thoughts on faith, justice, politics and philosophy

Month: October 2014

All Hallows’ Eve

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Tonight we remember
those who came before
and left.

Those who felt assurance
and those who felt
none at all.

There has to be a hope
a reason for this.

Have you abandoned us?
Are you there?
Were you?

Sometimes I’m sure
other times I”m not
Today? No.

Tonight it is dark
and all I see is evil

The nights draw in
The days grow shorter
And I wait.

Beyond the fireworks
then the presents
and the hype.

Beyond Mammon’s tricks
and distractions
you arrive.

The memory of hope
But weeks away

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Left vs Right and the Third Way

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I recently caught up with a friend who is living and working in China. They were telling me about how there has been a law passed recently that forces people to visit their parents on a regular basis. The reason for the law? People of younger generations are less and less inclined to care for the welfare of their elderly relatives, and people are becoming increasingly isolated and depressed.

China’s solution? Legislate to force people to stay in communication with their relatives. A fairly typical Totalitarian (and stereotypically left-wing) response to a crisis: legislate, enforce, resolve. Except that it doesn’t really work, does it? We know that when someone is forced to do something, that doesn’t mean they want to do it. They will do it out of obligation or duty, and ultimately out of fear of the consequences of not doing so – especially in a totalitarian regime.

This reminds me to an extent of the Old Testament law. There was a LOT of legislation, a lot of very specific sub clauses to a lot of different laws. So perhaps there is an alternative?

In our country, we have the same problem of isolation and loneliness, but we trust that the individual has the right and responsibility to do what they want and will ultimately choose to love their family well. We provide basic support for those who are alone, but we do not go out of our way to shift people’s thinking. That’s because we do not live within a society where we are controlled or manipulated on anywhere near the same level.

… which reminds me of Christianity. We’re able to do what we want, how we want, when we want. In the words of Paul “everything is permissible”. But, not everything is beneficial. There are dangers to both approaches – legislating means love cannot be a part of it, and leaving things to happen naturally often means love is left out due to a lack of care, incentive, or ultimately selfishness.

There is a third way: the way of Christ himself. Christ came to earth with intention, he laid down some basic principles (Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself) which were enough to get at the ethos of the law. He calls us not to remain as we are – selfish, unyielding and egocentric. He calls us to remember the other before we remember ourselves. He calls us into a change of heart, of attitude and of lifestyle.

And of course we know that if we follow this path, we will see a prosperous society. When we look at “healthy” or “inspiring” churches or faith communities – we see a tight-knit society which values young and old alike. That’s how we ensure that the elderly among us are looked after and loved. And it’s how we can begin to solve the other ills in our society, too.


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Phoenix Christianity

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The legend of the Phoenix has it that there is a creature who lives for a thousand years. Once its lifespan is complete, it builds its own funeral pyre, and throws itself into the flames. As it dies, it is reborn anew, and rises from the ashes to live another 1000 years.

What has that got to do with Christianity? For me, it is a fantastic analogy of my faith journey over the last 3 years. It feels as though I have been a Christian forever. As far as forever is concerned, for me – all 26 years of it – that is true. Forever can feel like 1000 years, even when it is only as short as 26!

About 4 years ago I began to seriously question the validity of my own faith. I began to tear out whole sections of my beliefs and throw them on to the fire. I watched as they burned. One by one I threw away my opposition to homosexuality and universalism, my frameworks of Evangelicalism, charismatic worship and so on.

As this process continued I proceeded to become more and more negative, more and more cynical, more and more skeptical of every possible aspect of my faith. Eventually, I found myself left with nothing. Pyrotheology had burnt my faith to ashes.

Yet here I find myself, once again prepared to affirm faith in God – even though I am not yet totally sure who or what God is, I believe that God is real, present and good. I am looking forward to discovering what else I can piece together over the coming years. Like a Phoenix, my faith is rising again to life from the flames.

There are two observations I can make about this: the first is that the Phoenix is a legend – an impossibility. An animal cannot be born of fire. We know that. Yet this is where I have found faith – out of having absolutely nothing left. I have explored the darkness and found that even in the depths of depression and nothingness, there is something, somehow holding me back from taking a final and permanent ‘leap of unfaith’.

The second observation is that my newly forming faith won’t last forever – it will last for a time, and then it will be replaced by something else. Perhaps the process will not be as painful, nor the changes so tangible, but there will be a renewal nonetheless into something different again. It is good to be at peace with this.

Ultimately, I am glad of the experience. Having nothing but ashes from which to build has meant that I have had to go beyond my experiences, beyond my world and explore the silence, the stories of others, and craft out new ideas and new ways of seeing things. The process has been incredibly rewarding. And finally, I find my cynicism beginning to subside. I can begin to believe again in a world which is worth inhabiting well.


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