Maturely immature?

I have been ever so reflective now for the past few days. If I carry on I will either need to repent of this trend, accept I am maturing at a rate that could frighten me, or simply take a break so as I do not over-exhaust myself.

I am no expert on the Enneagram, I have belligerently sat through a most-beneficial course, never read a book on it from cover to cover, secretly find enough in there to be very helpful, but can still maneuver enough to keep it at bay. Personality types! Some people benefit from certain contexts, certain expressions of Christianity. It is not simply ‘heaven came’ and the rest is history. We connect with God through who we are, and we connect with ‘our’ God through who we are. Both the real God and the God I believe in comes to us in that way. For the Anabaptist the Gospels are the key hermeneutic to the Scriptures, for Jesus is the image of the invisible God. So that settles things… but those who hold that Jesus will return as ‘the ultimate Slayer’ also maintain that Jesus is the lens through which we know God. For them the Gospels simply reflect a portion of who Jesus is, hence God is love, but he is also wrathful etc., and will return to slaughter all enemies. We have our perspectives because of what we have been taught, what we read and consider for ourselves, and without doubt because of our personalities.

I like to find what I can object to. I value all the material on how conversations can be hosted. Pick up an object to contribute, listen when the person is contributing. Been there. Does not work for me. Surface reason? It is presented as a tool to facilitate conversation. I want them to say ‘we are doing this to control the situation’. Just be honest, I say on the inside. Just say ‘because we have people like Martin here we have to put some levels of control in as he can be a pain in these situations’. Now I am happy as we have set up an oppositional setting. At the surface level I claim it is now operating at an honest level so I affirm I am happy. At a deeper level it is not really revealing the issue with the object to be picked up, but as to what is going on inside. I still have not resolved that kind of situation. Not sure either that I want to. After all maybe it is controlling. Personality types.

I did OK in the charismatic context. Increasingly though I found there were some things that worked for me but I became less convinced they were working. Prophesying over individuals while we were together, picking people out who were under the anointing. A huge blessing to many, but I all-but stopped doing that as it became in danger of people more desiring another word than hearing God speak, of certain people receiving and others not. Is there a place for personal prophecy? A huge place. But how it is done can have a down-side.

Travelling to conferences, bringing in a ‘moving on word’ – worked for me. Eventually I found that I had choices. Be commodified or be true to oneself. The incompatibilities came when there were ‘green rooms’ and undue preferential treatment. Message – the release of the body, all are servants, there is no centre. Yet the symbolism was not always consistent with the message. There are always practical issues that surround conferences and the like, but there comes a line that we have to know is a line for us. My message meant I had to move away from the majority of conference scenes. Not because they are bad they simply became a not for me scenario. Exile is only exile if one has a promised land perspective.

I am incompatible with a number of church situations. They are too healthy for me and my presence will make them unhealthy. My agenda is not for them, so why should I try and make it important for them? For this reason I do not look for invites. God has connections for all of us, and we have to discover who we are to be the connection to in order that those people truly benefit from what God has placed in our lives.

I think as another number will quickly be attached to my age I will leave all this self-reflection on one side.


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The second context

I posted yesterday about one reflection in two contexts. But before I go on to the second context – HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JUDITH.

The first was that of education – I did OK, for others it was probably a prison that did not train them in the way they should go but by default put limitations on their self-worth and value. The second I am more tentative about reflecting on, as my reflections are more recent (and many of the reflections come as I wake in the morning, not while I am in control during the day!).

The context is that of the charismatic, new church, progressive, call-it-what-you-want expression of the Christian faith. Wow did I benefit from my experience within that kind of movement. Enormously. It has shaped me like nothing else has. Yes I love to claim to be Anabaptist, even to be influenced a bit by the Eastern strand of the historic faith, but the reality is gifts of the Spirit, prophesying, slapping on of hands, prophetic vision – all of that is inside me to this day. I love the rhetoric. I met a while back with a Brit pastor who was out here and he asked me about the EU and any thoughts I had about it and ‘end-times’. After pontificating that it had nothing to do with the end-times went on to proclaim and if it did, and the antiChrist was about to manifest in and through the EU that would be the very reason why I would vote to stay in. I love all of that. I love it when Gayle and I get to Madrid. Walk the streets of the city, the capital, the big one, praying. Even if it is fantasy I love it, it is somewhere in my bloodstream.

