Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Satan's Truck

I'm going to shout
I'm going to cry
I'm going to pout
I'm telling you why
Satan's truck is coming to town

He's making a list
He's checking it for
The kids who are rich
The kids who are poor
 Satan's truck is coming to town

He haunts you when you're sleeping
He taunts when you're awake
Don't matter if you're bad or good
Its kerching for goodness sake 

I'm going to shout
I'm going to cry
I'm going to pout
I'm telling you why
Satan's truck is coming to town

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Pray with Standing Rock



Standing Rock is where Native American Water Protectors stand between the greed and recklessness of big oil and the future of our planet. The American government needs to know that the world sees the ongoing injustice towards Native Americans, the state sanctioned terrorism perpetrated by law enforcement and its utter disregard for the health and wellbeing of its citizens.

However, in keeping with the principles of the Water Protectors we stand, not a aggressors but as protectors. Our prayer vigil looks for love and peace to win over hatred, greed and violence.
I am planning a vigil on the Millenium Bridge in Lancaster at 9pm on 26 November. A silent prayer for the Water Protectors and the future of our planet. I propose we gather just before 9pm, pray in silence for 2 minutes and then simply communicate with each other.

This event has a spiritual element but is not religious. It is not promoting any religion, god or creed. If you are supporting another event in the city you can always turn up at 9 and go at 2 minutes past.
Or you can pray wherever you might be at that time. If you do so it might be nice to share your thoughts on the Facebook Page
 

The following excerpt is taken from the MiniPlanet.




The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation was originally established as part of the Great Sioux Reservation under Article 2 of the Treaty of Fort Laramie of April 29, 1868. In 1877, the U.S. government initiated the still ongoing process of chipping away and dividing the land it had granted to the people of the Lakota and Dakota nations, with significant reductions taking place in 1889 and then again during the 1950s and 1960s, when the Army Corps of Engineers built five large dams along the Missouri River, uprooting villages and sinking 200,000 acres of land below water.

When the Corps of Engineers returned to Standing Rock in 2015, it was to assess whether or not it should approve a path for the Dakota Access Pipeline across the Missouri River, a project that would involve construction on some of the land that had been stripped from the Sioux, who still regard it as sacred — although, that fact seems to have been ignored, maybe even intentionally, in the assessment.

Because the Corps neglected to consult the Standing Rock Sioux, as it was required to do under the National Historic Preservation Act (Section 106), the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Interior, and the American Council on Historic Preservation all criticized the assessment, but the project was eventually approved. The decision was a major victory for Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas-based parent company of Dakota Access LLC, which estimates the pipeline will bring $156 million in sales and income taxes to state and local governments and create thousands of temporary jobs.

For the Standing Rock Sioux, the Dakota Access project poses two immediate threats. First, the pipeline would run beneath Lake Oahe, the reservoir that provides drinking water to the people of Standing Rock. (An earlier route that avoided native lands was ruled out in part because it posed a danger to drinking water.) Second, according to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, the building of the pipeline would destroy the sacred spots and burial grounds that were overlooked in the Corps’ assessment. But as the protests have intensified, and more outsiders, including members of more than 200 Native American tribes from across North America, have become involved, Standing Rock has, for some, come to represent something much bigger than a struggle between a disenfranchised people and a government-backed, billion-dollar corporation. It’s a battle to save humanity from itself.

“Mother Earth’s axis is off and it’s never going back,” says Phyllis Young, a Sioux tribal elder. “And we have to help keep it in balance for as long as we can. I am a mother and a grandmother. Those are my credentials to ensure a future with clean drinking water — a future of human dignity, human rights, and human survival.”

Friday, November 18, 2016

Forever Arms

Hold me in arms that trust

Beyond the trust that I deserve

Beyond the trust that I have earned

Beyond the fear that lies dead deep

The dark primaeval fear of death

Lay cold in quiet familiar grave

 

Show me scenes of wanton hate

Callous acts of naked spite

Flaunted in religious garb

With glee that would have Satan blush

Christ still warm nailed to his cross

And in his name poor wretches crushed

 

I will beat the wailing wall

Until my hands are torn and scarred

And shame the lying bastards

Who pimp the Holocaust for what?

