Saturday, May 28, 2011

A rational, philosophical faith.

Good morning God,
In honour of this weeks lectionary reading from Acts - I would like to confess my own philosophical leanings.. and my puzzlement at those Christians who seem hell bent on pitting faith against reason, as though there were nothing reasonable or intelligent about either the Gospel or your continuing creative presence. 

You who know how we are made, who gave to us this amazing thing we call curiosity and set in our hearts a hunger for the truth, seem to delight in communicating with us in riddles and parables.  You invite our exploration, tease us with the possibilities that knowledge affords, and then gently persuade us to use the phenomenal intelligence of the whole of humanity to speculate and wonder at the mystery of creation and our place within it.

How sad that religion so often decries the great gift  you give to us of collective intelligence, of the progress of knowledge and the slow but inexorable maturing of the mind of humanity. How pathetic when priests, the appointed guardians of the mysteries, perjure their calling by insisting that they already know what the truth is, that we need look no further, seek no harder. We can stop asking and stop knocking at your door because you have already said all you intend to say. The Bible says it all, and what it says is all that we need to know.

Thank you God - that you taught me better than to believe that!

The Bible is your word - but it is not your final word and you never meant for it to be understood literally. If Paul had realised he was going to be quoted for the rest of time, he would have undoubtedly chosen some of his words with more care! (The same can undoubtedly be said of Ezekiel and one or two other authors) The TRUTH of Scripture is not literal, it is alive: real truth is so much more than plain facts.

So I read with joy the following report in the American New Scientist

Almost 13,000 Christian clergy have done it. Nearly 500 Jewish rabbis have too. Now, Islamic teachers, or imams, have begun signing an open letter declaring that there is no clash between their religious faith and evolution.
The Imam Letter, launched this week in the US, is the latest challenge to fundamentalists of the three Abrahamic religions who reject evolution in favour of creationism. The Clergy Letter was launched in 2006 and now has 12,725 signatures, followed three years ago by the Rabbi Letter, which has 476 signatures.

So at least some leaders of each of the three great faiths of the Book are united in the great battle against idiocy. It's a small start I know but could we dare to dream that in the not too distant future young and old will rise to the challenge set out in Scripture to grow and flourish as you desire us to. Will the world finally be free of the despotic idiotic presentation of you as the God who punishes thought and questions, doubt and insecurities, the God who is determined to keep humanity submissive and simple! (How on earth such people have ever squared this image of you with the fact that you also gave us mathematics and science I have never quite been able to fathom!)

Can we dare to dream of the day when Dawkin's savage ignorant God dies!

YES, YES and again YES!

And the best of all is, when we stop pitting reason against faith, when we stop demanding that people throw away their brains when they enter the Church, when we stop trying to defend you(?!) from the enlightened questions of your created offspring - then, and only then, will we understand what love really is.

Love that is blind is an easy love to hold on to. It is not the love of the cross which saw the pain and shame and yet still chose to love. If Jesus did not know what he died for - he died in vain. If he was not aware of the cost - it cost nothing - if his love was blind, it was no love at all.
Love which is pure faith is not the love of the Spirit which leads us into all truth about ourselves and then still demands us to love ourselves - completely. If all that we needed was the Good News of Christ, then why was the Spirit sent? If all that we needed was the Bible, why bother with the gift of tongues? If all that was said and done was all that you ever intended for us to know - why does the Spirit continue to breathe new life into your people, and impart new gifts of grace for this age?

Above all this - Love that does not dare to question is not the love of Christ who demands to know - 'why have you forsaken me?' Your love does not, nor has it ever, belittled the pain and suffering of your people. We hear from your own lips the question so many need the answer to. And in response we learn to listen as you plead in your love for us 'How long will you forget me?'

Reasonable rational knowing love, love which is not afraid of the questions as well as the dreams and aspirations of the other is the love that you ask of us. Not the love of a supplicant, fearful and afraid to do anything else, nor the love of the mindless adherent, empty and ignorant of why they do what they do. But the love of a child, trusting yet inquisitive, determined to grow and become all that they can be. Delighting in discovery, enjoying being teased by the puzzles and riddles you set them, and spellbound by the parables and the stories you tell.
This is the love that flourishes and lasts forever - for there is an eternity of mystery to explore and you seem to delight in the processes of revelation.