Strong leadership, definite direction, God has spoken and we are the ones who know what he has said. I did OK in all that and I am not about to rubbish it. I have witnessed too many incredible changes in health – many instantaneous, prayed into situations and read newspaper headlines that are verbatim what was prayed into, to rubbish it. I am very grateful for the background. I am not about to rubbish it either for I am an unashamed charismatic when I read the NT. Paul in Galatians does not appeal to a date when they believed but to an experience they had, with a continual working of miracles in their midst as his appeal that they do not abandon their direction and come under legalism. Charismatic experience is central to me, and I don’t think I just read it there – I actually think it is there to be read.

Yet I have learnt (yes I think I have learnt something) over the years that some people prosper in certain situations and others do not. Some people prosper for a time and then later find the situation to be not so prosperous, indeed the situation might become a negative context for them.

So this is my second context. I wish I had not fitted in so well. I wish I had challenged us (and this was an ‘us’ not a ‘them’) to give people more space, more room not to fit in. More room not to be committed so intensely, to explore other avenues, other expressions of the wonderful faith.

Maybe I really am maturing. I am more appreciative now of difference than ever before. I appreciate the liturgical – so much so I did it for 5 whole days! I also have to be true to my roots, believing it is the way God led me, and it is how the Scriptures resonate with me. Being true to my roots is to try and live outside the box, with more respect than before for those who are being true to where they find life. I want to be a more objectionable voice to the self-assured structures that promise life, rather than release people to their destiny. When I do hit 61 at least I will have a focus.

I was quite happy the other day. I had to visit the bank. In discussion with the person behind the desk, eventually letting them know that money is not what motivates us, she let out a good strong Spanish swear word at quite a volume, calling on me loudly ‘just do something’. A small success, frustration that I would not do something that indicated that we could fit in. All structures, gifts and ministries are here to serve the people not the other way round. That is my voice that if true will be objectionable.


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August – how many have there been?

August is a fun month. A month that supposedly honours Augustus Caesar – so that in itself is enough to make one either laugh or respond with a good healthy ‘no way’. I’ve always enjoyed August and have had a few of them now in my life. Somewhere in this month is a date when I mark one more year on the planet – yes a birthday comes round. I’ve said before that when I was 39 Sue asked me what I wanted to do when I was 40 – ‘I don’t want to mark that as 40 is almost nothing. What can one do by the time one is 40? Maybe ask again when I am 55,’ was my response. Of course once I did get to 55 I didn’t feel a lot different!

Anyway I thought maybe I would not blog during the month of August – time out, but here I am 6.00am with keyboard being bashed away. This post might not connect with many, and probably will not connect with those who have made the shift from immaturity to maturity by the time they reached 40, or even earlier. Richard Rohr writes about the two halfs of one’s life (or is that halves?). By now I apparently should have entered the second half. Not having read the book – like why would I want to do that? – but my guess is I am not yet too close to making the transition. I think transitions are better made if there is a measure of reflection. Learn from the past, make some adjustments and the future direction is on a better course.

I have many memories (and I think some are probably bad and some are probably good). I just don’t remember them. No that is not meant to be funny. I simply do not remember them – I don’t think about them, I don’t recall them, if they seek to rise up I move on. I don’t have time for that… maybe then the second half of life is still a long way off? In the midst of all this immaturity, first half of life orientation, I have had two reflections, or maybe better one reflection into two phases of my life. One reflection and I am about to hit 61… well one reflection is better than none.