Excuse their callous disregard

For life they think so lightly of

 

Christians, Jews and Muslims all

Fanatical, their virtues strained

Rebuke us for our moral filth

While we show flesh and choose our mates

They scratch and spit at flesh and bone

And whore their faith for pen and ink

 

Read me a Psalm, I'll share your Eid

I'll tabernacle for a while

Sustain me with your words of hope

Instead of laws that I must break

So I must beg your moral god

and owe a debt I cannot pay

 

Let me drink till I am drunk

I'll not forget but for a while

I'll know the truth without the pain

And know my heart without the shame

I'll find some respite in that haze

And pay a price that's mine to pay

 

Hold me and speak my name

I sometimes wonder at my state

It seems that words define my soul

Yet I know better of it

Be the ferry to my island

The mainland to my strait

 

I cannot share my humanity

with racists, murderers and moralisers

without the cleansing of your love

Save me from my ghosts

Of future, past and present

in forever arms

 

© Chris Price 2015

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Neoliberalism Must Die

I was born into an age where a slap on a woman's bottom was neither condoned nor condemned, where there was no such thing as a chair person. We laughed with black and Irish comedians who weren't just self deprecating, they were perpetuating the racism we now find totally unacceptable. Homosexuality was illegal. Equal pay wasn't even a policy, never mind a reality. But we got free health care and there was an extensive stock of council housing. There were soup kitchens for down and outs but no food banks for working families. We were still celebrating our victory over Nazi Germany, the civil rights movement was cutting its teeth and the mighty British Empire was being dismantled.

There wasn't a great deal of money around but there was hope. There were real opportunities for working class people (albeit mainly for white, heterosexual men) and the wealthy and successful had no choice but to feed back into the economy. The post war economic model not only gave rise to unprecedented wealth across the nation, it provided a seed bed for social reform. The great struggles of the 19th Century were finally bearing fruit.

My predominant memories of news broadcasts of the time were the anti-Vietnam protests. All those students who should have been getting on with their studies were out on the streets of London, clashing with police and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Of course I didn't realise how significant this was with Pete Seeger singing "We Shall Overcome" over in the US and the Beatles telling us that all we need is love. The old paradigm of white privilege and unchallenged respect for the establishment was being exposed for what it was as democracy took hold.

But as we were enjoying the spring of a new era, the establishment were biding their time. Our mere 2 decades of Keynesian prosperity under Clement Attlee and FDR would quickly give way to the monetarism of Thatcher and Reagan. The lie of trickle down economics (its no myth) saw all the wealth generated by the 98% trickle up to the 2% and stay there. Through the 80's and 90's we were awash with money but little did we appreciate how we'd mortgaged the wealth that was ours to reinvest. Instead of being satisfied with our daily bread we bought the cake. We could have had the social reform along with economic prosperity but now are looking to loose both.

The nightmare US election ended up as a contest between the [liberal] establishment that has cheated us out of the wealth we created and the [fascist] beast of self interest. It was a choice between the bad and the ugly and we got the ugly. We know who the casualties will be. It will be every section of society that has gained ground over the last century as the powerful play out their Olympian chess game, regardless of who the players are. They don't care whether its Trump or Clinton - either will do.

While sexism, racism and all manner of ugliness has found a 'respectable' stage over the last two years, these are the pawns. Only behind the rooks of economic stability and bishops of reason can our freedoms and liberties march forward. In Trumpland freedom means being able to say what you want and discriminate against who you want with impunity. But what was the alternative?

The North Dakota Access Pipeline is near completion and despite the UN being on the ground; despite the brutality of the police against peaceful protectors being seen by the world; despite the oil company publicly declaring they will flout the law, the current President is sitting on his hands. The Bundys, who effectively declared war on the USA, walk free while Native Americans are being shot, tear gassed, falsely imprisoned and criminalised for camping on land that is legally theirs. Hillary Clinton is cut from the same cloth as Obama. There will be more Flints and North Dakotas while these corporate lackeys remain in power.

We need to call Trump what he is: a fascist, bigoted sexual predator and con man who should be behind bars, not in the Whitehouse. The world should not recognise him as President, as the USA has so many times not recognised democratically elected governments and planted fascist murderers like Pinochet in their stead. We need to condemn his misogyny, racism and fear mongering but at the same time understand that the big players who brought about this disaster simply have new trolls to do their bidding.

Bringing Trump down and putting a woman in the Whitehouse will just paper over the cracks. Just like Ghandi broke the will of the great British Empire and Martin Luther King confronted the American establishment we need to demand real change and not settle for compromise. We want to see more incremental positive change like we have seen over the last 100 years but we need a political climate in which our liberties can thrive. Trump has got to go but so has big money in politics. Wall Street and the multinationals need re-regulating, the media moguls need to be made irrelevant.

