Sunday, December 27, 2009

Reading in the New Year

I really do pity my loved ones when it comes to the traditional gift giving times of the year, birthdays and Christmas in particular. I am a nightmare to buy stuff for, mainly because I have very clear ideas about the things I like and even the tiniest little thing can take something from the "yes I'll have that" pile to the "no, never, buy me that I will be offended for life" pile - as you can imagine, I am a nightmare to go shopping with.

The safest bet with me, as I constantly tell Mrs Velkyal, is books. I love books, I love reading, and to be perfectly honest, if I could spend my life surrounded by books then I would be as happy as Augustus Gloop in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. One of my long term ambitions is to build a house to my own design, the centre piece being an atrium going from the ground floor to the roof which would be my library and study.

I must admit to having dropped several very large hints at Mrs Velkyal that I wanted a copy of Karen Armstrong's "A History of God" - I book I have pondered getting several times before but not gone ahead with. My interest in the book was re-stirred when I discovered that my eldest brother was reading it, and given our history of theological discussions (usually over pints somewhere - the pub is so much more conducive to good conversation I find, infinitely preferable to a Bible study group) I decided I would angle for a copy so that we have more to discuss.

One of the things I love about Mrs Velkyal, other than being Mrs Velkyal, which is worthy of a medal in and of itself, is that she often goes beyond the call of duty, thus is was I also received a copy of Armstrong's "A Short History of Myth", which I am very much looking forward to delving into. Sometimes though I like to give myself the occasional present, and so I bought a copy of Thiselton's "The Hermeneutics of Doctrine" - I loved hermenetics at college, and thoroughly enjoyed Thiselton's "New Horizons in Hermeneutics".

I am sure that these books will stir many a thought in my brain, and that I'll be making reference to them time and again in the coming months, so here's looking forward to some good reading!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Very Happy Christmas!

Despite my many, and fairly well documented, misgivings about the Christian religion, or faith, whatever you want to call it - the only difference is semantics and a self important notion of somehow being different from other Christians - Christmas is one of the festival of the church that I really love.

Is there any more powerful message in all of human experience than that God would deign to take on human form, coming to preach a message of the possibility of humanity's reconciliation with their creator?

Of course, the message of Christmas, of Christianity really, is that humanity can be better than it is, that the constant cycle of emnity, warfare and hatred need not be the norm for the human race, that peace and goodwill can extend to all of God's creation - it is a vision still worth living for.

Being an Episcopalian at Christmas is to drench oneself in the traditions and rites of the church, embodied so much in the Lessons and Carols service, especially at King's College. Here are some clips from this most beautiful of service.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Missing Millenium

I often reflect that there was a glaring great gap in the theological education I received at college, and this isn't an attempt to disrespect everything I learnt at college.

For many of us in the one of the various Protestant traditions we miss out on about 1200 years of theological thought and development because our worldview basically goes as follows from a historical perspective:
  • Acts of the Apostles
  • Early Church up to 313AD
  • The Reformation
If you accept the Reformation began with the nailing of the 95 Thesis to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg in 1517 then most Protestants ignore a thousand years of Christian thought, devotion, expression and spirituality in the misguided notion that from Constantine's alleged conversion to Martin Luther shaking Europe to its very core nothing of note happened.

Naturally there are precursors to the Reformation in the work of the Waldensians, John Wycliffe and Jan Hus, but there were also many honest and sincere theological reflections during those thousand years which can feed our spiritual lives today.

