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?

pub theo heads page 3!

The interview I did the other week for the Medway News has been published this week on page 3. On the whole the article is fairly positive and I can thank Max, the reporter, for accurately outline what we aim to do:

‘I believe there are lots of people, those with faith and those without faith, who have questions about life and faith and theology – they basically want a safe non-judgemental place where they can chat about that’  is a fairly accurate quote of what I said, as is ‘it’s there to talk, have a laugh, and create community’.

The paper has also accurately reported when we next meet, along with linking to the gathering website which also gives dates for pub theology. So …. it will be interesting to see if we get new people coming in response to this article. I guess on that only time will tell.

its about dialogue …

It’s been an interesting couple of days. One of the local papers has heard about Pub Theology and have been trying to arrange an interview for quite a while now. One reporter came to a pub theology session back in June and seemed to enjoy stuff but for some reason the story never happened.

Yesterday another reporter spent some time with me asking for information so that the paper could write a story about pub theology as ‘others may be interested’. Although I am always wary of the press (who is not?) the paper seems genuine and we decided the right thing to do would be to give an interview.

The reporters main interest seemed to be the fact that we were a bunch of people that met to discuss for the pure aim of speaking with and listening to each other, without anyone, whether they have a faith or no faith, trying to convert the other to their way of thinking. The reporter mentioned to me that in other societies he had seen dialogue as the norm but that in this country there were few places for open, agenda free, dialogue. Because of our ‘dialogue thing’ he was very interested in letting other people know so that they have the opportunity to join in.

I think that sums up pub theology quite well – a place for open, genuinely agenda free, dialogue. In fact I think that pretty much sums up what theology is aboutas well. If dialogue is not agenda free then it becomes debate and debate becomes competition and competition means it is all about being right. Dialogue means it is all about hearing each others views and taking those on board as you (re)form your own opinions.

My experience tells me that you never quote know how things will turn out in the newspaper after things have been edited (sometimes not even by the reporter themselves), but I really hope that genuine open dialogue thing will come through.