Straight line, faith, optimism or what?

I have a fascination with tools or models that help explain or help one understand personality types, such as the Enneagram. I am sure this will be a surprise to one and all but I have never read a whole book on this but love to think I understand it all and could help anyone to grasp what it is all about. Of course if I did succeed to read a while book on it I might even understand what the last sentence reveals about me… But who has time to do that when life is there to be lived? And so I move on before having to acknowledge that I have plenty of time for what does interest me even if it has little value beyond my own self interests. (Note to self: move on really quickly, no vulnerability please.)

Although I can see that from beginning to end there is not a straight line I am very happy to interpret my journey through life as clear and straight. ‘I was doing this in response to what God was saying which led me to do that which totally explains what I am doing now’. The consistency on it all being my absolute understanding at any moment of what God is requiring and my total and unreserved correct response at any given time. (I do write a little tongue in cheek, or at least I hope I am!)

Interpretation is really my point. How we interpret the world and our part in it. And any interpretation is also connected to personality. There are those who live with regret as they look back. That must be tough and I can understand that response. I am grateful for every fresh start and the incredible commitment of God to enter or world where we are. I do not tend to live with regret. It’s over and I have moved on.

For any regular reader of this blog it is no surprise that Gayle and I are off to Madrid this weekend. The city is important and the event, the march for change, is important to us. Our spirits are high. I compare the anticipation I have to the early Marches for Jesus, and some of the responses akin to the 94 and beyond days. So in responding to what that level of anticipation is it all about there are some possibilities.

  • It is exactly as I see it. A simple straight line, highlighting yet again my impeccable response to God.
  • I am more a child of the enlightenment than I want to admit and I too easily bow at the feet of the naïve idealism of progress.
  • My restorationist / sectist roots mean I have to see myself at the centre of what God is doing.
  • My personality is too optimistic to accept what is happening as not positive.
  • I see God as so big that there are no real setbacks so this has to be an answer to prayer.
  • Maybe none of or even all of the above.

Even when I analyse the possibilities my personality will kick in. I do not respond with total objectivity. But two aspects I think are important:

a) I think it is important to seek to interpret even if at a later stage I revise my interpretation, but more importantly
b) I respond to what I believe God is requiring. I do that because a faith response is so important. I am not held accountable to what someone else believes, but to what I believe. There is a need to listen to others but my convictions must be my convictions.

Fear and faith

I see a lot of material that, for me, is based on a fear. (Again maybe partly a personality type response involved in that?) The world is pretty evil, Islam will rule the world, Syriza / Podemos is communist. Some fears are justified but it is not a good idea to set our boundaries by fear. Two people can actually set the same boundary as someone else – one can set it through faith: ‘I have faith to go to this point but not further’ / the other through fear. Faith means we carry something positive with us. Fear… not a good idea!

So actually I do see the current events in Europe positively. Positively does not mean pure and certainly does not mean without their challenges. I do see a ‘straightish’ line between March for Jesus, Toronto, the demise of the myth of the Christian nation and political changes. There are huge issues facing us but what if we are living in days of answered prayer? What if the space has opened up and now is the time to see it filled? What if the body of Christ gets engaged in the space? What if the body of Christ does not get engaged? What if some of those who are not carrying faith in Jesus in some aspects carry a wisdom and presence of God greater than we do?

Questions. There is territory (people have spoken of a ‘new landscape’) that is open before us all, and in particular in ‘secular, multi-faith, multi-cultural, post-Christendom’ Europe, there are opportunities to find places of engagement. Only a belief in a Gospel that simply gives a ticket to heaven would suggest non-involvement is the way forward.

What if rather than understanding the message of Jesus being about spirituality that has political implications, that it is a political message enfused with a spirituality of faith in a Creator God.

