It's been on my mind a while.
Whenever I watch Christian television, I don't have to wait too long to be appalled. The majority of channels are safe, it has to be said, to dismiss out of hand.
UCBtv in the UK has the vast majority of worthwhile viewing. Adrian Rogers is always very encouraging, the Ligonier ministry broadcasts are great, and Peter Masters is an unparalleled delight.
But they also have ten tons worth of complete nonsense on every day, which is discouraging. The most befuddling programmes are the home-grown ones. The UK really is a bastion of all that is hand-wringing, desperate and wimpy about modern evanjellybeanism.
Peter Masters was on the other morning at 11am, and I thought I'd break out the ironing board and enjoy 40 minutes. I tuned in a little earlier, and caught a broadcast called 'Talk of the town', a conference which seemed to be about the male speaker telling us how sorry he was for thinking women couldn't be pastors and how women shouldn't let men hold them back. I shouldn't have watched it, because this kind of convoluted text-butchery always makes me chew the cushions, but I did. Dr Peter Masters afterwards on Psalm 119 was adequate antidote.
But still, even though I normally endeavour to avoid this kind of feminist drivel nowadays, the proclaimations it makes elicit the same response from me everytime.
First, it's unbearably smug. OK, that's not a deeply spiritual reaction, but these things are always delivered in the most condescending manner, as though I really should just sit down and accept my interchangeability with men, now there's a dear.
Tricky texts for egalitarians like women not having authority over a man and so on are not actually dealt with, but are waved away with a sneer about 'culture' and "Well, the bible also says we should circumcize all males, but we don't do that anymore, do we?"
Oh yes, say I, I can't believe I never saw it that way before. Well, actually, I did see the bible that way before. Before I was even a believer, that is. Tsk.
What really drives me to distraction is the way they go to Genesis. They wheel out 'Help meet', and they 'reveal' to me it means 'helper suitable for him'. They enlighten my feeble, enslaved mind that actually, the bible uses the same word about God a few times, so it's not about subordination and oppression at all!
Really? So you mean that the work I do in submitting to my husband, serving and loving him and my children, being available to serve others by bringing food along to church gatherings and helping out with creche, all these things are not really oppression?? Oh, the freedom of knowing such things! Now I can put my whole heart into it and...oh, that's not what you mean?...
Of course not! We meant that you don't have to confine yourself to any 'female sphere' of work, because God is a 'helper', and he doesn't submit to anyone, now does He? He fulfills His potential, and He wants you to, too! There is now no male and female, God has spiritually neutered us!
OK, maybe they don't say that God has neutered us. But that's pretty much the essence of the message. Equality in their terms, is the 'anything he can do, I can do just as well' attitude.
Whereas, actually, our equality before the Lord is basically, 'My husband deserves to go to hell, and so do I, thank goodness for His Grace'.
Quite apart from my understanding of general church leadership, I'm baffled by the women vicars who are stridently demanding entry to the bishopric on the grounds that they want to climb a career ladder.
Erm, hello? Since when has service been about our fulfillment, or our potential or rights?
The biggest irony about this, and Dan has said this better than I, is that they claim to be wanting to lift women up. Yet they go about this by denigrating the clear mandates given to women in scripture, exalting the mandates given to men, and then saying that women should be doing the men's tasks because the women's tasks are rubbish.
Oh, there might be some lip-service paid to the fact that you're a hardworking wife and mother, but the neccessary fallout from all their waffle is that they are the ones making normal Christian women, serving faithfully and quietly, feel second-class. It would be almost unthinkable that you could consider your husband and children as your ministry. Making the tea/doing the flowers/cleaning the toilets is just contemptable, you really need to hanker after a preaching slot a month, or setting up a committee to ensure that no women are 'held back'.
You know what I think? (well, you can probably guess from most of this.)
I think women have the most awesome task. The feminists are right to lament the fact that some foolishly believe that only the tasks that God would have men do are worthwhile. But the answer to that is not to have women push in and do those jobs too. The answer is to look harder and realize that just because women are not found in those verses over here, it doesn't mean that scripture doesn't have a wonderfully important role for them somewhere else.
