Charles Strohmer has been a friend, mentor (beyond what he realises) and encourager to many over not a few years. He has focused on the Bible as wisdom for life, applying that wisdom into… OK here is a better summary written by the man himself:
For many years I worked with individuals, small groups, NGOs, institutions, and churches to think about and to develop wisdom-based approaches in areas such as education, the business world, family and social life, cultural development, environmental stewardship, and especially the arts, communication, and inter-religious engagement. I continue to work in those areas but my chief focus in recent years entails advancing peaceable wisdom-based approaches for improving international relations, with a special focus on diplomacy, negotiations, and mediation in the context of the United States and the Middle East, including Christian, Muslim, and Jewish narratives in that big context.
In the video he is speaking into the American scene as an American / as a prophetic voice. Also take time to dip into his blog:
If this is a storm, or winter, or the beginning of an ice-age (I think original to Andy Crouch) what response should we make? (And it is certainly not a storm…)
I was on a Skype call this week to Gary, a humble prophet who travelled with Bob Jones in his final years. Gary said he has been deep in Proverbs as there has to be a download of heaven’s wisdom to show us the way forward and through.
On the same Skype call was Chris, working in the media, who is saying the next wave has to be for the apologist to enable a connection. Communication and wisdom… with the media holding a key role.
Some talk of a mega shift every 500 years. Last one being the Reformation / Renaissance etc. Here we are now 500 years on.
November there are USA elections. Many nations are facing issues of immense proportion, but they are all facing the same crisis – what do we do now, not to clear up the mess of COVID etc., but to prepare for what is to come.
I wrote a few days ago about corruption and the deep level of corruption not being that of sexual or financial abuse but of the submission into political alignment of the church. That is being exposed – and has to be. I do not consider that John’s Gospel is deeply political but right in the middle of it there is an exposure of what that false alignment does… it was the turning point to send Jesus to the cross. If that were not to happen then they feared the Romans would come and take away their divine right!
First, an apology that the link on Gaz’s last post was not working… NOW CORRECTED. And well worth the read.
Many of you know that I have been working on a series of booklets – 3½ of an initial 6 are now written. The first one should roll out by early September, so a little advance note about what they are and what I hope to do with them.
Here is the blurb about the series:
Explorations in Theology, a series of short books that offer some fresh perspectives on common themes. They are certainly not the final word, but are intended to open possibilities beyond a theology that selects a narrow set of ‘proof-texts’ (while ignoring others). Written in simple language, never demanding agreement with the author, they will become a resource to develop one’s own convictions.
The first one is entitled ‘Humanising the Divine‘, here is the blurb:
In this first book in the series Scott begins by placing Jesus at the centre of theology. He maintains that Jesus is presented in Scripture as both the image of God and the image of true humanity. God was ‘humanised’ through the Incarnation, and through the cross a road block was placed on humanity’s road to destruction. In the middle chapters there are some fresh perspectives on Judas, Peter and Cornelius, suggesting that salvation is much more to do with a call to join the movement to work for the restoration of humanity, than a ticket to heaven.
They will be available in two formats: hardback print version and as an ebook that will be readable on most (if not all) ebook readers / tablets / phones.
I have run two zoom groups in the past months to try out the concept of what I plan to do, so I see three options:
The book in either format can be bought and read / or simply placed on the bookshelf (!).
The book can be bought and there will be a podcast on each of the chapters that will give a little bit of background behind some of the concepts, and suggest a few questions for reflection.
The book can be bought and one can opt to join a weekly zoom group (the first is not likely to start before October 1) where a chapter will be dialogued through each week. (This is what I have done with the two groups I mentioned above.)
[Once the first book is finally out I will give details of the above options – where to order etc.]
Also for those who have been on a zoom group they will be able to contribute to a forum for open discussion. Anyone will be able to read the discussion but only those who have zoomed will be able to contribute.
Who am I writing for?
