Monday, 26 March 2012

Relapse of Depression

My twin bro suffers with depression.

I myself have never suffered with depression.  I have had times in my life of being very down, but I have never had depression, so I cannot speak with any confidence about how Tom feels when he is consumed by the darkness.

So here are some of his own words that he has recently put on his blog;


'Depression is not having a bad day; it is not being in a mood and waiting to get out of it.  Depression is an illness that must be monitored and managed.  It's not like a headache that will eventually go away after taking a couple of pills or lying in a darkened room.  The trouble with depression is that your mind can feel like a dark room and all you want is to experience some light.
My problem is I can grow complacent and believe I'm 'better' (whatever that means) and don't need to pay such close attention to my illness.  I've recently become lax in the regularity I have been taking my medication and when I realised I needed to get back on track it causes problems.
You see, when I miss my medication and then go back on it, it actually causes more severe symptoms of depression as your brain adjusts.  My mistake was to get a bit drunk at the weekend whilst only two days back on to my pills. I can safely say I have almost complete memory loss of that night; the medication mixed with alcohol created a rather obnoxious Tom.
I'm ashamed and I dislike myself for not being more careful, because what it does is not only affect me but others around me.  I'm thankful for loved ones who care for me and support me.'


Tom is very honest and open about his illness.  I hope his story and honesty, and stories like his, enable others who are suffering to seek help and support.


The Bible does not shy away from people feeling the way Tom does.  In Psalm 88 for instance it says,
'But I cry to you for help, LORD;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Why, LORD, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?'


The Psalm ends with the haunting words, '...darkness is my closest friend.'


There is no happy ending with this Psalm, no 'everything will be ok', no 'God is here for me'.


Darkness is my closest friend.


The Bible does not run away from Psalms like this because the Bible is full of people's stories, people like you and me, people who struggle and suffer and cry out and doubt and fear and fail.  This Psalm was written by someone who was depressed and consumed by mental darkness.


Tom has spoken to me before that he has felt this very way many times.  Tom's story is real, as is yours as is the Psalmist.  They are stories that need to be heard in order that those who are suffering in the same way might find love and support and care.


Too many people suffer in silence because of the continued stigma, fear, myth and ignorance that surrounds mental illness.  Bit by bit, story by story, change can happen.  It doesn't mean that a magic trick will happen and everyone will be freed from depression and anxiety, but it does mean that those who suffer can find support, companionship and care.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Monday, 19 March 2012

Christians are Atheists

The term atheist comes from the Greek ‘atheos’ meaning ‘without God’.  Atheos is used once in the New Testament in Ephesians 2:12 saying ‘remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, exluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God (atheos) in the world.’


Polycarp was an early Christian writer who was executed by the Romans in around 155 A.D for his commitment to Jesus Christ.  At Polycarp’s examination the Pro-Consul asked Polycarp to repent and say ‘Away with the Atheists’.  

The Romans believed in many gods and named them and worshipped them and knew what these gods did and how to control them.  Christians knew that you couldn’t name God, only God can name Himself.  So Christians worshipped the God who had revealed Himself to them and refused to bow to the pressure of any other way.  The God who raised Jesus from the dead was their God. Christians were something altogether very different.  Christianity is not about ‘belief in god’ but a calling to way of life.  Christianity is not defined by what you believe, although belief plays it part, no Christianity is about the orientation of your life, about who you worship.  Who you worship matters, because whatever is the most important thing in our lives will ultimately be the thing we worship and adore most.  What I believe means nothing unless how I live my life reflects that. 

Atheism assumes you can name God and thus get rid of God because you have God all figured out.  You’ve figured out who God is, why you don’t need God and why belief in God is irrational.  Theism quite simply means ‘belief in a god’.  If you believe in the existence of at least one god then you are a theist – it is a general naming of God.