We're called to submit to our own husbands, we're given a very specific service sphere that requires great sacrifice and self-forgetting. We are given the gift of fulfilling a picture of Christ submitting to His Father. All Christians must do this, but women are actually given the blessing of walking in it explicitly in their action mandate from scripture. Yes, Our Lord is a 'helper', and what a glorious thing to be called to do!
I find that a mercy and a challenge.
Yes, I can preach. I have done so in the past. I've got a gob on me, as this blog probably testifies. But why would I go against scripture and actually imitate the one who said 'I will be like the most high'?
Why is it that I am encouraged by these people to focus on my potential, my giftings (one speaker I heard said 'Why should women not be able to exhibit their gifts at thr front of church?' - Exhibit????), my fulfillment? Where does that fit in with this?;
[Let] nothing [be done] through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
I remain quite content to wait for God to exalt me, for only He can. If the perfect Christ was content to take upon Himself the form of a servant, to willingly submit even to death, why would a genuinely lowly creature like me think it appropriate to refuse to emulate Him?
It's been on my mind a while.
I find myself mildly irritated by a glut of televsion programmes with the topic of divorce. I don't watch a lot of television, but everytime I do, I notice the current trends.
It goes in waves, of course.
If I sound a little strident, well, that's because this one still smarts. There was a programme with the rough title 'I didn't divorce my kids!'
I hate that line. It's a big pile of skubalon. To any people who may be thinking of walking out on their spouse, let me make it plain. You leave them, you leave your children. My own father used the line with me, and has since acknowledged it to be self-serving nonsense. The simple, quite obvious fact is, if you leave the house, you leave everyone in it. Duh.
And please, don't let the words
'I still love you, but Mummy and Daddy don't love each other anymore'
pass your lips.
Because before those words hit your children's ears, they will have transformed into
'There's a part of you I don't love anymore'
If you want to quit, and have lots of terribly grown-up reasons why, you're just going to have to be grown-up enough to deal with the guilt.
Back in the day, I was a bit of a foxy lady. I'd wear short skirts on college days, just to laugh at men who walked into lamp-posts while watching my legs. Working as a nightclub dancer didn't leave much room for wearing Victorian hoopskirts.
Thankfully, most extant pictures are safely lofted, so you'll just have to take my word for it.
I was actually pro-abortion at that point, which I can't even get my head around now. As time went on, and I got involved in Christianity, that did change, but the other vestiges of feminism were quite well-ingrained.
It might make you actually laugh out loud to learn that I actually started the process of testing a vocation to the priesthood in the C of E. It makes me laugh now, anyway.
I recall street-dancing at the front of church with a redhead friend of mine, to a CCM pop number, wearing a strappy vest top upon which I had written 'Is it bliss? yes it is' (which, in case you're remotely interested, is a 'Delirious?' lyric.)
Apart from the 'Christian' labels, there wasn't much difference between myself and any worldly young woman you care to name.
Marriage forced me to address some of my attitudes, driving me to scripture to find out exactly what God said about it. And through that, I learned what God said about women in general. And oh boy, was it a shock to the system. Gradually the inconsistencies in my life began to rub, and one very good site proved a goldmine.
I was fearful that, if I said I wasn't a feminist, I'd have to flick the 'off' switch on my head. After all, you'd have to be brain-dead to believe that women are better off submitting to their husbands, not dressing like club-dancers or men, and actually looking after their own children and homes, right?
Er, well, I'm sure some of my readers may well doubt my intellectual abilities, but I hold to all of those things, plus a few more. And Ladies Against Feminism was a great help in my understanding. It helped me to see that actually, God's plan is a whole lot more rational and logical than the imploding mess the humanists have created.
So there you go. LAF. The reason I am not a vicar wearing a miniskirt.
I posted before about free speech. It's a ticklish business. I don't think anyone has the 'right' to go into a crowded room and yell 'Fire!', just for fun. I do not think unlimited verbal diarrhea is wise to engage in, or wise to defend. I think scripture is quite clear that Christians do not have the freedom to say whatever we want to say, whenever we feel like saying it. Such a right would undoubtedly be the death of many a marriage.
Now, of course, this is not to say I do not think we should ever say controversial things, or even things that many people found offensive. My belief is that personal responsibility is vital.
But what of the law? The English historian who expressed extremely silly views about the realities of the WW2 holocaust has been imprisoned for expressing those views. I can't even begin to type the amount of spluttering that caused me last night.
