Saturday, 8 October 2011

Jesus and the outsider

Isn't it interesting that Jesus spent so much time with people who were on the absolute fringe of the religious establishment of the day. With the woman at the well (John 4), a Rabbi should of never been seen talking to a Samaritan woman, and the fact that she was there on her own taking water tells us enough about her situation. With the woman caught in adultery (John 8), the Pharisees simply used her to trick Jesus by mis-using the Deaturonic law regarding adultery, but Jesus spoke up for her. The blind man (John 9) was cast out because of his disability, and the sins of his forefathers were blamed, evidently something that Jesus didn't agree with.
It strikes me that he had no time for the rule keeping of the Pharisees and worked on the basis of inclusivity, treating those on the outside with absolute respect, having dialogue with the person. But that doesn't mean that he promoted their autonomy, far from it. With regards to the woman at the well, the conversation revolved around the number of husbands she had, and the fact that her current partner wasn't. To me this was only to highlight that her identity was found in relationships, not in God. Therefore he was offering her a better way (the living water), a chance to relocate her identity. A relationship based on grace, which involves the regeneration of the self and ultimate transformation. And I accept how imposing your own views on others is looked upon today, but if there is something that good, trans formative and positive it becomes wrong not to share it. So for those of us who are a part of a Christian community, it cannot be insular or inward looking, because it only becomes another form of tribal belonging which can be found anywhere. We have been given a wonderful and undeserved gift,and it therefore gives us no right to look down on anyone. Our community should be pointing people towards new life found in relatioship with God, nothing more or less...

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Problem of Pain...

I was talking to somebody about suffering the other day, and could not help but be taken by how much they cared for the plight of human beings, particularly in terms of moral and natural evil. With regards to moral evil, we talked about how a God of love could allow murderer's to get away with so much? Why did a group of people loot shops and set cars on fire in the centre of London? Why are corrupt governments who filter aid money given by other countries for their own means allowed to prosper, amongst other things. Then we moved on to natural evil (or evil which seems to have no moral cause), which in terms of a Theodicy (a defence of the Christian faith in light of suffering) is so much harder to live with.. And we asked how do we really explain an Earthquake which has taken the lives of so many people? Can we really postulate a loving God when there are so many young children starving in Africa? And as if I wasn't already overcome by how much suffering we all observe everyday, I was hit with a rather simple, yet profound question. Why doesn't God just stop suffering? Isn't he able to do that? Well, it was hard to answer my friend then, and even with hindsight it still is. But while I write this I am reminding of a quote by CS Lewis, in his book the Problem of Pain and it goes as follows:

Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free will involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.

So there comes a sense that this is the way it has to be, both in terms of moral and natural evil. There cannot be free will without a form of spontaneity, and you cannot have meaning to one extreme (Evil) without also having the other (Altruism). So as rational free human agents, we have the ability to bring innumerable good to the world, and as well as unspeakable evil. And in terms of some natural evil we could contend the same, there has been major destruction in the way the earth has formed (particularly in regards to the tectonic plates), but we also see great beauty in them.

But in regards to the original question, this doesn't seem enough, and I am so very aware of that. So there has to be an element of mystery, which as well as reason becomes the essence of faith. And the living hope (1 Peter 1:3) that underpins this comes from what I am now calling the Jesus movement, where God became flesh and came into time and space to reconcile and repair our world. Consequently Jesus' death on the cross began the dynamic process of what we call Redemption. Nonetheless, this doesn't mean that we don't live in a tension of anguish and hope, which seems to be accentuated every time we hear of a another disaster on the television.

Consequently doing this is hard, and it always reminds of Samwise the Brave's speech to Frodo at the end of the Twin Towers, when everything was falling down and there was no hope.

Please allow to repeat the lines again:

Samwise to Frodo:

It's like in the great story's Mr Frodo, the ones that really matter. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn't want to know the end, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much has happened? But in the end it is only a passing thing, a shadow, even darkness must pass and the day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine the clearer, those are the story's that stay with you, that meant something even if your too small to understand why.

Scripture talks about that brighter day in Revelation 21, with heaven becoming earth..

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Super 8..

I don't post about films very often, but I had to say a little about the latest offering from JJ Abrams and Steven Spielberg. I have now found myself knowing what to expect from JJ Abrams, which seems to be a mixture of deep human interest regarding the existential issues of life, and great science fiction. And Super 8 didn't disappoint in either department...

The film begins with the two main characters (Joel and Jackson Lamb) in the midst of what could only be described as extreme loss. Where the mother/wife was killed in an industrial accident, however, life had to go on for the father and son. Both had their own particular way of doing this, with the father burying himself in his work and the son (Joel) finding some form of escapism making Super 8 movies with his friends. It was then that they witnesed a catastrophic train crash, which was the beginning of some very strange disappearances in their small little town. However, I won't say anymore, and let you enjoy the film for yourselves.

All I would say is that in Super 8 we have something which is almost as good as ET, but not quite....

Monday, 25 July 2011


So it turns out that the man who bombed the embassy in Oslo and gunned down 68 teenagers was a Christian fundamentalist with the far right extremist views which accompany it..But it's the extreme nature of the man's actions which first and for most makes one mourn the senseless loss of life, but secondarily reflect on how much the notion of fundamentalism has departed from its original purpose..