Christians argue that both these ways are inadequate.  The general ‘god’ who started everything, who atheists deny and who theists affirm is not the God who delivered Israel from Egypt and raised Jesus from the dead.  This God cannot be named by us, defined by us or figured out by us because of what we believe.  This God calls people to a Way of life not a set of beliefs.

Christians are once again called to be atheists.  Christians do not believe in many gods.  They do not believe that God can be named by humanity, manipulated by prayer or figured out and tested in a laboratory.  Christians therefore are atheists to the gods of this world.  They follow the God who has revealed himself in Jesus.

There will always be atheists, but I suspect that many people today desire and hope that they are not ‘without God’.  Whatever people believe today I suspect few would want to believe they are without God and hope that somehow and in some way that God is indeed very much with them.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Why I'm an Atheist

My bro has posted on his blog why he is an atheist.  I used this last night for our discussion night at the pub.  People were very moved by what he had written.

Here is what he says:


I don’t believe in atheism. What I mean by that is, I don’t believe atheism is a universal truth. I don’t believe atheism has all the answers and the non-existence of god is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  I do believe in integrity though, and being true to yourself and what you believe.

I was a Christian and a very passionate Christian at that.  I was able to preach to large groups of people about God and how amazing he is.  I truly believed god was amazing and could do life changing things.  I really felt he had changed my life and I was on a new path, with a new life, with new hopes and new dreams.  I thought Jesus was one hell of a bloke and I still look at Jesus and find him a superb example of what it means to be a human being.  Jesus is a great example of how to live, but also his anguish at the exploitation of the poor and marginalised is so appropriate for the way society is at the moment. 
There is a “but” though.

Over four years of being a Christian I was always left with a niggling doubt.  An itch I couldn’t quite scratch.  Something like a knot in your stomach that doesn’t quite go away and ends up growing and wrapping itself around you.  It was to do with prayer.  Why weren’t my prayers answered?  It, at first, felt like God was hearing my prayers but maybe answering them differently to what I expected.  It then felt like I was making excuses for God’s silence by believing his inaction made a better result.  Over time though I just felt like god wasn’t answering and didn’t really care.  And then it felt like I was saying these prayers which were drifting up into a vast expanse of emptiness.  Ultimately I didn’t see prayer working and it made me wonder if there was even a god there listening to me.  If god didn’t care about me, why should I care about him?

For me, I am an atheist because I feel I have no choice. I felt so disillusioned by god’s silence I actually found more peace in thinking that if god isn’t there then I don’t need to pray and get disappointed if he doesn’t answer. 

I also found disbelief more of a peaceful route because of how some people within the Church treated me.  There were a few who made me feel less of a person and who upset me and hurt me. I felt judged.  I spent time away from the Church and met people who loved me for who I was, with all the scars and tears and pain I carry.  They loved me unconditionally.  An unconditional love I expected from some people within the Church, but never got.

I do believe many in the Church give unconditional love but they don’t have the monopoly on it and it got me thinking that either god shares his love freely throughout all people or maybe people simply have an innate ability to love each other just the way they are. 

I chose the second option because I found more peace in it.  My girlfriend loves me simply because it’s me. She knows my past pains and present struggles.  She understands my future worries and my distant dreams. She loves me because she loves me, no more, no less.  I get physical comfort from her when I am low and I get emotional comfort too.  I guess god became too abstract, distant and silent. I prayed to him and felt I got no answer, no hug, no tears wiped away from my eyes. Only recently I was upset and asked where he was and silence boomed back.

I don’t think atheism will ever become the dominant belief system in the world because it doesn’t have all the answers. I don’t even know if I agree with a lot of what atheists say! I am an atheist because I feel, through life experience, god doesn’t exist. 

I must admit, I’d happily be proved wrong though…

Monday, 12 March 2012

Debate between Williams and Dawkins

This is a good and interesting debate between Archbishop Rowan Williams and Richard Dawkins held at Oxford.

It is a long video and quite in depth at times, which I enjoy but am aware is not to everyone's tastes.