I am happy to say that it is illegal to incite people to kill others. Causing public disturbances likely to lead to mass panic is also quite rightly, disallowed. Free speech doesn't go there, and rightly so.
But saying mass murder didn't happen? Not saying you weren't involved in mass murder when you were, I can understand being illegal. But saying you don't believe it happened? However patently ridiculous and offensive that is, how can it be a crime?
I don't believe the twin towers were knocked down by aeroplanes. I think they fell down due to a structural fault, and that actually, only twenty people were inside at the time.
I'm talking Swiftian nonsense, of course. But the simple fact is, that even if I did hold to such silly views, it wouldn't be a crime to do so.
The only way to defeat nonsense ideologies is to do so openly, not to make their expression illegal.
Still, in a world that has Tony Blair apologizing for the potato famine, and Rowan Williams apologizing for slavery, it only makes sense that those who refuse to apologize for something they weren't involved in should be imprisoned for it.
I have a recurring theme in my dreams. For as long as I can remember, I've dreamed about apocalyptic scenarios; approaching tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, nuclear detonations.
It's the day, or the hours before the event, and I find myself challenged in some way about what I will do. There's no sense that I can avert the coming calamity - the dream will always centre around my response to it.
Sometimes I run, sometimes I try and find shelter, but always I try and warn and rescue. I've no idea why I have these dreams.
But I do know that I have found myself asking, since Valentines Day, whether or not I am ready for the coming wave. I found a lump before I went to bed on Valentines Day, and as a woman whose mother and grandmother died from breast cancer, it was difficult to keep every thought captive as I tried to sleep.
I reassured myself that it was probably just mastitis, because I'm still nursing, and it has happened before. Then I realized I was trying to find peace in a desired outcome, rather than in Christ, who is my rock and will be even though the outcome may be bad. Remembering how secure I am in Him, I was able to sleep.
The next morning, while preparations were underway for our trip to Glasgow, I went along to the doctors surgery. The Doctor was very thorough, professional and reassuring. He even called me 'Ma'am' which I've never heard an English doctor do before.
And then he filled out the early cancer referral form.
So, I'm waiting for my Oncology appointment to arrive now, and praying for a good outcome. Now, of course, there is every chance that it will be perfectly benign. I am not sitting under a guaranteed death-sentence, and I know full well that I will not leave this earth one second earlier than my Father has ordained me to.
But the big wave is coming at some point, and it's never a bad thing to be reminded of one's own mortality. I think of how clearly ridiculous it becomes to feel nervous about evangelism. What on earth can you be afraid of? I think of how imperative it becomes to engage in evangelism. How little time I may have to impress the law and grace of God upon my unbelieving father, and my three small daughters.
What matters to us, just before the wave comes, is truly what is important to us. As I ponder Isaiah 41:8-10, I know what is important to me, and what I remain commited to, when all is said and done.
Some months ago, purgatorio did a post on headcoverings. I didn't think it was one of his best, largely because his usual scope of vision seemed a little stunted. So, I began this post as an expansion of his original, because headcoverings are rather fascinating to me. I cover my own head, and in the few years that I've been researching the topic, with uncharacteristic thoroughness, I've discovered an awful lot.
I cover primarily as part of my expression of my Christian faith. I also actually quite enjoy wearing various hats and coverings, quite apart from what I believe are the modesty/symbolic aspects of it. Of course, no particular style or form of veiling is mandated in scripture, and indeed, I'm aware that there will be many who disagree that it's mandated at all. I'm kind of throwing the floor open on that, eschewing my usual dogmatism and letting everyone have their say.
Headcovering isn't normally associated with Christians nowadays, and much more usually seen on Muslim women, for whom it is hardly ever a matter for debate. Now, I actually quite like the hijab veiling. I've seen some beautiful scarves, and framing a smiling face, I think they can be very winning. I don't like the Niqab (exposing only the eyes) or the infamous burka. Hijabi's give a compelling reason for wearing their veil. They point out that with only their face on show, they are presenting themselves as a human being primarily, rather than a sexualized object. Personally, I find that quite reasonable. I think the argument falls very short when it comes to the niqab, because the face disappears and the opposite effect is acheived - that of dehumanizing the individual.