Prophetic Voices 3

To mark a 70 year remembrance of an event I would simply like to repost a post from a friend of mine Michael Hardin, while you might not agree with all of it, it raises some rather important issues for us as we move forward. Michael is a challenging theologian, often a bit edgy in his approach but a genuine gentle soul at heart, I highly recommend his stuff if nothing more than the challenge he will bring to your paradigms.

“Written last February 20, reposting for the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz:

I know this post will be controversial. So before you read it, take a breath and relax.

You cannot stand at the gates of Auschwitz and be Calvinist for if this is how God controls the universe then God is arbitrary and not very helpful. You cannot stand at the gates of Auschwitz and be Conservative Evangelical for the Jews you see go “right from Hitler’s flames into God’s flames” (Brad Jersak in Hellbound?). You cannot be drunk on the Holy Ghost and stand at the gates of Auschwitz and feel only the good, the true and the beautiful amidst the ugliest heinous evil, the smoke and the ashes. You cannot stand at the gates of Auschwitz and deny that sin exists, that there is no sin or ‘sin-nature.’ What do you call the sounds of the crying children as they are separated from their parents and sent away to the gas chambers?

Millions of them.

If we are going to take the gospel seriously, Auschwitz casts us into an abyss, a place where irrationality and chaos and laughing torturers rule the day. Auschwitz, or I should say the Jewish Shoah, is a significant turning point in human history. In a way one could say it is unique (sui generis). One could, with Elie Wiesel, answer the question, “Where is God?” by pointing to a young boy slowly suffocating while being hanged.

Auschwitz either puts a great big question mark after God’s power or God’s love or both.

In the standard western Christian model of theology, whether Protestant (including Anabaptist) or Catholic, one can no longer speak of either God as loving or God as powerful at the gates of Auschwitz. We are silenced. All of our claims about God’s ability to control the universe or how much God’s loves people (whether some or all), dies there too.

Auschwitz cannot be explained theologically. It is the biggest question mark to Christian theology ever. Whatever your theology is, if you cannot proclaim it to those who lost their families in the ovens, as you stand under the gates of Auschwitz, you have nothing to say. The very spirits of those who died there will shout loud and long if you do not acknowledge their presence in your theology.

I would suggest that American Christianity is, in far too many of its forms, not drunk on the
Holy Ghost, not demonstrating intellectual honesty and integrity and is far more about mimesis or social identification and social acceptance than anything else. Christianity in America is not about the gospel but about successful marketing strategy and Type A personalities. Just as over 1,500 newspapers and 9,000 radio station and 1,500 television stations are owned by 6 major corporations, so also the 40,000+ denominations are owned by one corporation, one theological viewpoint they all share and have in common: The Corporation for the Advancement of Sacred Violence.

Contemporary American Protestant Christianity is, for the most part, just archaic cannibalistic religion dressed in ‘Christian’ guise. In its fundamental bases, at its origins, in its tenets, Protestant Christianity is formed by an us/them dichotomy. Differentiation only occurs at the expense of an ‘other.’
You may not have been an SS guard at Auschwitz but you cannot claim that you weren’t there, if you are a Christian. That which was being played out by the Nazi’s at Auschwitz was executed by the complicity of Christians, specifically Lutherans. Sure, you can say, well I am not a Lutheran so don’t blame Auschwitz on me. That may be true; you may have never been a Lutheran. But perhaps you might consider this:

when you stand before the gates of Auschwitz do you have a ‘theology of glory?’

In his 1518 Heidelberg Disputation theses, Martin Luther distinguished between a ‘theology of glory’ and a ‘theology of the cross.’ Here are the theses:

18. It is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ.
19. That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the »invisible« things of God as though they were clearly »perceptible in those things which have actually happened« (Rom. 1:20; cf. 1 Cor 1:21-25),
20. he deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.
21. A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.
22. That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded, and hardened.