There are several writings that I have found instructive and edifying in the years since I left college and started exploring those thousand years, and here I would recommend them to your own reading:
  • The Imitation of Christ - Thomas a Kempis
  • The of Life of St Columba - Adamnan
  • The Writings of Julian of Norwich
In recommending these works, I ask that we remember that all human writings are flawed in some way, for as St Paul reminds us, "we see through a glass darkly". None of us sees or understands the Gospel in all its fullness, the divine mind is simply beyond us, but in sharing that which we see, we hope others gain from our insight, as we look to gain from theirs.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On Passion

Over on Murgsy's blog, written by my best friend from college, Cristi, is currently posted a story about an Aston Villa fan who is so passionate about his club that he has only missed one game in 30 years. I had to give Cristi kudos for not turning the story into a bash of people who shout and scream from the terraces or, from the comfort of a pub, at a TV set whilst watching a match of football, yet like a quiet, reflective form of Christian expression.

Said kudos is due largely because I am one of those people. Although in recent years I have improved remarkably when it comes to being vocal watching a match, a fact I put down very much to the calming influence of Mrs Velkyal, I have spent many a sermon sat squirming as the preacher berated football fans for using their passion in support of a club, instead of jerking around in church with St Vitus' Dance.

To be blunt, such preachers simply do not understand the nature of passion, and I think part of the misunderstanding is that they fail to see that the most common emotion of the football fan is frustration, not passion, if you are a Liverpool fan, think back to Houllier's last season and you'll know what I mean.

Passion is not about noise, not about being wildly demonstrative, not about flamboyance, passion is about what you care most deeply about, they key there being "deeply". Passion without depth is just splashing around trying to make a good impression.

I love the story of when Elijah, having proven the superiority of YHWH and slaughtered the false prophets, does a runner from the retribution of Jezebel and hides in a cave. There follows a mighty wind, an earthquake and a fire, none of which contain the comfort of God, only in the still small voice did God speak to Elijah.

So let others bang on about the latest fad in worship music, or the latest manifestations of the Holy Spirit, God is still the still small voice - perhaps we should learn to shut up?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thoughts on Sermon Soundbytes

Here are a few more little thoughts and snippets from my note book, taken from listening to different sermons and interacting with them.
  • "predestination - nothing prevents God's of sovereignty as long as we continue to walk in the Spirit"
If the preacher who stated this is correct, then surely God is not actually sovereign since the success of his plan depends on frail human beings? This statement, whilst seeming to teach the sovereignty of God is in fact entirely anthropocentric because God, it would seem, is incapable of implementing his will without people, thus he is not sovereign. This kind of attitude reminds me of the fictitious nonsense that God "helps those who help themselves", a theological dressing up of naked greed if ever there was one.
  • "assurance is freedom from doubt"
Is that really so? In the experience of Job, his assurance came from freedom in doubt - by understanding that circumstances are temporary but the love of God is eternal, Job was free to believe despite the evident doubts and questions his circumstances raised. Doubt is a natural part of faith, after all we are called not to know but to believe.

Just a couple of things to mull over....

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Some Questions

I was reading a note book this morning. It was my note book from the months after I graduated, most of it is notes taken during sermons in various churches in Inverness and Birmingham. I came across a serious of questions that I wrote down at the time, and they still bother me. It would be nice to get other people's thoughts on them:
  • is healing only finally proven in death?
  • does God really care more about minor ailments than the suffering of Third World believers?
  • is "be thou separate" from the Revelation used as an excuse to live in a Christianised bubble?
  • is Evangelicalism a culturally conditioned theological phenomenon?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Going Back?

On Friday afternoon Mrs Velkyal had an audition for a choir being put together to do Carmina Burana, something she had sung when she was back in university. The audition took place in one of the local Episcopal churches, the Church of our Saviour (I was intrigued that it was spelt with a u rather than without). I can't  remember why I tagged along, probably I was bored witless and starting to feel the effects of cabin fever. While I waited in the church lobby, I got talking to a lady there, who asked me a question which has come up several times since I moved to the USA. Almost without fail when a person discovers I have a degree in Theology and trained with the ministry before moving to Prague, they ask "do you think you will ever go back?".