You are not unknown to me God- and I too struggle with the concept of resurrection, but nonetheless. you hold me enthralled by the very opportunity to discover more! I do not yet know what knowledge is, or understand how I know what I claim to know- epistemology is as much of a riddle to me as resurrection - but I am keen to try and make the leap from reason to faith and back again as required in order to gain the greater prize of a love that I can comprehend.
So thank you God for the way in which you continue to open my mind to the potential for greater understanding - for insisting that growth in grace and holiness includes growth in knowledge and understanding.
I look forward to learning more.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

World Methodist Council seeks Youth and Young Adult Coordinator

The position of Youth and Young Adult Coordinator for the World Methodist Council involves the following priorities:
1. To provide continuity and sustenance of World Methodist Council youth and young adult programs.
2. To provide pro-active communication among World Methodist Council member church youth & young adult ministries as well as area youth & young adult networks.
4. To assist in the building of leadership among youth and young adults.
5. To facilitate and coordinate interaction among youth and young adult leaders around the world, enabling them to interact with each other.
1. To serve as the channel of coordination and communication among national and regional youth and young adult organizations belonging to the Methodist and Wesleyan tradition.
2. To act as the representative of the World Methodist Council youth and young adults in appropriate programs and activities related to the World Methodist Council in general.
3. To lead the implementation of youth and young adult programs as planned by the Council’s Youth and Young Adult Committee.
4. To initiate programmatic thrusts for youth and young adults in relation to the vision and goals of the World Methodist Council.
5. To promote and advocate World Methodist Council youth and young adult programs for purposes of financial support from various possible sources available.
6. To liaise with ecumenical and other relevant youth and young adult organizations.
7. The Youth and Young Adult Coordinator must report to the General Secretary of the World Methodist Council.
8. To serve as an ex-officio member of the World Methodist Council Youth and Young Adult Committee.
9. To perform such other functions as necessary in the attainment of the goals of the World Methodist Council and the Youth and Young Adult Committee.
May be up to 35 years of age at beginning of the five-year term. Active membership in a member church of the World Methodist Council for at least 5 years. Leadership experience with young people within the church on regional or national levels. Education, skills and talents appropriate for the successful performance of duties and responsibilities of the job. Preferably with the ability to communicate effectively in written and spoken English, and ability to communicate in at least one other language. Ability to travel internationally.
The position may be based in the country where the Coordinator chooses to live or at the World Methodist Council Headquarters in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, assuming the following conditions are met:
o Easy access to an international airport.
o Strong communication infrastructure (reliable telephone, internet, postal service, etc.).
o Office (administrative) support from a World Methodist Council member church or regional network.
This is a part-time position for the five years of the quinquennium beginning in 2016.
The World Methodist Council will widely publicize the position opening to all member churches and youth and young adult networks. Applications will be sent to Dr. George H. Freeman, General Secretary, World Methodist Council, P. O. Box 518, Lake Junaluska, NC 28745 USA, by June 15th, 2011, and presented to the Selection Committee. The Committee will review the applications and recommend the candidate to the Council for election.
Applications should include: resume or curriculum vitae, supporting letters from an active Bishop/Church President, the candidate’s pastor/minister, and youth or young adult organization (national, regional, conference).

British Candidates - you might want to talk to the Chair or Secretary of the British World Methodist Committee (Luke Curran or Anne Vautrey) or to Chris Elliott (Connexional Secretary) at Methodist Church House. Any difficulties - let me know.

This really is a GREAT opportunity to play in important role for the whole Methodist family.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ground Zero and the meaning of death.

Good morning God,

When president Obama visits Ground Zero today, he will meet with representatives of the families of the victims of the September 11th terrorist attack. In so doing, he will underline the importance of the deaths which occurred on that day to every American. Although they did not choose to die, and I doubt had any desire to become martyrs to the American way of life, nonetheless their deaths forever changed the history of world.

But what is it that makes some deaths more meaningful than others? Why, for example, are the deaths of the victims of 9/11 any more 'life-bearing', any more worthy of national and international respect and consideration, than the countless thousands who die before their time every year in America and throughout the world through want of proper health care, or through gun crime?