What Luther is saying is this: if you believe that God is revealed in historical processes (the ascension of the Führer for the Germans, the election of officials for others), natural disasters or plagues, or in wealth, fame or power, then you are not seeing God but an idol of your own making. You have bought into a Deuteronomic hermeneutic (God blesses the good and curses the bad), and you also have a sacrificial way of thinking that justifies violence in one form or another.

This is a theology that requires a deus ex machina, a God who intervenes in human history on behalf of ‘God’s own’ (of course, always conceived of as ‘my group’). This is the predominant theology of American Protestant Christianity and its infected counterparts around the globe.
This kind of theology is decimated at the gates of Auschwitz. As an historical event, Auschwitz is a great big question mark to consumerist Christianity, where it is all about my feeling good, my spirituality, my journey. I, me, my. This narcissistic approach to the Christian faith (grounded as it is in ‘the romantic lie of autonomous individualism’) is why marketing and branding have become more important than solidarity with the suffering, the extruded, the ostracized.

We must never forget that the problem that afflicted the goats in the parable of Matthew 25 is also our disease today. We would love God in others, but hey, we don’t see God in those we have cast out or scapegoated. Why? Because our enemy is obviously God’s enemy.

A theology of the cross sees God in the suffering. A theology of the cross recognizes victimage and weeps and wails.

A theologian of the cross doesn’t stand on Calvary jumping up and down with joy nor do they show up there in Jaguars or bling. A theologian of the cross shows up on Golgotha in sackcloth and ashes.

Before you get angry at me, please understand I am asking a very hard question here. Luther asked it in the 16th century. Calvin, Zwingli and Bullinger went another direction entirely. Had the pastors in Germany taken Luther seriously, the Christian church could have been a powerful force. Alas, neither Rome nor other ecclesial institutional bureaucracies would find the courage to heed Luther even though Barth, Niemöller and Bonhoeffer sought to do so.

In America, we are faced with a choice: to either continue in our ‘theology of glory’ and thus ignore the place of God’s self-revelation in the cross of Jesus by turning it into just another sacrificial mechanism or we can come to the Cross just as we would come before the gates of Auschwitz and recognize that scapegoating others is not the way God works. It’s not about what the Bible says, it is about what God says in Christ as the son suffers at the hands of an inhuman humanity. Can your theology do this? If not, it may be time to reconsider whether it is really God you know or some mimetic religious copy provided by the institution, even the anti-institution institution.”

About this site

I am the main contributor to this site, though there are guest writers from time to time. Hopefully, what is presented are perspectives not the final word!

I am currently developing a part of the site with a focus on the 'gates of society'. That section will develop more as a forum with links to other articles, so that it becomes a resource for the future. I will also be looking for other contributors into the various subject-areas.

In my spare time(!!) I enjoy putting together wordpress sites, and also coaching people to make their own - open to hearing from you on that too.

Magazine articles

Just some more blogs? No, of course not, nothing even similar... well maybe very similar indeed, but hopefully you can use them differently. At the foot of this home page you will find 10 more blogs, these ones are grouped together, they will only be replaced every few months with a new set of 10. They can be downloaded as an emagazine, or read here as blogs (click on one and read, or use the 'emagazine' link in the menu above). Here on this site you can also add your comment.

Their core focus will be toward the gates of influence in society. They will not be the final word, hopefully provocative with some practical aspects thrown in.

The first four volumes will be uploaded here in quick succession, after that a breather before the next one. You can access earlier volumes from the emagazine page using the menu at the top of this page.

So you see - nothing like a blog!!

WordPress design

I develop WordPress based web-sites specifically made for your site. This site here is based on WP and uses a theme that I have developed. It can be as simple as a set of posts and some pages, or a few additional elements can be added such as this animated set of tabs that are activated here. I also plan the sites so that they are mobile-friendly, being responsive, they adjust to the device being used to view them.

If interested in a site feel free to make contact. I also have various courses on WP theme development. If interested in taking one of them online, or indeed you would wish to contact me about presenting a course to a small group.