Anyone… But I am looking to interact (zoom / forum) with people on a similar page. I am not for one minute suggesting I have the truth (as if!) and am not looking for those who will simply agree with me, but those who are willing to consider what I write, respond and then be able to disagree and come to their own conclusions. I am not looking for those who will quickly tweet ‘Goodbye Martin Scott’!!! (That last tweet was to a famous tweet from a famous person to a certain Rob Bell!) If someone of the Calvinist tradition wishes to read the book(s) and then review them they can feel free to do so on their own site – I have no objection to that, particularly as there will be enough in the pages to critique. There is no redemptive value in us trading blows – I am too fixed in my beliefs and ways for that to work and I think those of a deep Gospel Coalition perspective are too! So I am not looking for those who agree with me nor those who vehemently disagree!!!
Finally here is the bio attached to the books that will help position me and my (hoped for) interactors:
Martin Scott, married to Gayle, with whom he has lived in Spain since 2009; born in Orkney (islands off the north of Scotland) a number of years earlier! At times opinionated, arrogant and often slow to learn… not characteristics most authors profess to have! Believing in the image of God in humanity he is optimistic about the future. And his writings connect with a wide diversity of people, particularly those who are willing to think outside the box.
I see these books and the interactions as being a major focus for the next years / decade… so look forward to connecting with many of you.
Note from Martin: Latest post by Gaz below and here is a link to a guest article he wrote for “iwitnesschildmigration / Understanding the journeys of unaccompanied minors in Europe”. (Click on Image.)
I used to be really into the Church Unity stuff, the one diverse church in the locality working together and all that jazz. I guess I feel there are bigger things at stake now than our ability to get on across tribes and doctrines, so it’s slipped from view for some years now.
Part of my desire was to see stories released which could be a collective mirror for the church to look into and know that good things are happening, new things, different paradigms and approaches.
A team of us would pull together a glossy forty-page magazine and distribute 2,500 of them across our local Bournemouth churches. In truth it was naughty and subversive in that it told stories and opened up approaches to faith and action that were unlikely to be told from many of the those church platforms.
What did it accomplish? We did 4 of these, perhaps 100 stories and simply put I have no clue at all as to who or what it impacted. Perhaps the church has to many stories already, which exist for its own edification.
I went through a paradigm shift of my own in the following years in terms of how stories could be told to my own housing estate. I had managed to secure some funding for a local community group to create a simple magazine for the immediate community of 5,000 in our split private and council home estate.
The local church were involved, the pastor got to do a preach on the inside cover and then there were an uncomfortable amount of articles about things which took place in the church, and almost zero about what took place in the large community centre the opposite side of the same car park.
I found myself becoming resentful of the church co-opting a community resource to place its own story as centre stage. The conversation I had with myself was triggered when I heard a pastor I knew talking about his model for community, a story of having people come to live with him, for some close proximity invasive mentoring and other ideas.
What went through my mind was, ‘that’s another bloody church story’, as though we have the monopoly on stories of life and light, believing these are the key to transforming and loving our localities. In reality, I knew two women in my own street who lived in extended family situations, they took in other peoples kids, housed waifs and strays, not as a model, not for the next self aggrandising talk… just because.
I never did create a vehicle for my own communities stories, but every opportunity I had where I heard of a Christian group telling its own stories back to the community at large, I bullied them as best I could to allow the community to tell its own stories of life and light, back to itself.
Why? Because they are there, those stories exist, they need affirming and perhaps the community has a more significant role in healing itself than we understand.
During this time of inner processing, I was helping Barry, the neighbour two doors down from me. I was doing some welding for his fair ground rides, games and other attractions. He took me in for a cup of tea and I was shocked to see all these pictures around the lounge, him with celebrities, him getting awards and medals from newsreaders and others. I was amazed that his quiet life just two doors down was actually one of raising hundreds of thousands to provide electric wheelchairs to those who could not afford them.
I think it was around 3 years before his death that he got a letter from the Queen to come and receive an OBE (order of the British empire) at the Palace, in recognition of his years of service to the disabled community.
The crazy thing is, there are magnificent layers of goodness you can find if you simply look and listen to those we often pass on our way to work or on our way to church. I was already screaming inside ‘these are the stories of life and light that must be told, of the ordinary extraordinary people around us. Stories, which will help a community view itself as ‘well’ and ‘living’ and inspire courage’.
Then he drops this bit of news on me, as my dunked rich tea biscuit breaks off and floats too quickly out of sight for me to grab it, “That’s two of us in town now, that have OBE’s, the other one is Janet, she was doing really great stuff, we grew up together in the same orphanage…”!