At the moment there is really only one honest answer to that question: I simply don't know if I would go back, and I am not even convinced that I would make a good vicar/priest/pastor/insert denominational leadership bias here. Sure I am a decent enough communicator, but sometimes I wonder if I am too obviously flawed as a person to be the kind of shepherd that a lot of people seem to want, and I quite often wonder if there exists a church daft enough to have me, even if I did go back.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Does Your Theology Liberate?

I am quite happy to say that I have something of a soft spot for Latin American Liberation Theology, in particular their focus on taking the foundational texts of Christianity and putting social justice at the very heart of their believes and action. I came across some notes in my stack of old college papers about the defining marks of Liberation Hermeneutics as practiced by the likes of Leonardo and Clodovis Boff. These notes were made as part of a lecture that my two best friends at college, Cristi and Phil gave in our 3rd year Hermeneutics class.

Marks of Liberation Hermeneutics

1. Favours application to explanation

Liberation hermeneutics seeks to find a more pragmatic approach to understanding Scripture. The primary concern for the liberation exegete is not "what does the text mean?" but rather "how does the text address my situation?". Whilst allowing a text to have a meaning in and of itself, the liberation exegete seeks to find a pragmatic application to that meaning.

"the important thing is not so much interpreting the text of the Scripture as interpreting life according to the scripture" - Leonardo and Clodovis Boff.

2. Seeks the Transforming Power of Texts

The liberation exegete is concerned with interpreting the text so that change is made inevitable. This interpretation will lead to change on an individual level through conversion and on a national level through revolution.

3. Stresses Social Context of the Message

The liberation exegete seeks to place his message within the framework of oppression in the Bible. For example Israel in Egypt, Babylon or Jesus living within the oppressive Roman Empire. This approach emphasises that God is the liberator of his people from oppressive regimes as much as from sin.

The notes then continue with a section on the use of the Hermeneutical Circle in the work of Juan Luis Segundo, which I will probably re-write so as not to be so overly academic.

Reflecting though on those notes, I am convinced that any exegesis which doesn't address the social situation in which we find ourselves is an exegesis of resignation and leads to a theology of complacency - or in other words the maintenance of the status quo.

If you believe that Jesus came to set humanity free, why limit him to the purely spiritual realm of liberation from sin? If God addresses every facet of human life, then the church is surely called on to continue this ministry of liberation in the societies that we find ourselves in?

Monday, October 19, 2009

More Sermon Snippets

From the same sermon I preached in Inverness ten years ago:

"The mind of Christ is not a feeling, not an easy fix for the happy clappy. It is not about taking the easy path of prosperity, popularity and respectability. Having the mind of Christ means thinking like Jesus, reacting like Jesus and following the example of Jesus. Having this mind will make you unpopular with religious and civil leaders. However, note that being unpopular does not prove you have the mind of Christ, you might just be a jerk. When you have the mind of Christ, you will offend your friends and family, there will often be times of loneliness and you will go places that you never wanted to. In short, the mind of Christ leads to a total lifestyle revolution."

The more I think about what it means to have the mind of Christ, the more I am convinced that it is impossible to be a militarist and a Christian; to demand the death penalty and claim to follow Jesus; to be a disciple of Jesus and be a nationalist as well.

As I said on my Facebook status last week sometime: "Christian Socialism isn't an oxymoron, it is saying the same thing twice".

Friday, October 16, 2009

An Untitled Poem - circa 1998

I wrote this tirade of a poem whilst at church one Sunday:

Work. Football. The Car.
How I feel. The Kids.
Music. Books. Ideas.
Plans. Hopes. Ambitions.
You. Me. Others.
Biscuits. Coffee. Squash.
Pain. Happiness. Sorrow.
My Week. Your Gossip.
Did You Hear About Such and Such?
The Neighbours. The Dog.
People We Like. People We Don't.
The Weather. The World.
What else do we talk about,
before and after as saints we gather?
Have we forgotten something?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sermon Snippets

Back in 1998 after I graduated from college, I went to live near Inverness for a while - in a little town called Fortrose, I lived with my younger brother and his wife, and we lived above a fish and chip shop. While there I attended the Inverness Christian Fellowship, and one Sunday was asked to preach.

