This news item tells its own story: 6 year old steals his dad’s car to avoid going to church. Draw your own conclusions – about the kid, the parents, the church, or all three.
Archive for July, 2009
An interesting article in the Guardian caught our attention, partly because it was written by former US president Jimmy Carter, and partly because in it he draws attention to what he labels the abuse of women by religious bodies of many sorts, including the church he was once a member of (Southern Baptists), but left over this very issue. The article itself is well worth a look: go here. What is equally noteworthy is that it is also highlighting a group that Jimmy Carter is a member of – the Elders, a group of people like himself drawn from many different political and religious persuasions and brought together by Nelson Mandela to cast a critical eye on world affairs and offer the benefit of their considerable wisdom. A rough estimate shows that between them all, they represent well in excess of a thousand years of experience! For more on their reflections, see their website. And don’t for a moment imagine that just because they’re old they are all reactionary traditionalists. Quite the opposite: they could teach some far younger folk a lot about life, including faith and spirituality.
We don’t usually highlight books on here, but we’ve just finished a new book by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan that deserves a mention. Entitled The First Paul, its sub-title describes what it sets out to do: Reclaiming the radical visionary behind the Church’s conservative icon. Of course, Borg and Crossan have something of a reputation for being radical themselves, but this is not one of those books that just holds a mirror up to its authors. They make some surprisingly conservative assertions, among which they strongly affirm that, far from corrupting the simple message of Jesus (as many have thought), Paul is a faithful interpreter and follower of the historical Jesus – and both of them were seriously radical, challenging the ways of being of the Roman empire and insisting instead on a different worldview focused on “God’s passionate desire to heal a broken world”. These guys know their stuff in relation to Roman history and culture, and they also offer some seriously detailed insights into the text of Paul’s writings.
We’ll not say more as that would spoil it for you. But prepare to be both challenged and inspired. We were – and we loved it.
The New Bethel Church in Kentucky caused a bit of a stir a couple of weekends ago with its ‘bring your guns to church’ service. The full story has been reported in several places, one of which is here. There are plenty of comments we could make about this, and plenty other people have done, both positive and negative.
Instead of writing first and thinking later, we went to the church’s website. Believe it or not, the ‘thought for the week’ is on the theme of protection. More exactly, asking who we can rely on to protect us. The answer – even more incredibly for such a macho gun-toting congregation – is that we need to trust in God! The only thing more surprising about this extraordinary episode is that the denomination to which the church belongs (Assemblies of God) seems to have ignored the it all. But then, they take a strong moralistic line on things like , drinking, lying, cheating, ‘family values’ and gambling (though a feature of the event was a prize draw for shooting equipment!). Draw your own conclusions, people.
For all you guys out there who think it’s really hard to settle in any sort of faith community, then just spare a thought for the Obama family who are trying to do that in the public spotlight. Read the full story here. They must envy our royal family, who will shortly be taking up residence at Balmoral for their summer break, and attend the local church every Sunday – admittedly, with a few sightseers crowding the road outside, but nothing like the media scrum the US president attracts. Which is really strange when you consider the so-called ‘separation of church and state’ that Americans talk about. If they’re that separate, would you think anybody would care?