The debate is about the origin of humanity and the universe.  It was split into four parts: the nature of individual human beings as they are now; the origin of the human species as a whole; the origin of life on earth; and the origin of the universe.

Well worth a watch if you can.


Thursday, 8 March 2012

Abortion



I recently read an article whereby two academics, writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics, have argued that killing a new-born baby is no different to abortion.  They claim that although a foetus and new-born are human beings, they are not a 'person' because they are not able to value their own existence.  They argue that parents should have every right to killing the new-born for whatever reason necessary, just as they have the right to aborting an unborn child.

Read here and here for more on this.

My wife and I watch One Born Every Minute every week as we love the story and drama of birth.  Each and every time a baby is born I am amazed.  What strikes me more than anything though is how vulnerable they are.

I remember holding both my girls after they were born and recognising how vulnerable they were.  I knew that I had a responsibility to care, nurture and look after them.

I rarely, if ever, hear churches talking about abortion and what our response should be.  I understand this because it is a difficult topic to talk about and a topic that people are passionate about on both sides.

If we do talk about it the conversation is often framed in pro-life, pro-choice, baby's rights, woman's rights type ways.  If it is framed in this way then there is nothing wrong with killing new-born babies, because the argument is no different to abortion.  If babies are born severely disabled, ill, healthy, or whatever, but will, for whatever reason, cause massive strain, pain and burden upon a mother, then her 'right' as a human being is to have that baby killed.  It is a logical outcome of such a line of argument.

We live in a horrific and crazy world of contradictions.  I am sure there may be those who find the idea of killing babies horrendous, but see abortion as ok.

Walk down a hospital ward and I do not doubt that in one part of the hospital a foetus is being aborted by doctors and in another part of the ward a baby who is the same age and weight is being kept alive by doctors.

So 'rights' and 'choice' do not leave us anywhere helpful.

This is an issue for the Church and the Church should frame the conversation theologically.

Vulnerability.

God is a God of vulnerability.  Within Himself as Father, Son and Spirit there is vulnerability as the Father, Son and Spirit mutually love and indwell each other.  Therefore God is passionate about the vulnerable and the helpless.  Throughout Scripture it is exactly those who are more vulnerable that God cares most passionately about.  His anger flows towards those who abuse, manipulate, coerce and trample on the vulnerable. He calls Israel and then the Church to be passionate and compassionate towards the vulnerable.

Community.

God is a God of community, in an eternal relationship within Himself as Father, Son and Spirit.  Therefore Israel are called as a people, together to serve and worship God and to be sent as a people into the world to lead others towards the living God.  The Church is called to make God known and invite all people into a living relationship with Him.  We are not isolated individuals who can do what we want, but are part of a community.

Christians do not have a right to their bodies because they are baptised into Christ and his Church.  Their bodies belong to God and so how we use them is directly a worship issue.  How we use them is directly a community issue too.

Christians are called to care for the vulnerable within the context of the Church community.  Any pregnant woman and any unborn or born child is a vulnerable person.  And so the Church is called to have compassion and care for these vulnerable people.  We are called to be a people of compassion, love and grace.  The Church is called to care for and raise children together, whatever situation that child is born into.

Jesus demanded his followers to care for children.  As soon as we know a child is created we can have hope for them.  This hope is awakened in us as soon as we know that life is growing.  And out of this hope which comes entirely from God, we seek to care for and value these lives.

It is not about preservation of life because Christians are called to be willing to die for the sake of Jesus. It is about the call to value life and care for the vulnerable.  One day we will all die, but while we live we must do all that we can as followers of Jesus to have compassion on our most vulnerable.

And we are called to be a people who leave violence behind in any form, physically, spiritually or emotionally. We are called by the Prince of Peace to be a people of peace, to forsake violence and walk in the Way of Jesus.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Something New

Something New

A beautiful film with Miroslav Volf about what his father taught him about hunger, death and the Cross.