murder and the value of truth

friday-night-theology-largeEach week I receive the ‘Friday Night Theology‘ from the EA.

Often it makes me think, sometimes it has added to my sermon when preaching. The short article is always contemporary, in an attempt to respond meaningfully to the headlines we read. You can subscribe to Friday Night Theology here.

Today I wish to to quote it here in its entirety. If we had pub theology this month (we never do in August!), I’m sure we would pull something from this topic

Today Jonty Langley (Baptist Times) writes under the title ‘Murder and the Value of Truth’:

I just watched 12 people get murdered on YouTube. I’ve watched them die before, but today I watched it happen again. It felt important. It felt like the least I could do. Because I’ve watched the video, a brave man is likely to go to jail. The murderers will not.

I hope it’s obvious to you that the video I’m talking about was leaked by an American soldier called Bradley Manning. It shows a group of unarmed men being killed by American forces in Iraq. Let’s remember what happens. As I say, it is the least we can do.

The men are unarmed, standing on a corner. The viewer watches from the point of view of an attack helicopter as it fires its unimaginably powerful machine guns at the men, who try to run or take shelter, but there is really nowhere they can hide from bullets of this size and velocity. Those who aren’t killed immediately, who cower behind a wall, are fired on again. As the smoke clears a man (a journalist, it turns out) is moving. He’s crawling onto a pavement. The recorded voices of the American helicopter crew dare him to pick up a weapon.

A moment later, a van drives along the street and, as any human being would expect, it stops. People get out. They start carrying bodies, dead or wounded, to the van, and they too are fired on. The force of the bullets spins the vehicle around, explodes the street in clouds of dust and kills almost everyone. At least one child is left alive but badly wounded. A foot-soldier who arrives on the scene asks for one of the helicopters to airlift her to hospital. His request is denied. “It’s their fault,” says one of the voices on the military radio. “For bringing their kids into a battle.”

This week, Bradley Manning was found guilty of five counts of espionage in a military court because he leaked that video and a number of other classified documents. I think he’s a hero. I can’t understand why the Church, which calls itself pro-life, which preaches bringing into the light the things done in darkness, which tells its children that the Ten Commandments, are the cornerstone of good living, is not shouting from the rooftops that he is, too.

The people who killed 12 unarmed men, who grumbled “Come on, let us shoot!” and who laughed as a tank drove over one of the bodies, are free. They are our allies. This is our war, being prosecuted in our name. And I am not going to lecture you about the prophetic tradition of justice in the Bible. And I’m not going to tell you what to believe about Thou Shalt Not Kill in the context of war. I will tell you that the people involved in this killing are not heroes, they are murderers. And blaming them is pointless.

Trained, indoctrinated and ordered to murder, who of us would have the courage or the freedom of mind not to? The soldiers who did this, the people who trained them, the men and women who gave them their orders are a symptom of a larger problem. The empire at the centre of our world is sick. It is misguided. It has categorised people into those who deserve protection by virtue of their nationality or the things that they believe, and those who do not matter.

And perhaps, as Christians, we must simply render unto Caesar what the empire demands. Perhaps fighting back on the same terms as the rulers of this dark world just makes us like them. But, if that is true, the least we can do is reveal the truth. The least we can do is encourage the likes of Bradley Manning. The least we can do, in the face of evil we cannot on our own defeat, is shine a light in its face.

Jonty Langley is a writer and works for a Christian mission agency.

I think it’s a thought provoking read. I’d be interested too in whether there is a difference in perception and reaction here between my British and American friends?

walking the breadline

breadlineAs a Christian, but also as a normal human being, the report launched today by both Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty should make us angry!

It is obscene that over 500 000 people in this country do not have enough food to eat. Food poverty should not be the everyday reality that it is in our cities.

Please write to your MP as the campaign requests – it’s easy and takes a little time. Also donate to your local Foodbank as well as the need is massive and growing!

I read this report this morning and got angry … why are we allowing the vulnerable to be treated like this?

pub theo: transgender questions?

pub theo gathered again last night ….one person on their first visit asked how long we had been meeting and I was shocked to realise that next month will mark our second birthday. Maybe we should do something special to mark the occasion on July 30th…. maybe go for a drink or something!