But of course, I'm not a muslim, so I don't wear hijab. The very specific rules of hijab are not mirrored in Christian women who cover. Each group of people who have covered have done so very distinctively. I've experimented with various styles over the years, from a simple triangle to an Amish bonnet. I also really enjoy wearing Jewish style headcoverings, from the orthodox 'tznius' or modesty rules. Generally speaking, a Jewish woman should reserve her hair for her husbands eyes only once she is married. I think there's actually something deeply romantic about this, and when I'm feeling romantic, I'll gravitate to this sort of complete headcovering, twisting the scarf into pretty braids. My husband likes the lace ones the best.
Headcovering often can help serve as a reminder to me about how I'm dressing and behaving as a whole, from a modesty perspective. Oftentimes, I've given my husband a ripe answer, and blushed with shame as I've remembered that the piece of material on my head should be more than just that.
Modesty and submission are Christian virtues that may well be evident in what we wear, but the heart of them is not to be found in clothing and appearance. As I tie or pin my headcovering on, it reminds me that I should walk in holiness, pursuing that 'meek and quiet spirit', which is in the sight of God, great price. (1 Peter 3:4)
On any given day, I may well look like the pictures below, barring the Hijab, of course, which I simply included for thoroughness, and because it's pink. Each picture has a link under it of where the picture comes from, some of which are places and friends I have bought from in the past. They generally have useful information on the whole topic, too. I find these pictures a wonderful illustration that a supposed 'symbol of oppression' can actually be rightly celebrated and seen as an example of the wondrous variety and creativity our creator has endowed us with.
Wendy's Modest dress
Plain and simple
she maketh herself coverings
Cover my hair
Islam is big news and has been for some time. Despite the hubris of some of my Muslim acquaintances, this is largely because of its connection to violence worldwide. This is unfortunate for humanity for a number of reasons. But in all honesty, Islam is what it is. You don't have to research very far to discover all you want about Islam, and there isn't really any attempt to hide away the more bracing elements of it. I gather from some of the converts I have spoken to, that those elements are rather part of the appeal.
Much is made, politically speaking, of the difference between 'Moderate Islam' and 'Extremist Islam'. I find this distinction intriguing, particularly in who uses it, and what they mean when they do so. I think it's a reasonable given that when most people hear those two terms contrasted, they have a picture in their heads. They know that what is understood is the difference between those who would skulk about tube stations to blow people up, and those who just pop along to Friday prayers and eat Halal meat.
What it actually means is that politicians, like Mr Blair, can once again speak out of both sides of their mouth with impunity. They can simultaneously appease the Muslim lobbyists who hold the voting reigns in a number of Labour constituencies, while being seen to come down very sternly on the 'perversion' of Islam which so offends liberal western understanding.
The curious thing is, the version of Islam promoted as 'moderate' is largely unrecognizable to most normal, run of the mill believing Muslims. It's a sort of civic anglican version of the faith. What is included under the banner of 'extremism' is the wearing of the hijaab and niqaab, the belief that sharia law should be the law of the land, and the understanding that you are always part of the Muslim 'Ummah' before you are a citizen of any one country.
The trouble is, these things are fairly basic components of regular, Quran and Hadith-backed Islam. I'm sure astute readers will notice that these things have their equivalent in the non-nominal version of Christianity. Not dressing like a nightclub dancer is a reasonable interpretation of scripture. The law of the Gospel undoubtedly comes above the law of men. And we are first and foremost Christians before we are English, Bangladeshi, or Albanian. These are not particularly radical thoughts.
So, I remain intrigued by the language Tony Blair uses when he speaks about Islam, and the version of it he wants to welcome and encourage. Because to any actual practising Muslim, disparaging Sharia law, Hijaab, and the notion of a worldwide Ummah and future Caliphate, as part of 'Extremism', is about as likely as anything else to inflame passionate anger.
The Islam that Tony Blair wants to tolerate is actually nominal Islam, just like the only Christianity he is comfortable with is nominal 'private' Christianity. The problem for Mr Blair is that Islam doesn't have any inbuilt taming mechanism. Right at the heart of it is the notion of Jihad, righteous struggle against unbelief - sometimes seen as a laudable attempt to battle sin internally, but also quite accurately seen as armed violent struggle against the unbelievers.