The sermon that I preached was one of the bits of paper I found lying about the other day, I thought I would share a few snippets from that sermon with you, and also my reaction to it in the present. I always preferred an exegetical approach to preaching, rather than themes or character studies, my text for that sermon was Philippians 2:5-8, which reads:

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross!"
Some thoughts then from that sermon:
"Christian 'holiness' doesn't consist of a set of exterior rules, or the shade of doctrine one ascribes to. The Calvinist is no better than the Arminian; the Pentecostal preacher no closer to God than the Orthodox priest. True Christian holiness is born in the heart, in having a Christ-like mindset"
This is some that that I still believe to this day, simply we are all equal before God - not one of us is any closer to him than any other. Our theologies are our intellectual constructions in an attempt to understand what the ancients wrote about God. I don't believe it is possible to systemise the Bible, as such we have to accept that our interpretations are simply that, interpretations and not divine truth in and of themselves, thus we have to be humble in our dealings with Christians with other interpretations, and accept that they have things to teach us.
"As Christians we do not have a Bill of Rights, we are under a convenant of grace - everything we have comes to us out of God's grace."
I really have a problem with Christians who bang on about their "rights in Christ", seriously, who are they kidding? Clearly themselves and the gulliable. Grace is the key and the heart of the Christian religion, there is nothing we can do or claim on the basis of our faith which in any way shape or form can influence God. As my old pastor used to say "dead men don't have rights".
"As Christians we should expect no thanks, no reward and even no pay for the work we do in the Kingdom, because the Kingdom itself is our reward."
I am sure this will go down like a lead balloon, but I have a major problem with what I term "professional Christians" - a term I don't apply generally to pastors and missionaries, but most certainly do to the superstar worship leaders (given that worship is a lifestyle not a sing song, perhaps that is a term that really needs to be considered fully elsewhere). I also find it interesting that nowhere in the gospels does Jesus call people to leadership, he calls them to followship (no that isn't a typo) and service.
Just some thoughts, feel free to bring in the Inquisition if necessary!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Old Notes and Papers

I was cleaning out a pile of papers the other day, mostly receipts and boring junk like that, when I came across a load of notes which seem to be from my college days at the Birmingham Bible Institute. Most of the notes are from the hermeneutics classes with had with Dr Colin Warner, and are from our 3rd year of the course when we looked at the various liberation theologies and hermeneutics of suspicion - dealing with people like Paul Ricoeur, Habermas, the Boff brothers, Juan Luis Segundo and Gustavo Gutierrez. This brought back fond memories of working on a lecture given by myself, Phil and Cristi, and someone whose name escapes me.

Another load of papers were the sketches and beginnings of various articles about the nature of the church and its relevance to modern society, and yet more were sermon notes and even a couple of poems I wrote - I still have floating around somewhere in the flat a book of notes and poems I wrote in the very darkest days of my struggle with the brand of Christianity I bought into at the time. It is interesting to note that not once in any of my rantings and ravings did I question faith in God himself, rather in the expression of that faith as I saw in the churches I went to. As you probably know, I eventually found peace from that conflict in the Episcopalian church, until that culture came a calling to Prague's Anglican chaplaincy and again the conflict flared up inside me.

I think over the next few posts I will share some of those sermon notes, poems and articles on Diamonds and Rust, mainly as a kind of spiritual catharsis for me, to try and see where I have come from and maybe get an insight into where I may be going.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Book Review: The Search for God and Guinness

There are few beers on earth as iconic as Guinness, few brands as well defined and even a source of national pride, few families as remarkable. In three phrases you basically have the premise of Stephen Mansfield's new book, The Search for God and Guinness.

