Saturday, January 23, 2010

Round Table Christians Part One

Sorry, I'm not talking about knights and chivalry here. Gloves off, I'm a Bible believing, born again Christian. I've been there, done it, got the fish sticker, but I've repented and managed to reverse the frontal labotomy. I never wanted to be normal but prefer not to be wierd.

I think the Bible is an absolutely amazing book but unfortunately some Christians take their meat pre-chewed so when they talk its not the real deal. Its second hand theology that they have accepted as new. And they sometimes retell accounts that they have not witnessed or tested in the light of what we call the Scriptures. Or they replay scenarios that have little to do with the real world. As someone has said 'tell a lie often enough and it will become the truth'. Similarly, a myth told often enough will become history.

If you believe that the earth is flat then you will also believe that if you sail into the sunset you will drop off the edge. You can demonstrate this by pushing an object along a round table until it reaches the edge and falls on the floor. This actually proves nothing but if you can focus your audience's attention onto the table then the rest is plain sailing (pun intended).

Jesus taught using parables but Christians are often prone to talking in fables and when they mix them with their flat table theology things can get very distorted. The thing is, once you have established that you will fall off the edge of the table if you wander too far, you can then build a system of values based on staying away from the edge of the earth which is an extension of the table. You can then introduce a story of a sailor that sailed over the edge and was never seen again which proves your hypothesis. Its not called circular reasoning for nothing.

History is littered with shipwrecked theologies based on stuff like demons and end times. They are either self affirming or so far fetched that reason cannot penetrate the twisted and convoluted logic. But there are many more Christian fables that dress up as truth, so bound in Christian tradition and claiming Biblical justification that its very difficult to untangle them. If you are interested in exploring this further or just curious as to what I will say next, watch this space...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mountains and Mole Hills

Everyone knows the saying about making mountains out of mole hills. Its all about keeping things in proportion, whether its refusing to see an innocent remark as a slanderous insult or accepting that a broken finger nail isn't life threatening. But the saying can only really apply to yourself. Just because you can't see someone else's mountain, it doesn't mean its not there.

You might cut yourself and say "I'll survive" but if you suffer from haemophilia any cut is potentially life threatening. You might say to someone "cheer up, it might never happen" but if the bottom has fallen out of their world, it already has. And like many sayings its 'a' truth but not 'the' truth. In other words its OK as far as it goes. Not only do we overestimate the scope of our wisdom we also underestimate our tendency to pigeon hole. Someone will say "boys will be boys" as a way of dismissing laddish behaviour but when that behaviour becomes antisocial its not acceptable. And what that person has in mind when they say this may be widely different from the picture that's conjured up in yours; it can be quite subjective and narrow.

When we see the suffering of the people of Haiti it puts our problems into perspective. A creaky floor board is just an annoyance; the 15 minute wait at the post office is a minor inconvenience. And when we compare what we have to what they have its pretty staggering. But here there is a danger over simplification and pigeon holing. We can be so bowled over with sympathy that all we see are the differences between their troubles and ours; their wealth and ours.

We all have the gift of life but when that is all you have it can seem much more precious. For all your wealth, if you don't value your life, what you have is worthless. And which is worse: a husband losing his wife to an earthquake or a mother losing her son to a hit and run?
If there is good to come from this disaster it won't be that we suddenly get a conscience, it will be that we will not forget that there are real people on that island, that we are more similar than we are different, that wealth is relative and that we need to flatten our mountains and mole hills and anything else that separates us.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ask How - The Why's Can Wait

The recent earthquake in Haiti asks many questions, not least of which is 'how can I help?' The truth is: there is little most of us can do to alleviate the suffering today, tomorrow or even in the coming weeks. The food, fresh water and other aid has already been paid for. Much of it is already on the Island waiting to be dispatched and the workers with the necessary skills are queuing up to do their bit. Having said that I would in no way discourage giving because the suffering will go on long after the media has found another crisis to report (which is what the media does, no criticism there). But the burning question on everyone's mind is: How did it happen and why?

Of course the movement of the tectonic plates was the main event, and being so close to the surface it had a devastating effect. However the terrible loss of life and consequential suffering would have been lessened significantly if the buildings had been constructed to any sort of standard. Rationally you could say that it was the combination of an unfortunate event and human failure, be it corruption, neglect or injustice. But there is still a deeper question.

If there is a God how could he allow this to happen? To ask this question in order to demonstrate that there is no God would be a little pointless. If you want to shake your fist at God you must either allow him to answer or concede that the supreme ruler is capricious and uncaring. This is worse than pointless, it is hopeless. Without hope we are doomed. Our only hope is that there is a God out there who cares, who has grace enough to hear our cries and accept our unbelief when hope flies in the face of all that our senses tell us. If we can have some scrap of an explanation, just enough to know that we are not simply pawns on a soulless chess board, we will find some sense in this cruel and confusing world.

Of course you could always ask the tele-evangelist Pat Robertson what his take is on this disaster. Apparently its down to the devil because the Haitians made a pact with him in 1804 in order to win their independence from their European slave masters. Honest. That's so simple and neat and leaves God off the hook. Thanks Pat.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Who is Forgiven Most, Loves Most

Did you ever feign illness as a child to get the attention one of your siblings got? Do you remember any feeling of joy or comfort or is the only abiding memory that you feigned illness? Its often said of an experience "it's like hitting your head against a brick wall, its great when it stops." But if you were just pretending you really can't say that with any conviction.

I can't claim personal experience but I am told that while child birth is excruciating, as soon as the baby pops out, the pain, and even the memory of the pain, goes. What a reward - all the joy and none of the pain. A lovers tiff often ends with rewards that more than justify the initial upset. Some of our fondest memories are of times when we suffered through loss, pain or illness and received love and care from someone close to us. Its hard to imagine a child having all the pain and none of the reward.

I wrote a song called 'The Beauty of Grace'. The message is that God takes no delight in punishing us but positively seeks to bless us. There is no flip side but there is a tough edge. Grace is not the Christmas present that we don't need or a kiss on the knee that we didn't bump. God doesn't comfort me when Jack gets the attention I wanted or Jill looks fantastic in the jeans you couldn't get past your knees.

Grace is the spoonful of sugar when the medicine made you cry. I love the name of my blog. We all need a sweet spoonful of dreams when reality is a bit of a nightmare.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Where the Heart is

I've been to Blackpool Pleasure Beach 2 or 3 times and as well as other rides I've been on Infusion and Pepsi Max. Infusion is a suspended monorail. You sit in a seat with your feet dangling but your torso is held in a yoke that locks around your waist. The main feature on Infusion is the corkscrew which tosses you round and its not gentle. Pepsi Max is more traditional roller coaster but it is very high and the initial drop is near vertical (not for the faint-hearted). Your feet are in the car and you are securely held by a yoke

Somehow, on Infusion you feel more secure because you can sense that you are being held around your shoulders and you feel attached to the vehicle by your upper body. On Pepsi Max you don't get that sense of security because its your feet that feel secure. On New Year's Eve I felt quite insecure riding into 2010, not because I couldn't call on people who cared for me but because the security I longed for wasn't there. It struck me that security is not about what you know but how you feel.

When you know where your heart will be at the ride's end you don't care that your head rattles or your feet swing but nothing can assuage the fear when your heart feels exposed. You just have to endure and hope that your heart will hold out till you stop. Unfortunately you can't always enjoy the ride, sometimes you just have to trust you will get to your destination in one piece.