We have our own monsters in the UK but we have a common purpose with our friends across the pond. Its time for neoliberalism to crawl back under its grubby stone.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Lancaster Music Festival event


I'm Fine

I had a heart for dreams
A head for heights
Not risk averse
Not one for scripts
Or destinations life predicts

But with no desire to wake
Afraid to fall
Or to rehearse
Fluffing every line
Eyes on the map, missing every sign

Being untrained and unprepared
I hit the rocks
And what is worse
I could not own
Whatever I'd defused or I had blown

I was subdued by guilt
Who knows what for
A petrifying curse
Where every corner hides a threat
Round which no expectation might be met

Its hard to change
Or shed a skin
Forsake the nurse
Detach the safety line
Append no 'but' when I reluctantly declare "I'm fine"

© Chris Price 2016

Horns and Islands

Smaller now the island seems
The refuge, once, of hopes and dreams
Is just a pile of bricks and beams
Where doorways in are doorways out
And certainties give way to doubt
While reservoirs defer to drought

The paper trail has washed away
The oracles have much to say
But not pertaining to today
The path that led us hence is clear
But where we are to go from here
Needs wisdom that we must revere

But we revere the seers no more
Nor trust the mantle that they wore
Our hope is not the hope of lore
The orators in birthday suits
Sew leaves of figs but bear no fruits
We'll beat our drums, not heed their flutes

We'll board a crusty ship of fools
Defy the odds and break the rules
With hasty plans and makeshift tools
We'll chart a course around the horn
Where bows are broke and sheets are torn
Where futures are destroyed and born

© Chris Price 2016

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Jesus Problem

Bill O'Reilly's Faux News invention of the War on Christmas typifies the evangelical obsession with a Jesus narrative divorced from the doctrinal and ethical messages behind the Nativity. The greeting of 'Happy Holiday' in no way threatens the church, the Christian faith or Jesus himself because Advent borrows nothing from our cultural celebration of Christmas. Advent itself has meaning beyond the birth of Jesus.

I won't bore you with yet another reminder of the origins of, or fallacies surrounding, Christmas, simply to say that the church exploits the Christmas season as much as John Lewis and Coca Cola. However much we might deplore the nauseating commercialism engulfing Christmas, its a buyers market. By definition, consumerism is a consumer disease rather than a marketing epidemic. The church itself has had to learn that in order to engage with its potential pew dwellers it must speak the common language, much like New Testament writers who wrote in Koine [common] Greek rather than Aramaic or any other obscure language like Latin. Its a matter of supply and demand.

If Bill is going to criticise anyone for ignoring Christmas he should start with the Gospel writers Mark and John who made no mention of Jesus birth at all. John really doesn't care because it adds nothing to his message while Matthew and Luke tell different stories, neither of which tally with the beloved nativity scene that we are familiar with. Its hardly any surprise that a Fox presenter would not check his sources. More profoundly, though, he's probably oblivious to the real message of Jesus' incarnation which is that God desired to live among us and as one of us. 'Us' being the disenfranchised, despised, occupied and homeless as well as the comfortable.

The message of the incarnation is one of identity, not with a people group or a religion but with the human condition in all its glory and depravity. Muslims, on the whole, are more than happy to share in the Christmas celebrations. Even atheists quote Jesus when his words align with their ethos. In stark contrast are the Christians who insist on those with other beliefs paying lip service to a name they lazily curse the rest of the year round. You can't take Christ out of Christmas simply by supplanting another holiday greeting but you can take Jesus out of Christianity by replacing the Jesus of the Gospels with a misogynistic, gun possessing, Muslim hating parody.

Rather than Jesus being the answer (as we are told), Jesus is the moderator of the question. Read the Gospels and see how often Jesus attacks the validity of the question or leaves the enquirer with another question. He drove the authorities mad because he wouldn't give them the answer they wanted but left them with questions they dared not answer. If you're looking for a happy Christmas, Jesus isn't the solution - he's the problem. He was a problem for Herod, he was a problem for the Jewish authorities. He didn't exactly make Joseph and Mary's relationship simple or easy, being conceived out of wedlock.

