Thursday, 25 April 2013

On Politics

As a local politician*, it has been interesting to follow tweets from a variety of sources over the last few months. What should the Christian response to political parties and politicians be? Here are some of my thoughts.

Obviously there is no one political party that has a monopoly on Christians. Christians in Politics links to the Christian groups within the 3 major parties, and is well worth a look if you are interested in such things.

Personally, I always think it amusing that we have a Christian Socialist Movement, a Liberal Democrat Christian Forum, and a Conservative Christian Fellowship. I suspect the choice of word tells us more about how Christians within each party would view themselves than they would care to admit!

As Christians, I feel we have an obligation to explore and challenge all political parties and their policies to ensure that they take account of Christian views. For those of us with a political allegiance, this means challenging our own party on occasions, and also accepting things from the opposition sometimes...
Those of us who are Conservatives need to be aware that Labour and Liberal Democrats might have good ideas occasionally; those who are Labour need to be aware that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats might have good ideas occasionally; and Liberal democrats need to be aware that both Labour and Conservatives might have good ideas occasionally!
Blindly accepting the stereotypes of their secular opponents and dismissing the opposition without engaging with them seems a profoundly unChristian way to operate.

We need to pray for all political parties that they will listen to the Christians within their ranks, and so allow God to speak to policy whoever is in power.

Almost every politician at every level is in politics because they want to make their community (be it district, county or country level) a better place. We might disagree with their politics, but it is hugely unfair to demonise people and dismiss their motives just because we happen to disagree with them about how best to improve things for everybody.

We need to pray for all politicians that they will keep the service of the country in their minds, and not seek power for themselves, but to serve others.

This applies even more when we think about our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we have ever thought "how can they be a Christian and a ... Tory, Labour, LibDem..." then we need to repent and start to think of people as fellow Christians first, and political opponents second. Our siblinghood in Christ transcends all other considerations after all.

We need to pray that Christians in all parties will listen to their consciences, and speak out for what they believe in. We need to pray that they will seek fellowship with their fellow Christians, meet to pray together, and work together to seek God's will for the country and Government.

*I am a member of both the Conservative party and the Conservative Christian Forum. I served as a district councillor for 4 years from 2008 to 2012. From 2010 to 2012 I was cabinet member for housing on the district council. I am currently a non-aligned member of my local town council.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Seven Deadly Sins?

Proverbs 6:16-19 (NIV)
16 There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him:
17         haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,
18         a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19         a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.
  1. "eyes" - Do we think we are better because we are Christians? Do we look down on the poor; the rich; the left; the right; muslims; atheists; black; white; disabled?
  2. "tongue" - Are we honest in all we say? Can our words be trusted? Is our 'yes' 'yes' and our 'no' 'no'?
  3. "hands" - are we bullies (which is as close to shedding innocent blood as most of us get!), or do we stand up for the weak and oppressed with our actions?
  4. "heart" - what is inside us? Are we looking out for ourselves, or seeking God's will? Do our plans glorify God or ourselves?
  5. "feet" - do we move towards or away from temptation? Do we avoid placing ourselves in risky situations?
  6. "A false witness" - Do we speak out truth or lies? Do we stand up for what is right, or for what is wrong?
  7. "stir up conflict" - do we bring people together, or tear them apart? Do we build communities? Are our contributions to our homes, churches, communities, societies, government characterised by inclusion or exclusion? Do we make people feel part of something, or do we isolate?

Sunday, 14 April 2013

'True Religion' - (A Story)

This is a story I wrote for a blog in a Sci-Fi game. It first appeared on Feb 14 2013 on the Pheonix BSE nexus.

True Religion

The bar is silent; every eye is on the vidscreen in the corner. A trial is in progress, and all are watching. No one talks; no one moves.

On the screen the Inquisitor looks at the families in the dock before him, his harsh black eyes burning into their tormented, worthless souls. Men & women, old & young, children and adults; heretics, all of them, for they have dared to spread false teaching amongst the holy followers of the True One. For this, they must die, but mere death is too good for them. An example must be made; fear spread; retribution must be seen in all its terrible finality. For this heresy above all others must be crushed out. The survival of the Brotherhood depends on it.

The Inquisitor does not know that it is too late. Millennia too late. The battle was fought and lost thousands of years before. He does not know that attempts beyond counting have been made to crush this one small spark of heresy. All have failed, for this heresy is the true one - the true heresy on which the waves of religious fundamentalism have always crashed and been swept back. The irony would be lost on his hard metallic soul, were he capable of understanding irony, and were his mind open to the real possibilities inherent in the spark he is trying to crush.