To a Muslim, turning the other cheek is contemptable. They are still emphatically tied to 'an eye for an eye' - or at least a version of it. Tony Blair appears to be playing with fire in his attempt to secularize Islam, in the way that the broader liberal west has so successfully castrated much of institutional Christianity.
Part of me finds it very hard to believe that he doesn't know that when he speaks against Sharia Law, he is speaking to the heart of mainstream Islam. They make no attempt to hide the fact that Islam is highly political - one only had to witness the Trafalgar square rally to know that. They are quite happy to acknowledge it.
He didn't get where he is today by being green. So if he is knowingly goading people who are generally, in this country, quite a law-abiding bunch, what can he be thinking?
I don't have an answer for that, and remain silent on whether or not he is part of the illuminati ;-) or even the Anti-Christ himself (which I have heard before, to my mild amusement, I confess). It's just another one of those times I find myself baffled by English politics, and kind of wishing I had the authority to bang a few heads together. I get over it soon enough. Usually by turning the TV off whenever Tony Cameron, sorry, Blair, is on. *chuckles*
I watched some of the 'demonstration against Islamophobia' in Trafalgar Square yesterday. The Islam Channel had extensive coverage, and proved to be a more enlightening source of information than the BBC (no surprise there, then). The over-excited presenter insisted there were around 40,ooo people in attendance, which was patent nonsense.
The speakers were an assorted bunch, and the responses which they recieved were far more revealing than all the press releases ever could be. One muslim woman spoke, un-hijaabed, about the need to remember that respect has to be earned, and that her fellow muslims needed to speak concilliatory words. She was booed.
A number of bearded scholars raised their voices almost to screaming pitch, declaring that offense against the prophet would not be tolerated. They demanded western governments enact laws that make it a criminal offense to show disrespect for 'Rasul Sallahualihiwassalam'. They insisted that a Muslim must love Muhammed more than his family, or even his life. These speakers received cheers and chants of AllahuAhkbar.
I was reminded once again of a number of things that trouble me about Islam. They insist that they are the only people worshipping God alone. And yet the language Muhammed applied to himself, and the language applied to him by others, is very often quite obvious plagiarism from Christian terminology about Christ. Muhammed is said to intercede for believers, and those same believers must love him more than their own familes or selves. He is called the best of all creation. Of course, Muslims make a distinction between this devotion and the worship given to Allah alone, but this just reminds me of the distinction made by Roman Catholics between the devotion they give to Mary, and the devotion reserved for God.
It's no wonder the Westerners who first came across Muslims called them Mohammedans, as Christians are named after Christ. He is certainly a Christ figure to them.
The Pugnacious Yvonne Ridley gave a typically rabble-rousing speech that illicited a loud positive response. Ms Ridley used to be a liberal western woman before her conversion to Islam, and she has all the zealous enthusiasm of an ex-smoker.
What was very obvious was there were two sets of people present. Some thought they were there to express solidarity with an offended group, and to counter the recent violent demonstrations worldwide, and the demonstrations in the UK that had called for such violence. Generally speaking, these speakers were ignored, tolerated or booed. Then there was the other set who were quite clear that they were there to demand special priveleges, which they perceive as a divine right, about their religion. They were there to chant triumphalist slogans, anti-western sentiment, and go as close to the line of incitement as possible. These speakers were lauded by the crowd.
It rather gave the lie to the BBC promoted image of a 'peaceful rally for tolerance'. And it was an image the Islam Channel, true to form, seemed quite happy to showcase. All this should give you a clue about the topic of my upcoming post about Mr Blair. It's fun being cryptic, he he.
I shall explain what has been intriguing me about Mr Blair's approach to something in a post on Monday. I'm going to Scotland in the last part of the week, so it'll be a little quiet around here.
In the meantime, I had a few thoughts about this.
Isn't it the most telling thing? Our society has technology that even 60 years ago seemed like fantasy-land. And as scientists look at the mystery of conception, finding out amazing little facts about its complexity, the first thing they think of is how to twist these processes for 'contraception'.
It's like studying the intricate workings of an antique clock just so you can break it. What a warped lot.
Tony Blair is, I confess, not my favourite politician. When I was much younger, I saw him on a kids television program actually answer a question directly, and was very impressed. Growing up in Thatcherite Britain, with a union man father, I was eager to use my very first vote as a cudgel.