I appreciate the reflectors. They have a gift that I do not have. Last week Gayle and I did a week (we managed 5 days so almost a week) of following a liturgical pattern of prayer – creeds, book of common prayer, and a good one in there from St. Francis. Beneficial, but tough. That way of doing things requires reflection, contemplation. Contemplating concerning God also ties with self-reflection. After 5 days maybe we (I) need to move on. ‘Move on.’ Now that is a good mantra. Give your energies to that, to the days you have never yet had. Apparently the downside is that we are meant to learn from the past, and again apparently, that requires self-reflection.

So what is the one reflection on life I have now that I have completed part of the first half of my life? It is I did pretty well in the contexts where I found myself but was not enough of an objectionable voice to the status quo on behalf of those who did not benefit from the system. My first reflective context is the educational system. Learning (now there is a euphemism) Spanish has been good for me. Not making the grade, not connecting… everything I did not experience within education, but probably that is exactly what a number of others did experience, as they found that for them education was anything but an enjoyable experience. If we could go back in time with what we know now, I would love to go back and be an objectionable voice on behalf of those that the system did not bring life to but imprisoned.

Rabbie Burns wrote:

O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!

I think I would write (with adjustment to the language):

And would some Power (God) give us the gift
To convert the system to seeing others!

(Almost had another reflection there, but quickly moved on… Almost thought that maybe I see the systems as being the problem, that they need changing, and of course through a good well aimed kick in the Spirit, rather than I need to change and see others. Glad it was only a momentary thought.)

Anyway less than a week to go to the birthday and I think I must be getting ever-so-close to the second half of my life – after all I have had a reflection. So maybe the second half of my life will be about being an objectionable voice and not fitting in. Or maybe that refection marks I am about to enter the first half of my life? Either way, the reality is once the reflection is over, life is there to be lived and off we go again, though I do hope that over the past 7 years a greater level of not fitting in, of kicking against the self-assured structures have marked whatever half of life I am in.


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Toward Post-Christendom

Christendom is not something totally easy to define. It certainly relates to an era when the church ‘possessed’ the culture that it resided in. The culture was ‘christianised’ as it had some sort of Christian morality shape. Nations could be termed ‘Christian’ or heathen. It relates to an era when Christianity was the religion of the state / empire. This whole scenario became in the west the status quo in the centuries that followed the shift with Constantine, his conversion, and edicts such as the edict of Milan.

It is possible to see the submission of the pagan ruler (Constantine and successors) as a fulfillment of OT hopes, even if we accept the outworking as imperfect. It is probably also OK to feel that we have lost a measure of a moral framework that resulted from the christendom era, the framework that at some level permeated (western) society. In other words, even those of us who are opposed to christendom, who see a resulting fall of the church, do not need to demonise every aspect. The paper I wrote on the redemptive trajectory suggests that in the ever-increasing fall of the life of Israel God was still found in some incredible and glorious ways. Who would not wish to testify that ‘we were unable to stand to minister such was the presence of the glory cloud’? God present in power, yet inside an edifice that Jesus proclaimed could not be sustained beyond that generation.

A wonderful move forward, a mixture, or a terrible downward fall – regardless of our perspective we are moving from a christendom era to a post-christendom one. The pace of that movement and where we are located on the spectrum might vary but I think the movement is irreversible. In the process there will be loss and perhaps the loss of some good elements, but the process is necessary.

What will we think should (when) the president of the USA is not sworn in with hand on Bible, or a UK monarch is no longer anointed with oil at Westminster Abbey and presented with a Bible by senior church leaders as a ‘rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes’? Post-christendom could certainly mean change to both those practices – and of course numerous other ones that reflect the advance of christendom.

I do not suggest that the territory ahead is easy to traverse, but the shift of seeing the cross as the sign of power to overcome (Constantine, crusades) and rather as the place that re-orients all of life and through the embrace of love offering to one and all an opportunity to lose one’s life, is a journey that we have to engage with.

If there is a general principle that trouble is a sign to look higher (‘when you see these things…’) it is not too difficult to see numerous levels of crises all around. I am sure the dire conflict and loss of life that France has suffered these past few months is only a taste of what is coming to the majority of western nations. This should be no surprise. The idea that the daily slaughter in Syria or Baghdad is ‘somewhere else’ among ‘another people’ is not really tenable. We are in a wake-up call period of time. Isolationism and protectionism will neither isolate nor protect us. They will prove to be hollow promises, and as I wrote recently we have entered a slower but deeper time of the façades being opened up and the core of what lies behind them being exposed. It will indeed be painful.