I was undone; I lived next to this guy for 15 years and knew little of the redemptive life that was taking place in and through this formerly abandoned son.
We do not have a monopoly on hope, life and self-sacrifice. Sometimes, perhaps most of the time, it is not the story of the ‘separated off from life’ church that will bring a community to transformative beauty; it is the stories that it can tell back to itself.
I’m not looking to diminish our own stories, but ours are one of many. It is my sincerest hope, that we do have stories to tell, which are of life and light.
Remember this though, I think we are in trouble if the best stories we ‘do’ tell, are someone else’s, or just plain old. That’s something I’m saying back to myself as I write this ☺
I had an interesting reflection this week, provoked in preparing for a Zoom call. A few years back… oh yes here comes a story… while getting ready for some travel Gayle was walking and praying about what she should bring to the situation we would be in in a few weeks’ time. While walking she met an angel that she recognised, and recognised as being Gadir. The (female) angel related to our time in Cádiz whose ancient name was for a while, Gadir. She knew that the angel promised to come with us on the flight and together we knew that this angel had a particular gift to bring, the gift of digging! (Angels are fellow servants of the One true God. Partners for the release of the kingdom.)
Gayle carried a strong message with respect to misogyny and patriarchy. Of Latin America Gustavo Gutiérrez said that the women are ‘doubly oppressed and marginalised’. On one of the final evenings we knew it was the time, and that we were in the right context, to give our ‘Amen’ to the release of the angel – I am not suggesting we commission angels as they are sent from heaven, but we can align in agreement (Amen = so be it) so that they can fulfil what they have come to do. We released the digging with explanations that this was not going to stop any time soon. Since that time so much has been uprooted, so much corruption, first always inside the church then beyond. The level, to be honest, has been quite disturbing and taken a considerable amount of our time.
Corruption. Always I think money and sex when I hear that word. But as I talked this week I realised corruption is often so much more subtle. Digging, digging and mining brings up whatever needs to come up, then comes the purifying process. In certain situations this is known as smelting which takes place at a high temperature.
Corruption being exposed. The digging is revealing that the impure mix is that of ‘power’ with the Gospel. [Power corrupts…] When that happens all kinds of compromises are made with the political powers. I have a strong hunch that we will see some major implosions before this year is out, and with / without Gadir’s specific help this will take place in a number of compromised corrupted situations. What an era we are in. As digging takes place, sexual and financial issues will be exposed, but a deeper issue also – that is corrupt, what is mixed that should never have been mixed.
The post below is reproduced by permission. It is posted anonymously and was published in an internal privately publication. It speaks deeply beyond the situation concerning decisions that have huge ramifications, and as it relates to the current pandemic speaks right into now. Knowing people who have lost loved ones to the virus, others who are still struggling with symptoms months after being tested positive, as well as those who have had the virus and recovered, all underlines how difficult an epoch we are living in. In difficult and easier times decisions that have ramifications remain.
The young girl in the back seat of our car stares out of the window. Her long hair frames a petit face that is almost completely covered by a large, surgical mask. A sad and strange silhouette in the encroaching darkness. This morning she was in lock down with her mother. Now she is being driven miles away from her home town by my husband and I. To the girl, we are surgically masked strangers, labelled foster carers. A Covid 19 related cardiac arrest has changed this 12 year old’s world in seconds.
Arriving home we view our small house and single bathroom. Protection from the virus is going to be impossible. We cannot wear PPE equipment 24/7. We cannot wear it in the bathroom.
We take our masks off and the action becomes a symbolic moment for me. Our exposed faces and the threat of the virus shows me, more clearly, that we have never been wholly in control of our lives. I also wonder how free we ever are from the false, ego masks we choose to wear. Masks that hide our truer selves from others.
The girl says, “I think it is my fault my mother died… If only I had called the ambulance earlier.”
Her self accusation and extreme loss, alongside our agony of not being able to physically touch her, is heart breaking.
We light a candle and pray together. The flickering flame mirrors our vulnerability and seems to connect us a little. For me, this quiet togetherness is both honouring and humbling.
The girl has a slight temperature and we offer her paracetamol and a hot drink before bed. I ask her if she has anything belonging to her mother with her. Something she can take to bed. Something of her mother’s she can hold. She says she has her mother’s rosary and then she climbs the stairs to her new bedroom.