I voted Labour because I was heartily fed up with hearing about grimness from the Tories, and Labour seemed to offer untold, exciting change. And because I thought,
"That Tony Blair, he's alright, he is"
What a difference there can be between 20 and 29. And it's actually one issue that has creamed him for me. Nothing to do with dossiers, lying or unpopular wars.
It's the abortion question. Now, personally speaking, nothing pushes my buttons quicker. So I always pay attention to a politicians views on the topic. So when T. Blair said that he was personally opposed to abortion, I pricked up my ears.
The trouble is, his voting record shows that in every single related life issue, he has stood with the death-camp, so to speak. Plus, he will say quite openly about the topic that he 'doesn't believe his personal beliefs should affect how he votes' on it.
Doug Wilson did a pomposity-balloon popping piece on this a few weeks ago, based around the questioning of Judge Alito by Ted Kennedy. In this fictitious exchange, Ted Kennedy presses Alito to know if he will let his personal convictions affect the way he behaves in office on the supreme court. Kennedy clearly thinks it would be wrong to do so. Alito explains that, no, even though he is expressly against taking bribes, he is quite happy to take a few back-handers. And even though he believes it entirely wrong to commit adultery, he wouldn't let that conviction affect him if propositioned by a beautiful woman.
Now, in case it isn't clear to you, Mr Wilson is employing hyperbole. Nobody, not even turnip-hued Ted Kennedy, thinks it's a good thing to have deep convictions about something, and then behave in an official capacity as though you didn't have those convictions. There's even a nice neat word for that sort of thing. It's called Hypocrisy.
And yet, in certain circumstances, like say, the death and dismemberment of unborn children, it's quite de rigeur to acknowledge what a distasteful business it all is, and yet be cowardly enough to say it's ok for other people if they feel they really must.
This is the position Mr Blair takes, and it is why I wouldn't trust the man as far as my dainty little popeye arms could throw him. That and his perverse eagerness to get my biometric data catalogued in a big state computer somewhere.
Given my jaded view of him, there's something that's been intriguing me in recent months. More of that in my next post.
I reached my limit on annoying pop-stars again today. You may remember it happened a while ago with Paul McCartney. It happens quite a lot with him.
But there is another one that exasperates me almost as frequently. He's one of the icons of the modern church, and no doubt as I criticize him here, I'll get the same shocked reaction as the times I say I don't think Mother Theresa was a good Christian woman. But there it is. I always try and give him the benefit of the doubt, given that my husband is keen on U2, and likes to chat with his Scots friend about possible Christian references in the songs. I grit my teeth and listen to his soundbites hoping for the best.
Musically, I'm not keen, but then Tchaichovsky is my favourite, so I'm not likely to be. When it comes to cryptic Christian lyrics, my level of comfort is Caedmons Call.
It's more when Bono isn't singing that he troubles me. There's usually a lot of pained self-deprecation along the lines of
'I'm just a silly rock-star, why are you listening to me',
to which my response is generally,
And then there is reams of ecumenical soft-soap. He speaks to dignitaries and politicians and pats them royally on the back. He slips in 'radical' and 'challenging' statements about how easy-peasy-pudding-and-pie it would be to irradicate poverty at a cost of just £2.50 per head. And I think he honestly thinks he's making a difference. I wonder if he ever suspects that maybe the dignitaries and politicians just invite him along to speak, wearing leather and sunglasses indoors, so they can say 'See how cutting edge we are on poverty? We had Bono to speak at a private dinner'.
What troubles me the most is the fawning reception he gets among many professing believers. I actually got to the transcript of one his latest speeches via the blog of a christian I know, who asks if it were possible for Bono to 'any more biblical in his pronouncements'.
Well, you decide. Here's a couple of them.
Moving people of all kinds to work with others they had never met, never would have cared to meet… Conservative church groups hanging out with spokesmen for the gay community, all singing off the same hymn sheet on AIDS… Soccer moms and quarterbacks… hip-hop stars and country stars… This is what happens when God gets on the move: crazy stuff happens!
Popes were seen wearing sunglasses!
Jesse Helms was seen with a ghetto blaster!
Crazy stuff. Evidence of the spirit.