For years I have been saying that the strength of Islam is found inside a christendom belief. That the source is not simply the quran but christendom. It should be no great surprise that Dayesh believes in Armageddon, with the gathering of the heathen nations (us!!) and although ‘we’ will have numerical and power supremacy, they will be vindicated as Jesus returns to defeat the heathens (us!!). I might find it hard to let go of some of the christendom benefits and privileges but the urgency of the times presses in on me and calls me beyond my comfort zone.

Hence back to where I started – christendom. We have to move on and through the current time. We cannot, though many will, seek to re-establish christendom. To get the church out of the building is a move forward. To call for the church to embrace its place in society and culture is a good call. To use language of ‘mountains of influence’ might be a useful metaphor, but if we see the langauge as more than a limited metaphor I fear it will simply result in a people out of touch with this time. Solomon (my morning reading) might have built for God a great house, but Jesus warned in his day that not one stone of ‘God’s house’ would remain. An era was over. An era is over in our day. We will have to learn how to traverse a land where we do not possess the culture, yet believe passionately that the gospel is this-worldly in application. We will have to learn the difference between wanting the 10 commandments in our court room or the beattitudes of Jesus to permeate our values and to seep out beyond. We will have to learn that the ‘greatest mountain’ will have to go through a NT lens of all mountains being brought down.

We do not have to demonise the past. God has never left us. There are godly vestiges, for after all even the Temple could still potentially act as a house of prayer. But we have to face tomorrow and allow ourselves to be cleansed.


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Art – the gift to expose

Chris Bourne sent me this link to Doris Salcedo in Bogota. She says ‘Art cannot explain things but it can expose them.’

Very powerful in undermining the oblivion the government sought to place on the people. Opening up the gift of lament to the people.

Art touches the imagination (future), the memory (past) as it engages the people in the here and now. Enjoy! Though that is probably not the appropriate word to use…


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A Christian viewpoint?

Last year in the run up to the leadership vote on the Labour Party (UK) Corbyn gave a talk in Liverpool. We have just recently come across it, and the part that interested me was his closing statement about what to call ‘a society where everyone matters, where everyone cares for everyone else.’ He went on to say ‘you can call it anything you like. I prefer to call it socialism, you can call it humanism, humanitarianism. You can call it what you want but a society based on the idea that you respect everybody and care for everybody is actually a happier, more prosperous, more successful, more peaceful society’.

Why did he not add ‘you can call it Christianity’? Was it because he simply chose a few possible names from a long list? Was it because it does not represent a Christian viewpoint? There might be many responses we of faith might give, but I think one of the sources for the Labour Party (John Wesley and Methodism) would probably want to shout loudly that the Jesus-following vision is right there behind what he describes.

Here is the video and the part where I quote and reflect is from 15:30 onwards – the last short segment.

Scripture has a lot to say about money, the limitations on wealth creation and the like. I am wondering if the loss of ‘family values’ is the result of the seed of the anarchic 60s, or whether there is another source all-together.

In 1976 there was an intervention by the IMF in the economic management in the UK. There began a shift from a previously Keynesian economic concensus to something that has been pursued since then (and not just under Margaret Thatcher) to the cutting loose of the market. There was an abandonment of full-employment as a goal, privatisation was pursued and the free market was deified. (I use that term because I believe it is justifiable biblically. When we have phrases such as the ‘invisible hand of the market’ and a belief that it will self-regulate we are ascribing to a set of beliefs akin to those who were subject to the ‘elemental principals of the universe’ that Paul critiques.)