Christmas is a problem. Its a marketplace that the church must compete in because it no longer has a monopoly. Its a time of family strife and marriage breakdown. Its a time of pressure to get into pointless debt, a time of guilt and peer pressure. Its a time that the lonely and heartbroken dread. Where is Christ in this Christmas? He's not on a card, in a carol or a cheery greeting. If you truly believe in the incarnation you'll know he's not in the sweet nativity scene, he's wherever humanity is most messy, destructive and dangerous. He's rotting in Calais, surviving in refugee camps, waiting in line for a bowl of soup.

When the Queen gives her dreary speech with the enthusiasm of a wino at a kids party, he's challenging her privileged lifestyle. When the kids get fractious because they are overwhelmed by the mountain of gifts, he's watching a family of refugees clinging to the gift of life. The problem isn't the guilt trip - no, that's a privilege in itself. The problem is much more universal. There's a story of a monk whose only possession was a pencil. His problem was that despite his vow of poverty he'd never dealt with his possessiveness. He guarded his pencil as if it were his life. Jesus told a rich young man to give up all he had. Not because he was rich but because he was possessive of his wealth. Jesus wants the heart of the monk and the rich man alike.

Jesus said that your heart is where your treasure is. So if your motivation is money you heart will be invested in the making of it. But its equally true that you will invest in your religion if that's where your heart is. But Jesus said that our hearts should be for the kingdom of heaven which is neither a religion, a place nor a destination, its a way of life that is summed up in Jesus' sermon on the mount. Its a life free from greed, hate and enmity, full of love, peace and honest self reflection. There is no room in this kingdom for the possession even of hearts and minds or the preservation of religious dogma.

The cares of this world are tied up with our possessions, material or otherwise. The greatest gifts we can receive are those we cannot hoard or barter with. When we invest everything in what we eat, drink, wear or drive, in our own selfish interests, in our prejudices and fears – we take Christ out of Christmas. When we strive to love, to care, to trust, to understand and to sacrifice we invite Jesus back. Jesus becomes a thorn when we choose convenience before truth, comfort before empathy and security before trust. He is no friend to the bigot and the war monger.

John tells us that Jesus became our neighbour. Jesus told us that the world is our neighbour.

John tells us that we cannot claim to love God and hate our brother. Jesus said that if you cannot forgive your brother then God cannot forgive you.

"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests."

On whom does God's favour rest?
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”


I should add that Jesus claimed to be the "way the truth and the life" and promised eternal life to those who place their faith him. But he demanded that those who claimed to follow him must show the fruits of that faith. Faith without works is dead.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Past Perfect

We often use the word 'perfect'. We can have a perfect day, a perfect meal or a perfect score. But what if your experience can be improved upon? Is anything truly perfect? If Jesus was the perfect sacrifice what does that mean? And how are we to define that 'perfection' perfectly?

When images of Holy Week stirred negative feelings within me I had to give it some serious thought. I've never been enthusiastic about religious festivals and Easter never excited me much. Having said that I don't really register anniversaries emotionally - I find its random incidents that trigger memories and take me back to experiences rather than dates. Jesus isn't going to die on Friday or rise on Sunday and I can't generate the enthusiasm that I somehow feel this commemoration should.

But there's much more to this than simply feeling a little disconnected from the festivities. Christians have been hitting the headlines recently for all the wrong reasons and I hope I can claim a little justification for my negativity; I can quote the Bible like the best. In the book of Amos God declares, "I despise your religious feasts, I cannot stand your assemblies … I will not listen to your music. But let justice roll like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream".

I'm thinking of the Ashers bakery, supported by the Christian Institute who, to me, have an over-zealous and narrow minded concept of justice. I have no problem with believing marriage is exclusively heterosexual and we've been taught in church that same sex is sinful. But there is a world of difference between staying true to your beliefs and discriminating against others who don't hold to your convictions. Besides, the issue of same sex marriage gets little more than a few passing mentions in the Bible so how does it become a defining principle?

Further afield a law has just been passed in Indiana that allows discrimination of LGBT people provided its on religious grounds. Yesterday I read about how Christians had (about a year ago) abandoned World Vision child sponsorship overnight to the tune of around $8 million only because World Vision had admitted to employing those in same sex marriages. Because so much of World Vision's backing comes from conservative Evangelicals it decided to back peddle immediately which I found even more disappointing.