Guiness was the first legal beer I ever drank, in the lounge bar of a hotel near my home back in the north of Scotland, and is still a beer I turn to when I am not sure what to drink - being a beer geek has the disadvantage sometimes of leaving one uncertain as to what to drink in a pub. As a result of my early drinking years enjoying Guinness in Oirish pubs in Birmingham, I have become a devotee of stout in general.

Being a beer geek means I had to remember that I am not Mansfield's target audience, so I had to put myself in the shoes of some of my more religious friends convinced of the evils of alcohol. Mansfield does a good job of showing how beer has been part and parcel of human culture for millennia, and even part of church life from the very beginning of the faith, through to the Reformation, the Puritans and how many of the great men of faith that we revere such as Luther, Calvin, St Patrick and Jonathan Edwards held a positive view of beer, thus showing that Christian prohibitionism stands outside the historic and biblical approach to alcohol.

Much of the Guinness story though I didn't know. Mansfield's treatment of the leading characters in the development of the beer and the business are sympathetic and give the reader a good insight not in to just what each of them did, but also their motives for doing so. One thing that in particular gripped me was the story of how the company backed Dr Lumsden in his efforts to improve the every day lives of the Guinness workers and their families, by improving access to health care, raising the standards of housing, providing education and even starting the first branch of the St John's Ambulance in Ireland.

A couple of minor gripes aside, a slightly patronising tone when dealing with ancient source material which isn't the Bible, and claiming radar to have been invented prior to World War I (yes, I know of the work of Hulsmeyer and Tesla in the early part of the 20th century, but radar as a method of working out the distance away of objects as well as their presence didn't come until later). But these really are very minor gripes.

Regardless of your religious point of view, Mansfield's book is an interesting read and one which proves the old adage that with great wealth comes great responsibility, or as St James would put it "faith without works is dead".

Friday, October 2, 2009

Church as Entertainment or Entertainment as Church?

Last night, thanks to the generous help of Tom Foley of Christians Educators Outreach (major thanks Tom if you are reading this!), Mrs Velkyal and I went to see U2 in concert here in Charlottesville. I very rarely go to concerts, but the opportunity to see such an iconic band was too good to pass up. One thing I wasn't expecting though was a reminder of one of my reasons for leaving the evangelical world.

Before we get there though, a little back story. When I was studying at the Birmingham Bible Institute, students would lead the worship in chapel every morning, I still pity all the people who had to listen to my abysmal singing whenever it was my turn. Anyway, I always liked to include some older and traditional hymns into the mix, rather than repeating the same 9 line chorus time after time to achieve full hypnotic effect. Among my favourites were "The Old Rugged Cross", "Be Thou My Vision" and pretty much anything by Charles Wesley. Generally speaking, I have never been a big fan of the catchy one-liner for the unthinking generation. One thing I would have loved to do would have been the sacking of the "worship band" and just to sing Psalms like they still do in the Free Church of Scotland back at home (though obviously the Gaelic would have been tricky!). Really then it is no surprise that one the things that drove me into exploring the historic traditions within Christianity was not feeling comfortable with rock-lite worship styles, and the iconisation of "worship leaders".

Anyway, back to U2. Watching them last night reminded me of my biggest gripe with alot of modern worship fads, how easy it is for a charismatic, in original sense, leader to bend crowds of thousands to his will and to manipulate a person's emotions, and I guess that is the rub, how can I know the difference between a spiritual experience and an emotional high parading as a "charismatic moment"? At one point in the show, Bono sang the first verse of Amazing Grace, and you could have heard a pin drop in the stadium - I half expected Billy Graham to magically appear and do an altar call at that moment, except there was a mosh pit where he would have wanted people to gather - we did eventually get Desmond Tutu on the big screen thing though (and my cynical nature wondered how many people knew who this phenomenal man was).