From 1979 – 1997 we have:

  • the proportion of women aged 18-49 who were married fell from 74% to 69%
  • the proportion co-habiting increased from 11% to 22%
  • births outside marriage more than doubled
  • one parent families increased from 12% to 22%
  • by 1991 there was a divorce in Britain for every 2 marriages
  • the number of households in the UK where there was no-one active in work moved from 6.5% to 19.1%
  • the levels of incarceration also greatly increased.

Is there a connection? Well maybe if we prioritise individual choice over any common good it tends to make relationships also provisional. If choice is the highest value what is the difference between initiating a divorce and trading in a used car? The logic of serving this god is that all relationships also become consumer goods.

The breakup of family – the result of the bad seed of the 60s or the economic freedom advocated and practiced from the 70s onwards? I don’t think we can shout ‘family values’ loudly and bow at the feet of individualism and unfettered pursuit of (a false) prosperity.

Of course we might have beliefs about how a corporate economy should be run, who should be taxed and at what levels. Those of my persuasion will of course have our bias. It is something deeper though I am pushing for. The bankruptcy of the West is becoming ever more visible. I think there is now a slower but deeper revealing of what lies behind the façades. Wesley’s gospel had a strong socal dimension to it. Such a shame if the vision of the future can only have the adjectives socialist, humanist or humanitarian attached to it. The great Human has lived among us. We have been endued by his Spirit. (OK another plug for #3 on my ecclesiology ‘thinking out loud’….)


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Hospitality & sharing

The sin of Sodom (& Gomorrah)? In Ezekiel it was that of the rejection of hospitality and lack of care for the poor and needy:

Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it (Ezek. 16:49,50).

Whatever we make of the commonly highlighted sexual issues, this aspect of social contempt for the stranger is highlighted. Recently it came to my attention that Jesus statement over the cities of Israel:

I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town (Luke 10:12).

is in the context of looking for the cities to give hospitality to the travelling disciples. I had never seen that before and it again underlines the need for hospitality, care, looking after the stranger. Judgement on cities of Israel, and historically a judgement on a non-covenant city (Sodom), hence these aspects stand as an indictment on any city or community.

A few notes that reflect some on Western society, and the statistics referred to could be multiplied many times over:

  • David Cameron (UK Prime Minister) has stepped aside – who would want a role such as that? It is easy to criticise from the side. During his time in office the Trussel Trust provides us with this statistic that illustrates a huge shift: those relying on food banks to supply them has moved from 61,468 to 1,109,309 people in the UK. There is a political divide over whether this is the responsibility of government or not, but the statistic remains as an indictment on society. That 1.8% of the population should be in that situation cannot be something that escapes the eyes of God.
  • In the nation that is perhaps viewed as the most-advanced of Western nations apparently 50% of food goes to waste (Guardian article). Contrast that with the command of God to allow the poor and needy to glean what is left.
  • 1 out of every 3 children in Spain are are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, according to latest EU figures (Reuters).
  • Spain faces major issues as it has failed to meet the figures set by the EU and to pay for debts has ‘borrowed’ on more than one occasion from the social security pot. Latest figures suggest that by 2018 that pot will be empty. While at the same time those assessed to have ‘large fortunes’ has grown by 40% since the crisis of 08.

Coming back to Sodom the kind of homosexuality in view cannot be separated from that of power abuse. Control and domination was certainly part of what is going on and this might be why the sexual activity itself is not commented on in Ezekiel or Luke but the response to and care for the stranger, the poor and the needy is the centre of focus. Power, control, maintaining power; pro-life but pro-war and the death penalty; following a redemptive God and yet having huge populations within non-redemptive-prison-systems…

There will always be solutions suggested, a reviving of an -ism, the repackaging of an old one, or the proclamation of a new one. How different are the two big ones, capitalism (and now in its predominant ugly face of neo-liberalism) or hard-line left socialism? One has the god of the free-market, the other the god of the state. They both promise to reward those who comply but only ‘reward’ a few. Enough have to be rewarded to maintain the status quo and enough can be consumed to keep the machine functioning. And neither escape the eyes of the Lord. That is the imperial spirit. In the old days one of my points on the kingdom and church was that ‘the kingdom produces the church’. If we are to know something by the fruit it produces we have to look long and hard at what is often produced.