Crazy Stuff indeed. Behaving as though AIDS were a bigger problem than spiritual death, so that it became imperative to 'join forces' with those who oppose the gospel so we could defeat it. And please, don't assume I don't want to do anything about AIDS or poverty (and don't assume that I may not being already doing something). But since when was it 'biblical' to form alliances with people who hate Him for any 'good' cause whatsoever? And even if it is ever a good idea, is it really evidence of the spirit? The pope wearing sunglasses is evidence of the spirit? OK, I think he was probably attempting humour at that point, but given the level of most of his reasoning, it's hard to tell.
The only 'biblical' thing that jumped out at me in the speech was this:
[You know, the only time Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor.] ‘As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.’ (Matthew 25:40).
Really? Jesus was never just a teensy bit cross-patch with hypocrites who spout religiosity and flaunt their good works before men, Bono? He didn't ever get physical and mighty grumpy about men using the house of God as a place to push merchandising?
And of course, no doubt with some people I'm in big trouble now because Bono wants to help the poor, and helping the poor creates a special aura around someone making them impervious to critique. And of course, if I'm criticizing Bono, I must not want to help the poor. Because, of course, you can't help the poor if you're just wanting to go, preach the gospel and help people alongside that endeavour.
That Bono's way of schmixing up a bit of this and a bit of that, is seen as the most effective and impressive way of changing the world by Christians, is just evidence that we really have no idea of the way we're supposed to be changing the world. Clue: Moral and Social reform is not the gospel
I know, you all hate me now. Don't get me started on Mother Theresa now, will you...
In light of recent events, much has been made of one of those mythical absolutes that post-modern thought is reluctant to own. The right to free speech.
But like that other post-modern absolute, tolerance, it's a rather elusive thing. Largely neccessitated by the vacuum created by neglecting old-fashioned absolutes like 'truth' and 'right and wrong', free speech and tolerance are rather slippery. They ooze into the grey areas, like water, they find the lowest point, and we find ourselves defending what we should abhor.
But I submit that a Christian has no business defending 'free speech' in the face of the devastation caused by it.
Colossians 4 verse 6 tells us our speech should be graceful, seasoned with salt. We are to be wise with those who are without.
It's nobody's right to draw pictures explicitly designed to offend deeply held convictions, anymore than it is a right to hold a placard calling for the death of those who oppose you. To call for the prosecution of one set of offensive slogans while defending another set on principle, is simply rank hypocrisy.
I personally find those death-threats deeply offensive and irresponsible, and think it highly appropriate to prosecute those responsible. But I cannot hold to that opinion with integrity if I do not also disagree with those who would provoke such sentiments with their 'freedom'.
With rights come responsibilities. I cannot leave all my car doors wide open, the keys in the ignition and a neon light saying 'STEAL ME' next to it, and act like the wounded innocent when someone drives off in it. I can't rub a beefburger over my hand, wave it in front of a Rottweiler's mouth and then sue the owner to have the dog put down when it bites me. This is not to say the thief is justified, nor to say the dog shouldn't be muzzled.
I may be 'free' to do such things, but I have no right to do them, nor do I have a right to be free from the consequences of my actions, because of the freedom of my choices.
We are free to shake our fist in rebellion to God - we have no right to do it.
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. 1 Cor 10:23
As Christians, we have no right to offend for the sake of offending(1 Peter 4:15) - nor should we approve of those who do. We are called to control our tongue, knowing it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison (James 3:8)
I stand against much of Islam, not least the propensity for extreme anger inherent within it. But just as I would be foolish to tempt a kleptomaniac with an array of unguarded goodies, I am foolish to provoke anger with my freedom.
This is not to take away the responsibility of those offended to react with proportion and reason. But these people are unregenerate, and thus governed by the god of this world. The cause of the gospel is not furthered by gauche, ham-fisted 'liberty'.
Goodness, I've been tagged.
Four Jobs I’ve Had in My Life:
Four Movies I Could Watch Over and Over, and Have:
Singin' in the Rain
Anchors Aweigh! (seeing a common thread here, anyone?)
The Princess Bride
Four Places I Have Lived [depending on how you define "living"]:
Selly Oak, Birmingham
Four TV Shows I Love To Watch:
Life on Mars (Not the kind of thing I'd normally watch,at all but it's very original and it's got loads of 1970's memory factor..)