Don't get me wrong here, I had a fantastic time at the concert, but as someone who thoroughly distrusts emotion it was interesting to watch the crowd and how Bono held them in the palm of his hand. Perhaps it was this distrust of emotion and seeing worship leaders having a similar sway over a congregation that led me to doubt the validity of a worship event so closely modelled on the modern rock concert (even the phrase "worship event" is ridiculous as worship is supposed to be lifestyle rather than an event). Perhaps I am just being a curmudgeon and should come out with some platitude about everybody worshipping in different styles, which may in fact be true, but having spent many, many worship services questioning the reality of my faith because I don't connect with the rock-lite approach so common throughout the church today in an attempt to be "relevant" makes such platitudes hard to bear, and even harder to spout.

Anyway, just some thoughts inspired by watching a master at work - and it what magnificent work it was, less a concert and more a spectacle, and one which I enjoyed immensely, especially the retro disco balls at one point of the show.

Again, thanks Tom!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Do you Speak Biblical or Christianese?

Ok, I admit it I was bored and didn't fancy starting cooking dinner yet, but anyway, while pottering around the internet I decided to check an online Bible to see how many of the common Christian one liners are actually quoted from the Bible. So as not to get sucked into the vortex of various translation arguments, I checked in a couple of versions, the NIV, KJV and the CEV (really, is there any more pointless discussion within Christianity?).

  • "simple faith" - none at all
  • "all you need is faith" - nope that's not there either
  • "childlike faith" - quess what, zero again

I admit that I have deliberately picked on some of the vacuous phrases I have heard, phrases that I have long thought evasive of the reality of following the precepts of Jesus of Nazareth. There is nothing simple about faith in my experience, it is full of doubt and questions - if you have never doubted then I would contend you are either dead, in denial or just plain lying. I sometimes wonder if when people talk about "simple faith" they use it as an excuse not to engage with the Bible in a mature, meaningful way and thus continue with a simpleton's faith.

Faith is also clearly not all you need in following the revolutionary Jesus, works and social awareness are part and parcel of the teachings of Jesus. To preach about the "full gospel" and ignore the Gospel's calls for social, racial and economic change is to fall short of your own claims, let alone the requirements of Jesus. Faith without works is dead and thus not the faith of Jesus.

With "childlike faith" we often take the image of the sweet little trusting child as our image of such faith, rather than the more usual child you see in the streets, constantly bugging their parents with the question "why?". Mrs Velkyal works with 3 to 6 year old kids and some the questions they come out with are remarkable, and reveal the true nature of a human child with a thirst for knowledge. Children don't just accept, they dig, search, experience and challenge everything, do we?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

An American Question

With the never ending furore about healthcare in the United States, it seems to me that a fundamentally American question is being avoided entirely in this debate. It is a question which goes to the very heart of what many perceive to be the American psyche, a question which, if you believe some sections of the populace, is the most important question any American can ask of themselves.

The question is simply this, “what would Jesus do”?

Yet it seems that in this most devout and openly religious country that nobody on any side of the political spectrum is prepared to ask that question. What would Jesus do about healthcare reform in the United States in the 21st century?

Firstly on the question of requiring the right insurance before getting healthcare, I am reminded of the story where Jesus makes a scourge and drives the money changers from the precincts of the Temple. A quick reminder for those of you who haven’t read the Bible, or those of you who think the God of the Old Testament is where it is at. The Temple in Jesus’ time required pilgrims to change imperial coins for those acceptable in order to pay for temple ceremonies, Jesus takes exception at the money changers extorting the people for profit, when, as he says, “it is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer but you have made it a den of thieves”.

I think here that Jesus would accept that healthcare has to be paid for, but would he approve of the extortionate premiums placed on receiving that healthcare? Would he approve of families paying thousands of dollars a year in insurance payments and then when they get sick they are asked to pay some more? Was the insurance they had paid into for all those years insufficient to cover the bills? Or is it more likely that Jesus would make for himself a scourge and drive the extortionate insurers from the market place?