I am sure we are headed to another manifestation of the crisis we are in. It is not a new crisis coming, but a fresh manifestation of that crisis. The institutions will be opened again for us to see inside. The outcome? Probably dependent on how like / unlike Sodom we are at the core.


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Thinking out loud

Water to WineWe have begun to read Brian Zahnd’s book Water into Wine. Loving it. Worth it for the following quote:

Over time I began to see the cross in a much deeper way – not as a mere factor in an atonement theory equation, but as the moment in time and space where God reclaimed creation.

We stopped reading at that sentence as it is so full of content. What a reclamation – not the planting of a flag, a show of strength and the killing of the enemy. The cross was planted, there is a total yielding to all hostile powers and the Prince of Life is killed.

Loving the book. So now to my thinking out loud. Brian tells his story of a courageous journey from a charismatic-flavoured evangelicalism to an eclectic embrace where he sees that all versions of Christianity have generally the same amount of truth. We certainly benefited from his understanding, and coming from my sectarian (I use the term sociologically) background a helpful kick up the rear. And it is here that I am thinking out loud… there are many approaches to ‘church’, but I wonder are there three sources of thought? So trying this out.

1) The sectarian approach. This of course is always rampant in all faiths. Judaism had its sects – Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes etc. The nature of a sect is that it shares the world view of the wider group but believes it adheres to the implications of that world view more faithfully. Protestantism broadly fits this and of course the more fanatical we become the more we fit the description. ‘We have studied the Scriptures and now we have the biblical pattern of…’ I must not write too much on this as I feel such a confirmation of how right I am coming on.

2) The church with all its faults is what God has given, with its creeds, history, structures etc., all as part of the richness of the mystery. The church can then be really seen as a sacrament. Ecumenical generosity and finding an appropriate place to dock then would be two very sensible follow-ons. I am not looking to label people, but seems Zahnd, MacLaren, Wright and a whole bunch of other amazing people seem to fit in here. It might be that a number who have been in the sectarian camp find this a very healthy way to grow and express their faith.

3) The church has to find its setting in the world. It is part of the world and responsible for the world. It is not institutional but a movement and therefore contingent. Leading to finding dynamic relationships that might / might not be geographically based; more open to God being involved in a whole set of situations beyond the Christian faith; open to politico-social movements and willing to connect with them. Neither demanding nor negating personal salvation. (OK a rough go at describing a position.)

So thinking out loud, and letting it hang out there. Is the third position just a variation of the first? Is it the first but influenced by elements from the second? Is it the second without some of the sacramental elements? Or is it truly a third way? YES of course it is. OOPS, my unbiased viewpoint shaped by my history and my interpretation that of course I am on the right path nearly came out there. Must remember never to open up as to what I really think and hold all opinions to myself.


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USA – where to?

The crisis, so evident, in Europe is not limited to that continent. Yesterday I did an interview with a US radio based station. Challenging as very clearly the Lord spoke to Gayle and I a little over a year ago that we were not responsible for the US – others must pick that up. In the light of that I have not commented on events there as the more we take responsibility for something the more we can comment. I do though have a small history across there, in 2005 while there I prophesied that the outcome of the election in ’08 would not be the one that the majority of charismatic Christians wanted, but if they could not embrace that then the ’12 election would be worse from their perspective. I wonder if ’16 only makes starkly real the course of those years.

In my understanding the core of why there would be a divergence between that of the hope of the charismatic believers and the actual outcome was over the belief of where the source of transformation is. The keys are not held in the white house… they are not held at the top. Luke 3 records that: In the fifteenth year of the emperor Tiberius… the word of the Lord came to John in the wilderness. I am convinced Jesus came to release a political movement, the very terms surrounding the gospel suggest this, but he did not come to start a political party. He cannot be boxed as a socialist nor a capitalist. Politicians in Washington, Westminster or Brussels have important roles but I think we are fooled if we think they shape all things. There are powers that they serve, sometimes knowingly but often unknowingly. Those powers are at times incarnated in individuals and power groups but often not. Biblical words such as powers, principalities and even the ‘city’ concept open our eyes to those realities. We also need an understanding that grass-roots is where Jesus is found. He eats with the powerless, the marginalised. It is not that he is not present elsewhere but if he is not found at the margins we will not discern, but distort, his presence elsewhere. Scripture does not confront gifting, entrepreneurship and the like. Far from it. It does however challenge head on the flow of the fruit of that entrepreneurship.