I clear the kitchen, the death of the girl’s mother and the possibility of one of us falling ill or even dying is on my mind.
My teenage son looks into the kitchen and says, quite cheerfully, “You realise there are different forms of this virus and the one we’re exposing ourselves to killed someone? Just saying. Good night.”
Sometimes decisions are made on a tight rope between our responsibilities. Without hindsight to guide us we balance precariously on the rope, fearful of the consequences of our choices and, also, the judgements of ourselves and others. Self-forgiveness is difficult.
I blow the candle out and knock quietly on the girl’s door to say good night.
Over the next fourteen days we remain well and people commend us for our courage but if one of us had died, what then? What would people have said then?
I’m going to draw an illustration from my anti human trafficking Narrative, as it serves to map out the issue in an actual context.
The rescue of victims, survivor care homes and restoration are the ambulance at the bottom of the human trafficking cliff, it is important and wonderful work. However, if nobody builds a fence at the top of the trafficking cliff through prevention, education, legislation and law enforcement… you will never have enough ambulances.
Something that re enforces this, is that the vast majority of donor funding comes to care, not prevention, to the ambulance and not the fence and that’s a problem when trafficking’s main PR label is Abolition… ending something.
People in general, but Christians specifically, have a tendency to be motivated by acts of compassion and mercy, and so they should. Most of our engagement in the suffering of others is an emotive response to what we hear and see.
The problem with this is Christianity as a whole is likely putting considerably more human and financial investment into mopping up the outcomes of suffering that the causes of it. In short, our response is likely to be compassion driven but unlikely to be strategy driven
It is an issue which has also come up in recent years around the flourishing of food banks in response to poverty and hunger both for the least amongst us and apparently nurses and other professionals who are struggle to make ends meet.
The problem with Christian communities defaulting to compassion is that they are far more likely to set up a food bank than come to an understanding of the root issues of this poverty in the community. It is far more likely to buy extra tins of baked beans than write to the local MP, petition Government or join it.
Its easy to point things that are not working and respond instead with meeting immediate needs, but how do we address those things which are broken in society and see what is referred to as ‘systemic change’ happen.
Protest is one response, but protest with out alternative solutions does not get us far beyond a sore throat, that is why we also need alternative models, alternative economies and stories of how something can be done differently.
I used to sit around a table with more than 40 organisations, tackling human trafficking as part of the Human Trafficking Foundation, led by an all party group of Govt ministers in London. Having produced a comprehensive report on modern day slavery in Britain it seemed they had a platform to address key aspects of legislation and care in the country. In doing further homework, we were broken into interest groups to explore in detail, what change might look like in our key area of need. I remember participant putting forward suggestion as to what specialist care might look like for sexually exploited children, whilst another participant said ‘but we should not put a good thing into a broken system’.
This was a dilemma.
It is my personal conviction that it is ‘both / and’. We can try to fix the system, but we also need models of hope, which show those responsible for the systems that there is another way. For me a model is a story of hope, not how something should be done but instead that it ‘can’ be done.
So, the next thing that catches our attention and strums our heart strings, perhaps we can hold off for a few moments. To ask ourselves in our responding with compassion, how can we also respond with innovation and strategy that will contribute to systemic change. Can we dig deep and go wide in building the fence at the top of the human trafficking cliff, addressing poverty or that our local authority has a failing foster care system which mean more kids in institutions and not families.
I will end with a story of a group of innovators in Los Angeles. One aspect of the work cost 25 cents… they collected quarters from people so that they could open up a launderette, out of hours specifically for local homeless people. It worked. They then decided to provide mobile showers and dressing gowns so people could put clean bodies back inside clean clothes. Then local healthcare workers who were struggling to do consistent care with the homeless because of movement, recognised this was a place that they would always be, and showed up with a mobile clinic.
They are clean, healthy… but still homeless.
In the same city, a group raised money for some homeless people to be housed and not build another shelter, believing as they did that homeless people first need a home. There is not enough money to rent or buy something that substantial in the centre of LA, land is just too expensive and too in demand. Did they stop? No. They approached a group who had an open car parking lot and said, ‘ can we pay you for any inconvenience caused by building a block of apartments on this site on pillars, so you lose minimal space? We will pay you a monthly premium once it is built as additional income.