Tonight we started with a great question which ws presented on facebook a little while ago: if we are made in Gods image and created male and female and that is how he wants us to be and us not to change our sex. Then what about people who are born Hermaphrodites, born with both parts, What happens there? What Sex did God create them? Did we cause a flaw somewhere? or was that how it was meant to be? how can some one determine another person’s sex when they are born?

The discussion was lively ad healthy with people having pretty strong views. These views ranged from people needing to be encouraged to accept their body / identifiable gender to views of complete acceptance and non – judgement to all. There were differing views between those two views as well.

This whole area really grabs me as a while ago I wrote a short presentation questioning this which I concluded in this way:

I argue for hope in a God finishing what he started which demands an alternative Christian view of engagement, passion and transformation in this area. We consider before us a person in turmoil, confused, ill at ease and in the wrong place, but desiring transformation. To my mind this is like the image of a small Christian community waiting for Jesus Christ.
This is not someone to reject, to be repulsed or afraid of and neither is it someone to deprive of surgery; this is someone to embrace, to admire and allow to experience the transformational love of God. ‘Maybe not God given by birth, but God given by the ability of medical science developed through the God given talents of compassionate human beings.’

If you arw that interested and want to read the talk n its entirety it may be accessed here under ‘Approaches and Methods in Theology’, which was the module I happened to be studying at the time.

Following this we discussed rules verses living as a way of living out our (Christian) faith. We also spoke a lot about whether there was one way to live as a Christian, and whether that would be a good or bad thing if there was.

once again …. a great heated discussion …. see you next month!

when inaction just won’t do!

There has been a lot of ‘stuff’ in the news recently which has caused me to reflect on how harmful inaction can be.

The first incident that got me thinking is related to  John Terry. I don’t tend to criticise people here (there are invariably always at least two sides of an argument and often more) … but if most professions if a serious allegation is made against someone, that someone would be suspended from their role while the matter was investigated. Whether you believe Terry to be innocent or not is immaterial. Rightly or wrongly, suspension pending investigation, is the norm in our society in such circumstances and for this not to be applied in this incident seems wrong. Terry’s silence and refusal to act have caused some distress and embarrassment.

This contrasts with another person in the news over the last few days. For the first time ever I have to agree with the actions of a ‘ConDem’ alliance government minister. Chris Huhne also argues, like John Terry, that he is innocent. But Huhne realises the implications of the charge and so has, rightly, resigned his post and moved to the back benches while the charge is investigated.

Huhne seems to recognise the distress and embarrassment he would cause by staying in place and has acted swiftly, whereas as Terry seems not to be able to grasp that issue with the belief he can play on, alongside others, as if nothing had happened, whereas the FA cancelling a pre-match handshake shows that not to be the case.

This weekend has also shown that the reluctance to act can also have serious consequences. The actions, or rather the inactions, of both Russia and China at the UN are hard to grasp. It is shocking to think that in the light of such wrong doing that the world is unable to act, even though they long to do so and the people of Syria cry out for our help in such desperate circumstances. To see unarmed men, women and children being brutalised as other human beings, who can do something about it but choose to look on nonchalantly is sickening to the stomach.

There are times when it is correct to be quiet and do nothing. There are others. however, when action is the only way. In fact, there are times when action is demanded of us and inaction just simply won’t do!

So why do I approach these minor issues (as in Terry and Huhne) with a major catastrophe (Syria!) together? I believe the Syrias, the Kosovos, the Rwandas of the world do not just suddenly happen as sudden big steps. Leders of countries do not wake up one morning and decide to slaughter their populations and find they are able to do so unchallenged! They happen as a result of indiscernible small steps where people or issues are sidelined because they are seen as insignificant. That insignificance becomes unimportant, which becomes worthless, which then becomes sub-human. Two sets of rules are developed and accepted and massive consequences, and in the case of Syria I would say great evil, seem to creep uo and take people by surprise.

If we stay quiet and refuse to act on small issues of integrity when something serious comes along we are simply unable to act because we don’t know how to. Is it any surprise that Russia and China, two nations who have dubious human rights records at the best of times, have vetoed any Security Council action in the case of Syria. I suggest they do not see the lives of Syrian men, women and children as being important or of value.

I pray that we, as a nation, will never find ourselves in that place …. a place where we consider some lives to be better than others … a place where some are treated better than others … a place where there is one rule for one and another rule for another.

I pray we will remain a nation that knows when inaction simply will not do!