It seems to me that the issues facing us are much deeper than finding a ‘Christian’ politician. Peter Wehner who served in the last three Republican administrations wrote a piece in the New York Times on The Theology of Donald Trump. In it he suggests that the overriding paradigm is that of strength is right, the effect being the dehumanising of all who are weak – or disagree. I would find it hard to give that kind of ideology a vote, and I think for obvious reasons. Maybe some see voting this way as the ‘lesser of two evils’. Maybe. But I struggle to see it as the most redemptive vote possible. At the end of the interview yesterday I was asked to pray. My prayer was for a generation to rise who would take responsibility for the US and with a passion that far from calling God to make the US great, that he might lead her to become a servant to the world.

Our hopes can never be placed in Trump or an alternative. They will always have limited effect. Our hope has to be placed in the disciples of Jesus who, as they embrace the place of weakness and marginalisation (as far as is visible) they will discover that the place of royal priesthood is effective. Then I consider we will see released politicians who are free-er from the powers, and more able to act and release levels of justice. If there is a role as priests to be embraced, my question I am asking is – is the priesthood of the church releasing a political manifestation and if so what does it look like? And the second question is – is the political manifestation that we are too quick to endorse and put our hope in removing our calling to be a priesthood?

My hope is in the body of Christ. The Spirit is present there in a unique way. My hopes at times are dented. Dented, not because people vote the ‘wrong’ way (as if I could be the judge of that!!) but because of our marriage to the belief that top-down power is where it is at. My hopes rise though when I realise that the way God works also means that there are greater manifestations of realities before they come to their appointed end. I guess we are in for TURBULENCE as some very ugly dehumanising powers manifest. The ultimate form of atheism is dehumanisation – and sadly atheism is not limited to those who have no faith.


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The church, Brexits, TPP and… façades

This is a kind of follow on from yesterday’s post – at least it is in my mind!

I have posted before concerning this decade and how it relates to two dreams from the beginning of the decade. In this post I will recount the one that highlighted how by resorting to the familiar we close down the time of exposure and change. In that dream I went into a town square and was standing one one side of the square looking at all the buildings on the other side. Somehow I was aware that each of the buildings represented an institution that had shaped the pubic life: the health, education, commerce, entertainment, media, the church were certainly all represented there. At a precise moment the fronts of all the buildings moved forward then up, as if they were on hinges. One could see right inside the buildings to what was taking place behind the façades.

My initial reaction was that buildings like are totally unstable and are in danger of collapsing, so I thought I needed to shout a warning to those on that side of the square to get away from the buildings. However, while contemplating the warning I realised that the buildings were not actually collapsing, they remained stable on their foundations. To my left someone began to sing quietly a worship song, and as there were obviously a few people in the square who were believers a second person added their voice, then a third and so on. What started quietly slowly increased in volume. It never dominated the square but it was there to be heard. Once the volume increased to a certain level the buildings all at the same time shut back down, the façades returning to where they were before.

Then to my right I heard an audible voice that said, ‘It is the familiar that restores the status quo, that brings things back to where they were.’ Now I knew what the issue really was. The warning to be shouted out was not with regard to the instability of the buildings, but the danger of resorting to the familiar. The acuteness of the danger being illustrated by it even being a worship song that could do the damage.

So I cleared my throat and got ready. I shouted, ‘It is the familiar…’ I got those four words out and at that point a person stood right in my face to intimidate me. I stepped to the side, cleared my throat again. Once again I got those four words out and the scene repeated. On the fourth occasion I got my four words out, ‘It is the familiar…’ and the person finished the sentence with the words, ‘…that brings things back to normal.’