I wonder if we can create some stories, not of mopping up, but of making change up stream. Our response may always be compassion and mercy first, but perhaps it is not the last thing we will respond with, perhaps its entry level, perhaps we have been hanging around the lower rungs of the ladder? Maybe we are too content at just ‘having skin in the game’. Maybe its simply where we are at as church with our own need for systemic change, as we wrestle with that which holds us and seek to become those agents of change in society.
In a post today Scot McKnight wrote (emphasis added):
While the liberation theology of some was not much more Marxist economics and violent revolution, but a theology should not be judged by its edges but by its center.
The latter part is what caught my attention – applicable to theology but I wish to apply it to protest movements. First a brief story.
Somewhere around the year 2000 I had a clear encounter with Spain. I was above the land and could see the entire outline of the Iberian peninsula, when what I saw began to zoom in fairly rapidly (before I was using google maps, but the same effect, zooming in and coming to the centre). So I knew that somehow I was coming to the ‘centre’ of Spain. When I got there I came to a large square that contained two aspects that got my attention. First a huge crowd that I estimated had to be around 100,000 people, and a stage at one end all set up but without anyone on it as the event had not yet started. I knew the people had gathered to ‘hear what the Lord would have to say to Spain’.
As I have written before revelation meets expectation, and my expectation was clear that one day a remarkable event would take place where a prophet would come to Spain and address the nation in a public setting of considerable size. Expectation comes from the past, revelation from the future – hence the mismatch.
Many years later I discovered that Puerta del Sol is at the centre of Madrid, and from there (point ‘Zero Kilometre’) measurements are made. It is a wonderfully active square with many protests taking place in it or ending there.
In January 2015 Gayle and I decided to travel to Madrid as a political leader was calling for a gathering from across Spain. We thought we needed to be there to catch something of the pulse of the land, so travelled up on Friday night to stay over till Sunday morning. Early Saturday Gayle received a phone call to say her dad was seriously ill and the suggestion was that she should fly to the UK as soon as possible. We booked the first available flight – the afternoon. (We were due to be there for 2 nights, Gayle had packed for herself clothes for a week as she anticipated something would disturb our plans.)
This then changed everything but as we had a couple of hours before the event we decided that we should go to the square, see what was there. By the time we left the square to go to the airport the square was packed – certainly with a crowd of around 100,000. At the far end – just as I had seen – was a stage that was empty as the event was still more than an hour away from starting.
We left. Gayle to the airport and I drove back to Oliva. Event over, though we watched it on TV but were never present at it.
Two months later I walked into our living room and suddenly there was an ‘aha’ moment. ‘Gayle we were standing in exactly what I saw 15 years ago.’
When we stood in it that Saturday morning I could not see it. It did not meet my expectation. My expectation was wrong! Every last detail fitted what I had seen, and still I could not ‘see’ it. The speaker – a professed atheist – spoke about the clock in Spain that had been stopped had started. He called out much of the corruption that day, and since that day slowly but consistently the corruption has been squeezed to the surface.
[Even after recognising the fulfilment I had to wrestle with for a while the thought that ‘maybe though there will be a future event that will really be the ‘full’ fulfilment – a Christian event.’ Expectations – so slow to give way! I now know that was the fulfilment.]
So back to McKnight’s quote. We can write off (and particularly so at this time) protest movements because they are nor perfect. In doing so we can hold them to a higher account than we do the church. If Jesus had one standard for society (no murder) but had another for his disciples (no anger) why are we critical of that which does not profess faith, and are silent about internal issues? We reverse the Jesus’ approach seeking to hold the world to a level of account that is not appropriate.
We should expect imperfection in protest movements. We should not allow the periphery to obscure the centre. We have prayed for a long time for wisdom’s voice to be heard, to be heard in the public square, to be shouted out in the street. And for those of us who have not prayed we have sung about ‘dancers who dance upon injustice’.
I have to come to believe:
that many of our prayers will be – and should be – answered by events in the world. (One of the central commissions for the body of Christ is to enable the world to be a ‘good’ world.)
That the responses will not be perfect, and that we are wrong to expect them to be.
That God’s voice is heard in and through these movements, and that a deafness at this time will only serve to skew the prophetic that is being proclaimed.