Fan or Follower

This has been going around the web …. it’s funny …. some will find it offensive …. WARNING – ‘F’ word alert at 1:13 … for me it kind of follows in some way from yesterday’s anger over children …. but today this is about the Christian view of violence …

As Christians do we take the commands of Jesus seriously, or not … are we followers or fans?

never let me go

I watched a disturbing film last night at the Other Cinema.

It touched on some harrowing themes around the sanctity of life as the plot centres around the fictional situation of clones being grown to supply major organs for others.

At times I was close to tears, at others frustrated by the lack of action or ‘revolt’ amongst the characters while at other times i felt quite sick. Throughout the film the ‘donors’ were told that usually after the 3rd or 4th donation that they would ‘complete’. Donors did not die … they completed … because they were not really human.

We had a great discussion after this film which drifted to the possibilities and how life is treated or looked at in society today. I guess the question or fear, with the technology for cloning already available and used everyday in agriculture, was how is the current balance on this topic between fiction and real possibility? We are possibly already in a  situation where we place different values on different peoples lives – the reactions over Bin Ladens death, the way protestors are treated by police, the values exposed by labels that people give to others … such as Chav, scally, townie and so on.

This could be a great topic and discussion to take up in pub theology.

I dance for Jesus

A while ago I wrote about the condemnation of others for not fitting with our reading of certain doctrines or for not fitting with our assumed lifestyles. Certainly the gathering, the developing christian community that I am part of, strongly believes how we live our faith is far more important than what we believe. You can fairly easily believe ‘God is love’ and ‘Jesus is the only way’ but if you treat people that disagree with you with contempt and ridicule or refuse to even talk to them, then I would say something of the gospel ‘good news of acceptance and love’ has been lost.

A few months ago I found myself in a coffee shop talking to a young woman who was passing through Rochester. This woman is a Christian although she has not been able to settle in an established church set up. This has a lot to do with the fact that this Christian woman also happens to be a lap dancer. Churches that she has tried to join have condemned her because of her job and way of life. When she first became a Christian she gave up her job, because others in the church told her it was wrong, and tried to get other jobs. People told her that God would provide other things to make money for her and her young daughter, but as she tried living in the way others suggested, church after church offered little support and eventually other work was provided …. in another lap dancing club.

The way she spoke of God showed me that without a doubt this woman has a thriving relationship with the living God. She was clearly in love with the God who created her and spoke of Jesus in a way that I have not heard anyone talk in a long while. I felt that her trust in Jesus was incredibly strong. This young woman understood God’s grace, she understood she was loved and she longed for a christian community to accept her fully. I don’t know where she is today but I fear she is alone and living her Christian life outside of Christian community.

I was reminded of this woman during the summer when I read a report in the Independent newspaper on lap dancing outlining research that showed 40% of lap dancers in the UK have a uni degree or are studying for one. I personally thought the article was glamourising or missing the real issue and  I must admit I am of a similar mind to Amy Jenkins who responds in the opinion section of the newspaper that irrespective of education lap dancing is degrading. I believe that to be the case but ….

Something about this woman struck me. This was not her job of choice but I sensed that she felt this was where God wanted her. I plucked up the courage to ask the burning question …’ok, you are a lap dancer and a Christian …. how do you reconcile the two?’ Her answer still brings tears to my eyes:

‘all the girls think of something when they dance. I pray on stage and I dance for Jesus. This is my worship, he created my body … I use my body to worship him.’

Some will have issues with that, some will say it is not morally possible, and a large part of me might go along with that, but what is a Christian other than someone who totally loves God and wants their life to be worship of Christ? Whatever way I recall this encounter in the coffee shop I remember the girls faith and commitment as she said ‘I dance for Jesus’.

Sometimes I just don’t know what to think ….

dont judge me!

It always amazes me how Jon of ASBO Jesus grabs many of the sentiments that annoy me about Christianity. Today is one of those days when I have been screaming internally … ‘when are Chriatians going to realise it’s all about grace not rules!!!’
Today’s cartoon needs no more words.

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It seems the press have, yet again, taken a person’s words totally out of context to try and blow something that is not there into a major issue –  in this case it is the turn of  Father Tim Jones in York Diocese who, inn his sermon last week, suggested those who are the most vulnerable and forgotten and let down in our society might consdier shop lifting from large national businesses.

Before you shout angrily read Father Tim’s full sermon here and then make your minds up about what he is saying. Thanks Alice for linking to this.