Two similar statements with radically different meanings:

  • It is the familiar that brings things back to normal.
  • It is the familiar that restores the status quo and brings things back to where they were.

If the body of Christ carries a weight spiritually and our contribution is to be in the public square, not institutionally but spiritually, then what we do and how we respond, and in particular times more so than in others, is very critical. There seems to be a concensus of the current time as a very critical time. The Brexit referendum, the shift in leadership in parliament (UK), the rise of the right wing parties fuelling an anti-immigration feeling all, within the European context, point in that direction.

There will always be differences of opinion over the right way to go on a referendum such as we have had, but I think at a time of change we have to be thinking about change at much deeper levels than Brussels is big, Westminster smaller so the first must be more imperial. The issues are much deeper than that. We must be careful about pulling along personal interest lines (and I write this as an immigrant in Spain).

While we have been asleep, or maybe we were awake and approved, the whole economic system has shifted to come behind that based on a neo-liberal basis. This has shifted the West to a kind of capitalism that was unknown before the 1970s. Resorting to national boundaries with an appeal to ‘sovereignty’ will not counter what we are up against. If sovereignty outworks as being able to establish, and then dictate, a rule we have to look beyond that of nationalism. (And I write as one who is not nationalistic, and with a perspective that the nation-state is a new idea, considerably beyond the use of the term ‘nation’ in Scripture.)

The trans-national corporations are exerting a new kind of sovereignty that is not subject to the supposed national boundaries within which they operate. They dictate the level of taxation, they reward those who serve and they live from a bio-power resource. It opens up the way for trade agreements that at the surface might be between nations (the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) for example) but are beyond intra-national agreement, and are carving out a path that will, if left unchecked fro example, reduce health care to money over people. (With all the strains on the NHS consider the level of GDP that goes into it in the UK and the level of cover provided, compared to the greater level of GDP that goes into health care across the pond and the numbers left without health care.)

I am not trained to understand many of the issues, even the ones I refer to above, and I am not about to write about how wrong the Brexit was, my plea is let us make sure we are going deeper. We can be fooled at a time when there can be many exposures, many façades being revealed, by resorting to the familiar. A Brexit does not deal with Imperial issues and it was ironic that when Cameron made his visit to Brussels that the concession he was proud to declare was with regard to the city of London. The square mile that already had exceptions was to be safeguarded!! ‘Who runs Britain’ (Peston) might now be a few years old but remains a good read to realise that the critique of Revelation still stands. Economic trade (beast) with a false prophet (the identity of which can be very fluid) continually needs to be exposed. A Brexit might weaken it, though I doubt that. A Brexit, or a non-Brexit, with the church continuing to sing will simply bring things back to where they were, restoring the status quo. What is termed ‘normality’ deifies as always the market. Neo-liberalism, operating in the IMF, the EU, Westminster, Wall Street etc., will continue to march on, and if we think we can stop it by establishing artificial national boundaries we are sadly missing it. We have to push deeper.

I write the above as a non-expert – polite way of saying one who knows almost nothing. That is not an issue to me. When I look at the fruit, the growing divide between rich and poor I know something is wrong. When Spain with all its economic pressures has more millionaires now than before the 08 crisis, when it ‘borrows’ from the pension fund to pay debts, when it has given state aid to help fund football clubs, etc. there is something wrong.

Just for a while I need to stop singing the song. I cannot join in. I have seen the façades open up. I have to warn again and again – beware of the familiar in all its forms. I do not expect to be an expert in the issues of trans-national globalism and its devouring of people as fuel. I do though need to pray and stand for those who will rise up with an understanding and a different voice. I don’t expect to hear them from within the church – that is not our task (to become the highest mountain!). We are here for the world. I expect to hear the prophets rise from within the world. And sadly I expect that many of them will lose their lives. I just hope we are not the new-Nero’s, singing our songs while the city burns. Oh and Nero’s name converted to numbers came out at 666, a number that allowed the person to continue to trade.


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