Tuesday, 31 March 2009

There is no more urgent time than now...

... to act justly.

Let's remember what a difficult, invidious job the world's political leaders are trying to do as they meet in London over the next couple of days. And let's hope that the influence the Christian leaders might be evident in the outcome.

From the Tearfund's Global Action campaign, pray:
  • For wisdom and courage for world leaders to move beyond narrow self interest and old ideas and respond together to this crisis.
  • That the voices of the poor and vulnerable would be heard and listened to, and the church will continue to speak out on their behalf.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

The prescience of Thomas Jefferson

I'm not suggesting that he was predicting our current economic events, but I was intrigued to discover this quotation today:

"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. "
- Thomas Jefferson

In the week when the G20 will gather in London, and we will see a range of demonstrations and protests, it would be good to give some thought to how we should engage with the current crisis. I don't work in the realms of high finance or in the competitive environment of the City, and I don't expect that there will be anti-capitalist protesters rampaging in the streets of Arbroath or Perth this week. But maybe that's a good starting point - to remember and pray for those who work in London who will have concerns about going to work this week.

I also think that we, the church, need to start thinking and talking about how we would like to see our economies after the crunch. Aye, we need to help those who are adversely affected by it now, but we also need to look ahead and begin to articulate an approach that we see as being consistent with Jesus' values. There is an opportunity here, if we are willing to accept it.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

A conversation with myself?

Sometimes I wonder why I keep this blog. What purpose does it serve? Will I ever refer back to the entries? How will I retrieve the thoughts and notes etc that appear here? Will anyone else find value in it?

But maybe that's to look at it from a logical, process-driven perspective.

What if I free up my thinking and just enjoy using it? It might help me to keep thinking, observing and reflecting; joining up dots; simply noting and plotting some dots etc, etc.

Maybe I'll refer back to it; maybe I'll record some thoughts systematically; maybe I won't!

And I'd like to be more CREATIve here - express myself more. If it's for my use and pleasure then it doesn't have to be perfectly punctuated, or even written in sentences. Some entries might only make sense to me... but so what?

Sunday, 15 March 2009


I usually find the garden very uplifting and inspirational at this time of year - all the energy and promise of spring. But this year... it's different. I haven't been able to do any gardening for about six months because of a wee problem with my elbow.

Yesterday I found myself looking out of the window and almost not recognising the garden (the garden that we've been working on for 16 years). I had a sense of detachment. I wasn't excited by it; couldn't think what we were planning to do this year; had no sense of vision for it.

I was thinking about this in church today - and I realised that (in this case) the opposite of detached isn't attached, but engaged. I haven't fallen out of love with the garden - I just need to get acquainted with it (when my elbow has fully recovered). It's been too long since I got my hands dirty or even just pottered about a bit.

So - as is my wont - I started a wee doodlegram (see below). It seems to me that if we start to drift away from something it's fairly easy to re-engage with a wee bit of nurturing. But if we get to the stage of being detached, a more difficult and lengthy recovery process is needed. I'm not sure if there is a way back when we get beyond detachment to alienation.

There may also be other staging posts along the route from engaged to detached, but I was happy enough with the analogy as it stands (working on the 'less is more' basis OR I need to keep things simple enough for my brain to cope with).

Sunday, 8 March 2009

What do I mean by prophetic?

In response to yesterday's entry That Hideous Man asked exactly what I meant by prophetic. It's a good question, and I thought that rather than post a long, rambling comment in response, I'd post a long, rambling entry in response.

I suppose that what I had in mind was John Stott's 'double listening':

"... we are to listen carefully (although of course with differing degrees of respect) both to the ancient Word and to the modern world, in order to relate the one to the other with a combination of fidelity and sensitivity... It is my firm conviction that, only if we can develop our capacity for double listening, will we avoid the opposite pitfalls of unfaithfulness and irrelevance, and be able to speak God's word to God's world with effectiveness today."
(emphasis mine)

The Tearfund prayer diary for this week talks about keeping 'one eye on the newspaper and another on the Bible'.

But to be prophetic we have to go beyond an awareness of the issues to a position where we speak out about them and challenge others to think about them too. We may propose a course of action, or we may simply indicate that we are prepared to join in a dialogue about the issues. In many ways, I think it's more about raising the right questions rather than having all the answers.

Other factors that are relevant to the prophetic role include the willingness to:
  • speak for those who have no voice (or, at least, their voice isn't listened to);
  • provide an honest critique of the issue in the light of God's teaching and love for us;
  • set the agenda proactively, rather than simply responding to the prompting of others;
  • combine a concern for justice with a call for responsibility and accountability;
  • follow through to service as appropriate.
To use a phrase that I first heard from Stuart Blyth - it's also about being relevant not trendy.

Those are my thoughts, I'd love to hear what others think!

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Where is the prophetic voice of the church?

Another child’s death filled our headlines for a day or two this week. This time it was Brandon Muir from Dundee – killed by his mother’s drug-using boyfriend. As he was dying from his injuries, his mother was prostituting herself to fund her drug habit.

The details of the story fill me with horror and rage. If you have the stomach for it you can read more on the BBC website or in The Herald.

For once, our politicians seem to have responded to this tragedy in a mature way. Dare we hope that they’ve learned that something needs to change in our society?

Annabel Goldie talked about the “tragic exposure of Scotland’s broken society.”

Adam Ingram, the Minister for Children, said:

“We need to … break a vicious cycle of poverty, deprivation, substance misuse which is all too evident in our society.”


“You’re never going to get a 100% fool-proof system and that’s why we have to tackle the root causes of the problems, not just the symptoms.”

Researchers have estimated that between 40,000 and 50,000 children in Scotland live with at least one drug-addicted parent. (That doesn’t take account of those living with parents who misuse alcohol – and there’s not exactly a shortage of them in Scotland!)

And the churches said… NOTHING! At least, I haven’t heard or read anything from any of the churches.

This seems to epitomise what I referred to in my entry on the U2 lyrics. Is there a more important social issue in Scotland right now?

What are the root causes that Adam Ingram was talking about? Poverty, deprivation, community responsibility, hope for the hopeless - amongst others?

Who - in the churches - is doing the thinking?

How do we get a conversation going about this?

Where should we be raising a prophetic voice?

How should we be demonstrating Christ’s love?

I genuinely don’t know the answers to any of these questions, bit I am convinced that if the church is to be relevant, we must tackle this type of issue - sensitively, openly, courageously and biblically.

“We do, of course, need to be wise in deciding what we should get ‘prophetic’ about, and how to pitch it… well-informed and courageous challenges to values that are inimical to the gospel and damaging to our society, will strike a chord in many people’s heart.

And we must show, by word and by life, that there is – however unfashionable – a different and better way.”

- Helen Parry (LICC)

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

No line on the horizon

I downloaded U2's new album last night and was listening to it in the gym today. I was stopped in my tracks by some of the lyrics to "Stand Up Comedy", especially these lines:

I can stand up for hope, faith, love
But while I´m getting over certainty
Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady

Out from under your beds
C´mon ye people
Stand up for your love...

God is love
And love is evolution's very best day

I'm not at all clear what the band intended by these words, and for myself I need to ponder further. But my initial reaction is to ask is this a picture of what the church has become/ what I've become?

Helping God across the road... hiding under the bed... rather than standing up for love?

And I think that the lines about evolution are the best thing that I've heard or read amidst the flurry of Darwin related stuff.