Fundamentalism itself came from the Southern Baptists in the early 20th century, with the sole purpose of defending conservative Christianity from its more liberal and modernistic counterparts. As the name suggests, the movement sought to re-introduce the fundamentals of scripture into common parlance, with the aim of bringing Christianity back to its truest form.
However, fundamentalism now seems to revolve around a state of mind rather than correct doctrine, a sense of superiority as opposed to humility. And this sense of elitism is only really based on a form of absolutism, with the under current pride. But the more I think about fundamentalism, the more it occurs to me that it is yet another humanistic way of coping with the complexities of life. And as a Christian and a counsellor, it is my opinion that fundamentalism is both a spiritual and pastoral issue. To me, faith is the belief in something you cannot fully understand or see, and it remains dynamic, not static or absolute. And in terms of therapy, absolutism is typical coping behaviour for those who could be described as having a insecure attachment.

Friday, 10 June 2011

A life lived two thousand years ago that changes everything..

I've been reading the Gospels lately, and find myself marvelling at the revolutionary nature of Jesus' time on earth. He showed us how to be fully human in the way we are, particularly when he spoke of the upside down kingdom in the Sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7; Luke 6). In this he tells us that when we truly have nothing in the world's eyes, is the time when we really meet God.

In regards to suffering, when faced with the anticipation of the worst kind of punishment possible (The Garden of Gethsemane) he completely surrendered his will to God, and the result was true Redemption. Something amazing came out of the worst possible suffering Imaginable. To me that becomes formative for our personal suffering, because God works the best out of what seems like the worst (Romans 8:28).

But I wonder how much we take this on board? Or more specifically live in the light of...I know for myself that I don't, and deep down think I know better than God by getting despondent about my future. Losing sight of the fact that the God who brought about his redemptive purpose in Jesus can work my life for its best ends. Instead I can only look at what is front of me, which is the direct antithesis of faith.

But what is truly transformational is that God doesn't get impatient with me, or drop me because I continually get things wrong, or misunderstand the Gospel message...He will be with me until the end of the age...

Wednesday, 1 June 2011


What an awful program to sit through yesterday evening, seeing such vulnerable people beeing bullied.And in this we got to see some rather brainless people strutt around the home like they were king of castle, and when it comes to vulnerable people who need support in almost every aspect of their lives. they probably were. But it goes without saying that if they were to come up against people who could handle themsleves, they would come up short and shrink back into their.

However what interested me as well, were the dynamics in which the extreme dysfunction sprilled and increased. And like with most group dysfunction, there is always the strong and in someway charismatic leader (pictured above), where by the very force of their personality impose their own deviant way of doing things. Also there becomes a form of heirachy in the overall dysfunction, with people who become like a second in command to the main leader (like the woman who planned to throw the client to the floor). And it's through this form of structure, maybe not named, where the dysfunction descends throughout the whole staff team. Subsequently those who are not confluent with the overarching approach become victims themselves.

So we are only left with what could be called a toxic organisation...

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Human Relationships

I'm sure that we could all agree that when relationships are at their best, they become the most nourishing and for filling things we have. The great existential philosopher, Martin Buber, once said that 'all real living is meeting'. This is to say that being in contact with another, whether it be the transcendent, a fellow human being or even nature can bring meaning and purpose to our lives. And subsequently stops the trend towards harmful introspection, which makes us miss all sorts of possibilities in the 'here and now'.

However , with every good thing, there has to be an opposite, or in short, a bad thing. So when one is talking of bad relationships, the only real motif one could use is the word toxic. And in any context, toxic means harmful and injurious to other people. Therefore, not only do toxic relationships drain one of energy,and make them constantly defensive and hyper vigilant, they become hurtful and damaging in the long term. To the point where the only lens a person can look at the world through is one of their own pain.

And for myself, as a Christian, one of the biggest underlying causes of toxic relationships can be found in the most insightful polemics about human nature (Genesis 3:16), or better known as the fall. Which for me highlights all our tendency's to think that we know best, and that our own rights need to be respected whatever the wider consequences. Now there are many forms of this behaviour, and it could be put on a continuum, which is to say that there are some extreme forms of selfishness that have greater consequences (the distribution of wealth). And then we could think of our daily lives, with even our best efforts to portray a positive projected image of ourselves are always underscored with issues of self interest. But even though the consequences of our self interest can be vastly different, it all comes from the same place, or our own falleness.

Now I'm sure this will be offensive to some people, particularly those from a humanistic standpoint, who would go as far to say that man is inherently good and we must learn to evolve as a human race. Or the wave of Postmodern pluralism which permeates more of our culture then we would like to admit, who claim that everything is a relativistic social construct, highlighting the need to rid ourselves of all 'oughts' and 'shoulds' ... With the result being a new and spacious place for human kind to live in without the constraints of overarching world views, rather aptly sang about in the John Lennon song 'imagine'. But as much as I like John Lennon, and alot of what our culture brings us today, denying the root of the problem achieves nothing. And points to the fact that our humanness needs to be redeemed by something beyond ourselves and all our ideologies, something which has been made possible by our Lord and Saviour (John 14:6), Jesus Christ.