The names of those who die from curable diseases, from famine, flood or tornado, who also did not choose to die, are not carved in stone. They often have no memorial, no 'Ground Zero' to draw people's attention to their loss, but surely they are as much victims of providence as those who died on 9/11? Their lives were just as important to you God, and to them as those of the victims of 9/11 - but apparently they are not as important to us. Why not?

Is it simply that all the deaths from 9/11 all occurred at the same time, at the same place?
Is collective death more important than individual death?
Or is it just that it is more visible?

We have come to believe that death should be a private family affair, something that occurs at the end of a long and fruitful life. We should die surrounded by our loved ones, in no pain or distress, with a priest or a minister to hand to assist us as we transition to the life after death promised to us in the Scriptures.

Public deaths are abhorrent, terrifying and offensive to us, they force us to see our own mortality, our vulnerability. They don't allow us to excuse ourselves and look away.  They teach us the truth of the saying 'there but for the grace of God go I' and how little control we actually have over whether we live, or die.

Ground Zero has become a public monument to the mortality and vulnerability of every human being. Including Osama Bin Laden! It is a reminder that no matter how charismatic, powerful or wealthy a person or a nation becomes, death can still come suddenly - like a thief in the night - and steal away the future  hopes and dreams.
Through the death of Osama Bin Laden, it may be possible eventually to prevent more terrorist attacks, more public, collective deaths. The Western  'way of life' may be a little more secure. Unless of course, the real threat to it lies, as it always has, in our refusal to see, and be changed by, the thousands of silent. hidden, passed-over deaths of the poor and the hungry in our midst.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The execution of justice

Good morning God,
I woke to scenes of ghastly jubilation on the TV,  people singing and dancing in the street, shouting and cheering in joy at the death of one man Osama Bin Laden. He, his son and one other were killed in their home in Pakistan last night, by American special forces.  In the words of Barak Obama - Justice has been done.
 I can understand the killing of Osama Bin Laden in a raid gone wrong - I can even understand the immature 'wanted dead or alive' mentality.
What disturbs me, no - terrifies me, - is the jubilation over this death.

I believe the scenes we are witnessing in America this day are more of a tangible threat to the survival of our way of life than Bin Laden's threats ever were. What we are seeing in Obama's smile and in the crowd's spontaneous celebration is more dangerous to the rest of humanity than the pseudo religiosity of Al-Qaeda ever was for it exposes the death of international justice and liberty on the altar of offended American nationality. As Obama stated - 'We can do these things not because of wealth or power but because of who we are'.  Or put more succinctly 'Might is right' and 'If you hit me  no matter how long it takes, or wherever you try to hide - I will find you and hit you back, so hard you will never dare to hit me again, and no, I couldn't care less why you did it.

Obama ended his gloat with the words 'God bless America' and I found myself praying God, that you would find some way of helping him and the American people see how sickening this obvious delight in the death of a man is: Bin Laden is dead, justice has been denied the families of the victims of 9/11, of 7/7  and of all the other atrocities around the world, attributed to this man. Bin Laden was wanted by MANY countries, not just by America. The whole of the Western world has been robbed of the chance to hear an unedited account of why this man felt justified in waging his war on its way of life. The proponents of liberty and international justice are forever denied the opportunity of bringing this man to trial - of judging him according to the legal moral and ethical codes that they insist underpin western societies.

As hard as it is to accept, regardless of what the man did, regardless of how many he killed, maimed or destroyed, justice demands a proper account and judgement of those crimes, not a government sponsored lynching.

killing is not justice - it is the denial of justice.

The celebration of Bin Laden's killing merely exposes the lie that justice was ever intended.

The perverse delight at Bin Laden's execution sits alongside people's acceptance of the illegal concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay and the disgusting use of waterboarding and other forms of torture, as proof positive that Al-Qaeda has won the war.

Justice and liberty are dead.
They were destroyed in 9/11

And I am afraid God, that all that remains is a sort of perverse despotic democracy which lives a lie of liberty and which is slowly but surely spreading across the globe like a cancer.

God help us.