come now,” says the doctor, “you know full well that you are not a grain of seed but a man.” “You and I know that,” the patient says, “but do the chickens know?”

The point is, that most of us don’t need convincing that a new car or bigger house, pair of fancy trainers, plasma tv or a diamond ring will not make us happier or more fulfilled, it’s the structure around us, the magazines and tv programmes, the society we live in and participate in that needs convincing of these things.
For me that’s what church is about, creating an alternative structure that then convinces the chickens because of the way it operates.

Churches need to be alternative communities, places that poke holes in the lies of the world and say “that’s not true, and you know it’s not true” and through our relationships, through our living together in this alternative way, we can encourage each other to live a different way to the way the world pushes us.
We need to be careful we aren’t laughing at the materialistic consumerist society, condemning those chasing it, whilst at the same time fully participating in it, because people won’t listen to us if our lives don’t match up to what we say we believe. (I preached on this earlier in the year)

Now is the time for Christians in Manchester (and London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol, etc. etc.) to kneel in prayer, for forgiveness that we haven’t yet enabled God to use us powerfully enough to prevent these dreadful things happening, for the wisdom to know what is right and the courage to do it.

We must pray that we can be seen to be instruments of God’s love. Conduits of God’s grace. Bringers of God’s restoration, renewal, and revival.

And lets, wherever we can get involved in the clean-up, not just of the cities, but also the minds and lives of the people who are so misguided and misled that they rampage through the shops looting things that perish and spoil.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Matthew 6:19-20

Hellraising

I’ve deliberately taken a long time to throw anything into the blogosphere regarding the recent furore surrounding Rob Bell’s most recent book “Love Wins(affiliate link)

I figure that firstly, I have no public voice or any kind of authority on the issues, secondly, I have no formal training in either theological college, bible school, seminary or other, thirdly, I didn’t want to get caught up in the nasty mudslinging that people calling themselves Christians seemed to be getting into and lastly, I hadn’t read the book.

My angle on the whole uproar isn’t actually on the theology or ‘correctness’ of what has been written, in fact it only really came to mind off the back of another book I haven’t read – “Erasing Hell” by Francis Chan. (affiliate link)
I listened to the Simi Valley podcast (by the same name as the book) where Francis and Preston Sprinkle (the other author), talked about the book and basically their response to Rob’s book. So I speak from this perspective.

Rob intimates in his interview with Cathleen Falsani and Francis directly says it in the podcast mentioned above that they both feel that the books they have written were prompted by God, that they felt like God laid it on their hearts to write what they wrote.

The only other thing I get from the two perspectives of the two – Rob and Francis – is that Rob does his thing and minds his own business, I’ve listened to the Mars Hill podcast for over four years and I’ve never hear Rob criticise another person, especially another Christian pastor. Francis is very careful with his words on the podcast but listening to the whole thing a few times, I can’t help but hear him say between the lines that he thinks Rob is a ‘false teacher’. I’ve seen plenty of other stuff over the web that calls Rob a ‘false teacher’ or ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’, and it seems that Francis and the other people on the podcast are effectively subscribing to the same view.

Now, how do we as ‘normal’, unschooled, non-professional Christians weigh up the two points of view?

Both men feel like God has laid their books on their hearts.
Both feel like the spirit of God has moved them to write what they have written.
Both are deeply spiritual guys who spend hours studying and praying alone and with other Christians.
Both have written books deeply embedded in scripture and with reference and knowledge of the cultural, historical and other influences on both the original bible writers and the church over the years.

But they have come to different conclusions on one issue of interpretation.

Do we go with the one we like, because it fits with what we have been taught and how we have been brought up?
Do we go with the opposing view to the one we always held because it is a majority view?
Do we assent to the less popular view because ‘when have the majority ever been right’?

It’s a tension, a bit of a pickle, the kind of tension my dear brother over at held.in.tension regularly wrestles with in his blogging.

So what are my opinions?

I don’t really know. The only thing I can say is to repeat the words of Gamaliel from Acts 5:38-39

“…in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.
But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

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