One of the arguments I hear quite often against reforming health insurance is that it is wrong for hard working, well off, people to pay more in order to subsidize the poor and less fortunate. Does Jesus have anything to say in response to this? Well I think he does, if the parable of the sheep and the goats is any indicator of his view on how to treat the poor and less fortunate. Again a paraphrased refresher, Jesus is talking about the end of days when he comes to judge the living and the dead, separating all of humanity as being either sheep or goats – the sheep go to heaven, while the goats don’t.

To recognize a sheep is really easy, a sheep is the person in his Sunday best, driving a fancy car to an expensive church, fronted by a handsomely paid pastor and his ever so demur wife…oh wait, sorry I said I would stick to what Jesus himself did and said. A sheep then is someone who came to the sick and healed them (notice there is nothing about asking to be paid for an essentially humanitarian act), someone who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, someone who saw the human value in every single person regardless of economic well being. Jesus claims then that to treat the poor with value, to provide for their needs is a Christian duty, to ignore the needs of the poor and less fortunate is to ignore the needs of Jesus himself.

Now the questions come flying, what about the people who don’t work, who abuse the system, who are illegal immigrants, who, who, who? Questions that sound so much like Peter at the end of John’s Gospel, asking what would happen to the disciple “whom Jesus loved”, and being given the reply “what is that to you? Follow me”. Yes people will abuse any system put in place, whether a purely free market, or whether strictly socialist, it is human nature, but if you are one of the millions of Americans who claims to be a Christian and takes the ideals and teachings of Jesus seriously, then what would Jesus say to you?

Perhaps it is time in this debate, in this “nation under God” to take a step back from entrenched positions and ask that very simple question:

What would Jesus do?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

To See or Not to See, that is your choice.

Ever think the world is going nuts? Most days there is something in the news which makes me shake my head in wonder at the insanity of people, today's nugget of nonsense comes from Dorset in England, where an Orthodox Jewish couple are claiming that motion sensors to control lighting are a contravention of their human rights and thus constitute religious discrimination. Their reasoning being that as Orthodox Jews they may not use lights or other electrical equipment on the Sabbath.

The motion sensors are to be installed in an effort to stop lights being left on, and thus lessen waste. The couple have offered to pay for the installation of an override switch, though as the lights are in the hallway, does this not infringe on the human rights of the majority in the holiday complex to see where they are going when it is dark? Perhaps instead of an override switch they could buy everyone else torches?

I am not quite sure exactly what exegetical and hermeneutical loops they are having to jump through in order to work out that God is anti seeing where you are going, but this kind of Pharisaical nonsense is nothing new - after all in the Gospels it is recorded that the religious leaders of the day objected to the disciples of Jesus picking ears of corn on the Sabbath and also to his healing a man with a shrivelled hand, to which he responded:

"I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?"

Such motion sensors may not save the planet in and of themselves, but if a situation arose which would endanger the live of another resident on the Sabbath, would it not be better to think of the many rather than insisting on religious elitism?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Patron Saints

Whilst thinking random thought on the plane from Paris to Prague last night, it hit me that of the 6 nations in the British Isles (that the Scots, Irish, Welsh, Cornish, Manx and English for those who don't know what I am talking about), only one is actually from that nation. The saints are as follows:

Scotland - St Andrew, brother of Saint Peter therefore Jewish
Ireland - St Patrick, either from Scotland or Wales
Wales - St David, actually from Wales!
Isle of Man - St Maughold, an Irishman
Cornwall - St Piran, another Irishman
England - St George, a Roman born in Palestine

Perhaps it would be better to have patron saints who were actually from the nations they purport to represent? May I suggest the following:

Scotland - St Mungo, also known as Kentigern, founder of Glasgow
Ireland - St Aidan, the man that converted the Northumbrians
Isle of Man - erm, any suggestions
Cornwall - St Geraint, one time King of Dumnonia which included Cornwall
England - St Cuthbert, quite possibly the holiest Englishman in history

Just some thoughts/