Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Diversity, disabilities and the church

Having become a Christian within evangelical, British, charismatic Christianity there are a number of things that I have never been prepared for when the church is trying to navigate itself within the reality of modern life.

Before I was a Christian I encountered these things and simply got on with life, but once I had become a follower of Jesus these things were either pushed to one side and ignored, or a wholly inappropriate response was given to these events and realities.

An obvious one was sex.  It continues to be something the church gets itself tangled in knots over.  Before I was a Christian I had sex and didn't even think about it and the consequences.  Once I committed my life to God I realised that I needed to be transformed in my attitude to woman and sex.  Yet honesty, openness and good advise were lacking.

Another one was woman.  Before I was a Christian woman were objects of desire and second class in my eyes.  I became a Christian and encountered all kinds of mixed messages.  I heard the church saying abusive things like woman are equals but couldn't be in leadership.



I saw the church practising bad attitudes saying woman could be in leadership but then were never preaching or obviously in leadership.  So I wasn't sure what was going on.

And then there is people with disabilities.

You see in many evangelical charismatic churches there is the belief that God will physically heal.  And I go with that belief having seen God physically heal people in the most remarkable ways.

Yet God does not always heal.  And actually there are many instances where the word 'healing' is deeply unhelpful and wrong.  Because some people do not need to be healed because they are who they are and don't need to be physically changed.

So when someone who cannot walk, talk or move their limbs comes into the life of the church we struggle to know what to do, think or say.

Yet without such people within the life of the church we miss out on the diversity of humanity and the insight into who God is through them.  They reveal to us something new, challenging and beautiful about the Crucified God.  And so the church needs people of all backgrounds and diversity in order that we can truly and fully be the church.



I hate churches where everyone looks the same.  You have this homogenous looking group where people say the same thing, look the same and act the same.



Local church needs people of all ages.  The older have wisdom, have seen it all before and are able to be a voice of beauty.  The young have the enthusiasm, insight of modern culture and gifts that surprise us.  All the ages in between bring something unique, special and needed.  When we are lacking in a generation the local church will struggle and suffer because we do not have the beauty of diversity.

The local church also needs all kinds of different people from all kinds of backgrounds.  We all bring something different and a perspective that reveals something fresh of who we are, what the world is like, and who God is.

I hope and pray we can all be involved in churches that have people who are so different to us that we all challenge each other, learn from each other and grow together in love for God and love for each other.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Modern Warfare

The Modern Warfare games are the biggest selling computer games of all time.

MW3 set a new record for most copies of a game sold in the first 24 hours of its release.

People love the game.

Without doubt it has sold so many because people love it. They love the way the game looks, plays and makes them feel. So its popularity is in one sense very superficial. And the game developers have been able to make maximum gains by the way they have advertised it, making sure they get people to buy it.

But I think there are other reasons why it is so popular.

It taps into a part of western human psyche.

One part of that is violence.

We love violence in the West. It comes from a love of power, coercion and manipulation. Violence is the way we control. And we believe that violence is actually the only real way that we can deal with the problems of the world. We use terms like 'just war' and 'war on terror' and 'justice' to justify our violent nature in the West. We think that violence is the best way to deal with evil. Violence is not simply physical, it is also a mental and spiritual problem.

Films, tv and video games all use violence as the main way to deal with the bad guy.

This does worry me. The use of violence will quite simply bring more violence. And if our thinking is so filled with violence as the best way, then the road ahead looks bleak.

Another part that makes MW so popular is our desire to live forever.

We are numb to death and constantly fight to stay alive, almost as if we believe that death is not actually going to happen.

MW puts us in a fantasy world where we are in control of our lives and destiny. It puts us in power. It means that we could live forever. And all of this made possible through our imagination in a game.

We don't want to believe we will actually die, so games like MW helps us pursue and believe this.


We need to be a people of greater imagination. We need to live in the new reality that violence, power and immortality are not our truth and not our reality. We need to believe in alternative ways to live in this world.

As we approach Christmas we are confronted with a God who does not use violence to heal the world, but comes to the world in total vulnerability in order that he would transform it.

Are we willing to give up all our desire to violence and live a new reality?

Monday, 7 November 2011

Punishment

Punishment.

It is a term Christians have lost the meaning to and have allowed society to dictate to sections of the Church what it means.

It seems that a lot of people understand punishment to be something to do with breaking the law.

You break the rules and you are punished.

Some within the church have argued this in regard to God and the death of Jesus.

You broke God's law and so deserve to be punished, but Jesus' death means that he took the punishment etc etc.


If punishment was about us breaking the law, then God would be under our control.  Think about it.  If God had to punish us for breaking the law, then we could control God.  We could purposely break the law in order that God would have to punish us, thereby making us the ones who controlled what God did.

That can't be right...

So Christians need to think again about what punishment is and what that looks like within the life of the church.

To begin with punishment is not something done by God to us because we are 'rule breakers'.

It is not that we are not punished for our sins but that sin IS our punishment.  Punishment therefore is always self-inflicted.

The church therefore needs to help the world see where their punishment stems from and help them move into a new reality.

Beginning thoughts of an ongoing reflection...

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Remember 11.11





I've seen a few of these comments flying around on the internet, much as they did last year:


'SENDING STAFF HOME FOR WEARING A POPPY! IF IT WASN'T FOR THE MEN AND WOMEN OUT THERE AND THE MEN AND WOMEN LOST, YOU WOULDN'T BE SITTING IN YOUR POXY SHOP. YOU'RE PURE DIRT. SET THIS AS YOUR STATUS IF YOU SUPPORT OUR TROOPS. WEAR YOUR POPPY WITH PRIDE!'




Over the next couple of weeks as we get closer to 11.11 these kind of messages will be all over Facebook.


There will be messages against shops for not allowing staff to wear a poppy.  There will be messages against young people for lack of respect over memorial sites.  There will be messages against Islamic extremists for burning poppies in the street.


I believe it is right to honour those who have given their lives in war.  It is right to remember them and to show our respect to their memory, to show our respect to their loved ones, and to show our respect to those who are currently away fighting.  
I have tried to explain to Grace about the two World Wars and give her an idea and understanding of Remembrance Day.


11.11 must be a day that we uphold and continue to be a part of.


Yet the more I think about it and study it, the more I am becoming a pacifist. 


My concern however is that 11.11 will be made a mockery by US if we respond in hate and violence to those who do not care about 11.11 or who want to offend with their actions over 11.11.


The more that messages like the one above are shared on Facebook and the like, the more fear of the other and hatred of the other will be instilled in the hearts and the minds of society.  


Trash like the Daily Mail will do its best to make you fearful and hateful of anyone who is not white and British, and 11.11 is always a time when they seek to do this to the extreme.


Do not allow yourself to be swept up in the propaganda in the media and social networking.


People will do things that offend you and the memory of others, but real strength and beauty lies in responding in love and forgiveness.


It is power and hate that leads to war, and when there is war we have always lost in some way.  Those who have died in war I'm sure would have rather that there had never been war.  We must do what we can to be a people of peace, looking for ways to be peaceful.  If we allow hate to fill our hearts then war will happen, and 11.11 becomes pointless, because those who lost their lives fought for peace.


Surely the best, the very best we can do is to stretch out our hands in love and forgiveness, seeking to make enemies our friends and so avoid the spiral into destruction.  


And surely those that lost their lives are urging us on to give ourselves in love and forgiveness so that what happened in the past will never happen again.


This 11.11 pray for those who offend you, seek peace with those who are filled with hate, love the loveless and be a sign of hope to the hopeless.