BBC versions of the Chronicles of Narnia (I know, I cheated, we've got them on DVD..)
Four Places I Have Been On Vacation:
Stratford upon Avon
Four Websites I Visit Daily [besides this one and Pyromaniacs!]:
Wires from the bunker
Reflections of the Times
Dr Mohler's Blog
Four Favorite Foods:
Cheese and mayonnaise sandwiches with jalapeno peppers
Steak done rare
Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now:
In the bath
The Lake district
1850 in America
Four People I Am Tagging With This Meme:
see, here's where my englishness is coming in to play. I am feeling really bad about doing this,
Kim, because she's far too serious ;-)
It's not often that you see a secular documentary that reports on Benny Hinn and doesn't take the opportunity to give him a richly deserved kicking for his lifestyle and appalling 'prophecy' record. I saw one last night that admirably confined itself to the claims of healing at his rallies.
Here are the details.
Now, I'm going to shock you. I believe Benny Hinn is a healer. Same as I believe Dr Frost at the local surgery is a healer. I've always been fairly sure that if a human believes they are going to get better, whether through the pretty pills the doctor prescribes, or through the emotionally charged atmosphere of a Benny Hinn rally, the chances are pretty good that they will feel better.
I often think of that little scientific tidbit - if you smile, it releases happy chemicals in the brain, so smile and you'll feel better. I little realized that, actually, that's very much what does happen in healing services and hospitals all over the world. The placebo effect is often used as a dismissive term, akin to saying someone made it all up. But it's use and application is vastly different to play-acting to help those with hypochondria and psychosomatic illness.
Apparently, doctors have been able to measure the effect of a placebo (a highly convincing but pretend drug or procedure) on the brain chemistry of the person receiving it. In an atmosphere of high expectation, the brain will release dopamine, which perhaps in turn will act as a trigger to other healing processes we don't fully understand. It's measurable and repeatable. People with asthma, knee problems, heart conditions, Parkinson's disease - all were given a measure of healing through the use of various placebos. It works best when there is high expectation, some form of ritual behaviour (taking pills, repeated singing or chanting), and when the healer give the impression of assurance and confidence.
So, Benny Hinn is definitely a healer. His crusades are perfectly designed to activate the placebo effect, which is real, measurable and effective for recovery. There is nothing supernatural about the healing, it's a natural process. There's a number of ironies in this. Firstly, the word of faith believers are employing a perfectly adequate method of self-healing, framed in a religious setting that will only enhance the effects. But it's kind of sad that so often, it forms the entirety of their faith, and it's a completely natural process. It's kind of like all your faith being lived around the fact that when you get hungry, you eat, and the hunger goes away. It's true, and there is some small spiritual application, but it's a natural process that isn't confined to those who believe.
The second big irony is of course that various new age methods - reiki, the Bowen technique, crystal healing etc. work on the same principle. I always thought that perhaps there was actually demonic involvement, and no doubt in so far as the name of Christ is denied, there is. But not in the healing aspect - that comes entirely from within those healed. Everything else is simply an external trigger. I don't for a moment equate the miracles of the New Testament with these types of healing - they are very different in character and mode.
So, what's going on with Libbie, you may be asking. Has she turned into an extreme rationalist materialist who watches 'This is Your Day!'?
Well, actually, this was one of those moments where I can't fail to say WOW. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Knowing the 'how' of some healings doesn't diminish in the slightest the wonder of them. In fact, knowing that the process is built in to our already complex body systems just makes me praise the Lord for another revelation of His infinite wisdom. It's like those experiments that show that certain chemicals are released in the brain when people have religious experiences. Showing there is a physiological aspect to the things of God is hardly proof of God not being involved. God created us as physical beings - why would it be unthinkable that His genius affects every last bit of us?
So, do give glory to God for any healing you come across - be it Medical, surgical, crusade-induced or even juggling pretty crystals. Use it as an opportunity to talk about the designer of this amazing body, and his providence in creation, and also about how, astounding as our bodies are, they are not as they should be. Just think how astonishing Adam and Eve were! And how amazing we will be - contemplate for a while the awesomeness of everything that is covered by the phrase 'eternal life'. Ultimately, whether miraculous or simply physiological, healing on this earth is only temporary. Even Lazarus died again. How precious salvation in Jesus Christ is!