And its more than the LGBT issue. I feel a little like Elijah who complained that there were none left in Israel who hadn't bowed the knee to the Baals. Where are the Christians who hold fast to the Apostle's Creed without being spiritually abusive, bigoted, judgemental or exclusive? Where are they who can claim Jesus as Lord without making it sound jingoistic? Stepping off my holier than thou pedestal I'll get to my main point.

My reading of the Bible has evolved over the years and I may well have slipped into that pit of heresy and sedition occupied by liberals. I know that David didn't write all the Psalms attributed to him, I no longer believe the world was created in 6 days and if, as has been shown, the King James Bible contains errors, we have to be cautious about declaring every apostrophe to be the word of God. I understand that the Bible must be understood in context but have increasingly found this to be less than satisfying in every case.

One such problem arises when the Bible appears to condone Israel annihilating indigenous communities for what were essentially religious reasons. The New Testament seems more progressive yet appears to condone slavery even when the slave owner is a Christian. Context and history can mitigate the damage to a certain extent but I wonder if the Christian doth protest too much. I'm wondering if the Christian concepts of an inerrant Bible and a perfect God are fundamentally flawed. "Heresy" they cry but if you know your church history you will be aware that heresy is grist to the mill of truth.

Unlike toxic heresies like Zionism, the "Rapture" and the "Word of Faith" my heresy is based on orthodox Christian belief and accepted scholarship. While the Apostle Paul says all scripture is God breathed we know that each book has a human author with their own distinctive approach. I know at least one story in Genesis that is based solely on superstition and many of the numbers in the book of the same name just don't add up. The last few paragraphs of Mark's Gospel are disputed and the story of the woman caught in adultery was considered too scandalous to be included in the earliest canon. There are many other reasons why putting all your eggs in the biblical basket might be less than prudent but don't draw any conclusions yet. What of Jesus' perfection?

It has been said that the only man made things in heaven are the wounds in Jesus' hands and feet. Does that not mean we have a mutilated, hence less than perfect, Jesus in heaven? In the book of Hebrews we are told that he was made perfect in suffering. Does that mean he was 99% perfect right up to the cross? Was Jesus never told off as a child and, if he was a carpenter, how would he make perfect objects? The real issue was that he was the perfect sacrifice, more perfect than the lambs who were sacrificed under the old covenant. 10 out of 10 is a perfect score even if the performance was less than perfect in other regards.

One of the most powerful statements in the Bible is that man was made in God's image. One extension of this is that we 'have the mind of God'. We are all keenly aware of how the Disneyfied world of beauty and harmony grates. We crave the imperfect hero with whom we can identify instead of the Teflon phoney who mostly turns out to be a hypocrite and scoundrel in the end. The definition of our perfect hero does not include the proviso that he/she does nothing wrong. Rather than putting this down to us living in a perfect world maybe we are getting a glimpse of God's perspective.

To be holy literally means to be 'set apart', i.e. to be entirely different and dissociated rather than strictly perfect. Presumably the angels are perfect but they are not holy like God. So if we have the mind of a God who would send his son to walk the sewer of human experience and be mutilated in the process would it be that surprising if we were collaborating in a less than 'perfect' revelation? When seeing God and his Word as holy and perfect is there a danger of us creating God in an image of perfection that we have defined imperfectly?

We are generally suspicious of those who appear to have no faults but trust those who are flawed yet appear honest and transparent. If the Bible does perhaps sometimes get its facts wrong, discriminate and condone what seems ethically unacceptable it is also honest about its failings. It doesn't tell only one side of the story and when the God Man appears it becomes electrifying. If it were a crystal ball, polished to perfection we would be blinded by its reflected light. Instead Jesus walks into a rough and flawed landscape, rich in history and contradiction, predicted yet profoundly confusing, pregnant with hope both deferred and realised.

The Old Testament prophets lambasted the Jewish priests for following rituals to the letter and completely missing the point. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for the same. When Jesus declared that even looking at a woman lustfully meant you'd committed adultery, he was letting the self-righteous know they were not off the hook rather than adding more rules. In the Apostle John's first letter he says that "perfect love drives out fear". Jesus gave us only two commandments - to love God with everything we have and to love our neighbours as ourselves, we weren't commanded to love the faith or love perfection.

Jesus' plan wasn't that we would be lawless or excuse anything because love was the answer. Neither are we to strive to be perfect (we all know where that leads). Rather we are to be constrained by a love for God that is measured by our love for others. Its not through a book or a set of rules that we will find perfection, its through love.