The Inquisitor does not know that in seeking to crush this outbreak he will provide the impetus to spread it far and wide across the peripheries. Fleeing his wrath, the hundreds of other heretics across the planet will take to the stars, spreading this terrible truth wherever they go. This trial will plant the seed that will ultimately lead to the destruction of all that the Brotherhood stand for. The Inquisitor does not see, does not comprehend the terrible powers he is about to unleash on the galaxy. His hate-filled eyes see only that he must destroy any who oppose him and his kind.

"Do you understand the charges against you?" His sepulchral voice booms across the room.

A man looks up, and opens his mouth to speak. "We do". His voice is surprisingly strong, the belief behind it obvious to all watching.

The Inquisitor stares at the man. He has not expected an answer. Few have dared speak openly before, and none with such confidence. The whole amphitheatre is designed to inspire terror in those in the dock. Taken aback, the Inquisitor is shocked to find that it has failed. There is no fear in this man; in fact there is no fear in any of them. A small spark of doubt fleetingly crosses his mind, but the last desperate attempt of a conscience to be heard is swept away before the Inquisitor even realises what it is.

Rage sweeps through him. He brandishes the piece of paper in his hand. "This is all the evidence we need. Do you know what this is? Do you know what it says?" The terrible waves of his amplified wrath break against the calm mien of the man before him.

"It is the truth."

"IT IS HERESY" screams the Inquisitor, all composure gone. "For this, you will die, your family will die, your friends will die. YOU WILL ALL DIE."

The man nods. "Yes. We will die, but in destroying our bodies you will only set us free; but more than that, in killing us you will set the truth free."


Again, the man nods; "Yes, you are the Antichrist, and you can do nothing to us that God does not will, for our fate is in His hands. You may kill our bodies, but you cannot touch our souls, for they are held in the hands of God."

Apoplectic, the Inquisitor throws the old, tattered manuscript from him. "I will hear no more, take them away, KILL THEM, kill them all - NOW!"

In the bar, the silence is total. No one talks; no one moves. The ancient text, printed thousands of years before, lands on the camera lens. The words written on it are clear for all to see:

"27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Be Say Do

Spring Harvest this year had the them of Jesus: The Source. There were 4 daily themes:
  1. The Source - the gospel is not a what or a how, it is a who. The good news of Jesus is the message we spread. We need to make sure our theology is focussed on what Jesus said and did.
  2. Be the Good News - we are the visible witness of God on earth. When people look for God they look at us first. We need to ensure that what people see when they look at us is a reflection of God.
  3. Say the Good News - we need to be able to explain the reasons for our faith, not with superiority and condemnation, but with humbleness and respect.
  4. Do the Good News -  Faith without deeds is dead. We need to love out our faith in such a way that when people see our actions in fighting poverty and injustice they see the heart of God in action - our faith as a positive force for good in the world.
How do we apply this teaching into our lives? What difference does it make to us if we stop looking at our faith as a theoretical religion, but instead view it as a practical outpouring of the heart of God?

Friday, 5 April 2013

An eye for an eye?

I am sure that we all know the passage from Matthew's gospel very well, but have we considered the whole passage? There are 5 instructions in the passage:
  1. Do not resist an evil person;
  2. Turn to him the other [cheek] also;
  3. Let him have your cloak as well;
  4. Go with him 2 miles;
  5. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
The whole passage is in the context of dealing with evil people. Don't resist, do what they want, don't fight back, give them what they want. In other words, we reject the instinct and expectations of our society, we reject our 'human rights', we reject the Fight/Flight reponse, and we take God's way.

So how does this fit with the response of some Christians when they are told, for example, to remove crosses by their employers? Does taking them to court to fight for your rights fit with this passage, with Jesus's words?

Jesus is telling us that when we are persecuted we should do what they want, without fuss, without drama. Actually he is telling us we should do more than what the evil person has asked for.

We are counter-cultural, and our culture says "sue!" How can we show we are different if we follow the world's way? We need to be showing the world we have a different way, a better way.

I know it is out of context, as Paul was talking about believers taking each other to court, but in 1 Corinthians 5 v 7 he says:

"Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?"


PS I am not applying this to how we deal with poverty and injustice. That is the church standing up for the poor, the weak, the disenfranchised, the oppressed, for those outside the church who need help. Jesus here is talking about how we personally respond to personal persecution. Which is, of course, the same way he responded when he was persecuted at the Cross.