Previous posts

A turbulent pathway

In Democracy Day: Europe ‘faces political earthquakes’ I read: For now, the unpredictable fate of the “old” democracies will undoubtedly be watched closely by governments and activists of all political hues around the world. When the gap between the rich elite and the rest has increased dramatically (and yesterday I gave some links to this) […]

Random Read #1

From time to time I intend to put up some articles that contain some of what has grabbed my attention during the week. The election in Greece is critical not just for Greece but for Europe, and a great quote re Spain as it looks to the result of the Greek election: Spain may be […]

Arts to the fore

In 1991 I wrote: Finally, the arts were impacted. Something more than ‘Christian drama’ broke loose. The largest auditoriums in Europe were taken, and there was a revival of the arts in the streets. The latter opened up wells of creativity; the former brought the colour of God to the public arena. Not quite sure […]

Magazine Articles

Editorial Vol 2.1

In this issue there are a number of articles to respond to. Dyfed reviews Roger Mitchell’s thesis Church, Gospel & Empire. Roger’s book is his thesis so we should not expect it to be an easy read, however, with Dyfed’s review I think the book will be accessible for most. In a recent blog Roger […]

When is a Gate not a Gate?

It is a simple question. Should religion be treated as a gateway in the model of the city that we explore on this blog? Martin and I have both, perhaps instinctively, said no. Then Martin invited an article on the topic: then I got to thinking: then, well, you’ll see.

Ownership, stewardship & forgiveness

“So the business leaders of today are not capitalists in the sense in which Arkwright and Rockefeller were capitalists. Modern titans derive their authority and influence from their position in a hierarchy, not their ownership of capital. They have obtained these positions through their skills in organisational politics, in the traditional ways bishops and generals […]

It’s the Economy stupid!

So much talk about the economy, but what is the economy? Is it just pounds and pence? Dollars and Euros and cents? The Cambridge dictionary defines it as “the system of trade and industry by which the wealth of a country is made and used.”

W.I.L.D. voices for the poor and the powerless

For some time I have been wrestling with the issues of money, care for the poor and how our present western economic system seeks to support people in need. As a community at Antioch, Llanelli we have a focus on ‘God’s presence and the poor’ and over many years see the day to day pressures of folks who are increasingly struggling financially in these challenging times.

Church, Gospel & Empire: a review

‘How is it that the best of church experience in both traditional and radical expressions tends to relapse to hierarchical domination and control?’ This is Roger Haydon Mitchell’s chilling question in his introduction to his newly published PhD thesis, Church, Gospel & Empire.

Art shaping culture

It has been received wisdom for a while now that economic power is shifting from the old world to the new world. Continental Europe is faced with tremendous headwinds to do with spiraling social costs and an ageing population that means growth over the next 100 years will be hard to come by. In the developing world on the other hand very low wage rates and high worker motivation are combining to create a compelling long term argument for excess growth rates and wealth creation for those markets.

Values: unelectability

I watched a film recently ‘Ides of March’. A film looking at people on the campaign trail. The governor has sex with the intern (definitely a big ‘no’ in the film)… However, the areas that were far more challenging though were to do with the ethics of winning votes. One example were meetings with fellow politicians to gain their endorsement. Making a deal so that votes could be guaranteed – in return a position in the forthcoming government.

Wealth: redefinitions

Definitions of course have their limitations, but I was provoked and challenged when sitting listening to a Zimbabwean speak. His question to us was to consider what are we were investing into. To help us he used the two phrases of ‘artificial’ and ‘creational’ wealth. One he said was how the (industrialised) West defines wealth, but is illusionary. This he, therefore, termed ‘artificial’.

Come back Christian nation

Abortion, gay marriage, Sunday trading (sorry, strike that one off, as we like that now)… All evidence that we are losing it. The ‘look, once we could see Cathedrals and church spires on the landscape, now Mosques are where churches once stood’ type of statement are all laments about what is disappearing.