Sunday, May 31, 2009

Face to Faith

Faith communities could improve places of worship by learning from football fans, says Jonathan Romain

Jonathan Romain The Guardian, Saturday 30 May 2009

A week such as this one in which more people in England will have watched the European Champions League final on Wednesday and the FA Cup final today than go to church at Christmas raises an issue that religious leaders would be wise to heed. The sheer passion of supporters was best expressed by the Liverpool manager Bill Shankly in his famous declaration that "Football isn't a matter of life and death - it's much more important than that."

In some ways it is facile to compare football to faith: the former is 400 years old, limited to a rectangular pitch and lasts 90 minutes a week, whereas the latter stretches across the millennia, permeates all aspects of life and is 24/7.

Yet despite this, there are fascinating parallels. Each has ritual wear - be it scarf or rosette, prayer shawl or crucifix - that both proclaims a personal identity and unites followers with others. Both have their own calendar - revolving around Easter, Yom Kippur or Ramadan; or the Football League, FA Cup and Carling Cup - with a seasonal rhythm just as much.

There are similar highs and lows: the build-up of expectation as an important match looms or as you get ready for a festival. But then your emotions can go dramatically either way: a win, especially against the odds, leads to an almost indescribable exuberance; so too at a service when you have a really good experience and emerge with a bounce in your step. The opposite can also be the case: a desperately boring game or a disastrous loss can send you home enveloped in a black cloud, rather like a service which you feel does nothing for you and from which you walk out a stranger to God.

Perhaps most amazing of all at matches is the singing, with many who are totally unmusical, not to mention shy and monosyllabic, leaping to their feet and singing their throats dry in front of thousands.

The key point for clergy with empty pews is to think about transference: how to transfer the passion and commitment of those attending football matches to those at services.

A clue lies in a moment of inspiration experienced by my history teacher at school. He was at a football match after a frustrating week of trying to drum dates of battles and monarchs into children's heads, with little success. He was astounded to hear two pupils from his class sitting in the row behind rattling off facts and figures about team performances, individual players and the number of goals they had scored last season. "Ah," he thought, "so they are capable of remembering! All I have to do is enthuse them enough so that they remember what I want them to remember."

The task of those who care about faith is similar: to make religious life so vibrant as to make others want to join in. We can start by learning from football fans and doing three things:

First, greeting others who are sitting around you, even those you hardly know, and not letting them go away unnoticed at the end, but chatting away, asking if they thought today was a victory or a flop, if the minister was on form or not. It is the presence or absence of human camaraderie that determines whether people come back next week or not.

Second, by joining in the prayers and songs even if you do not feel like it at first, because getting stuck in helps create a sense of involvement, which then engulfs others too, so that you end up feeling that you are on the inside and not looking on from afar.

Third, in between attendances, reading up on the facts, mastering the customs, laws and history, so that next time you come you feel part of the team spirit - that you not only matter as much as everyone else, but that without you they are not fully complete.

At the Kop, Liverpool supporters know that you never walk alone. Hopefully those entering a place of worship can be made to feel the same.

• Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain is the minister of Maidenhead Synagogue and the author of God, Doubt and Dawkins

Friday, May 29, 2009

The subtleties of language.

"Are you still going to see that black-dyke band? You're really cool parents."

The truth was possibly not as cool if you're 15.

Still if there was an alternative black dyke band, I'd be there!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

BBC Radio 4's Thought For the Day

Thought for the Day, 25 May 2009
Clifford Longley

I get a sense that our society is reappraising the value of virtue. We are finding in the City, in Parliament, in journalism, in truth everywhere else too, that "going to the very limit of what the rules permit" isn't good enough. As the Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster have been saying over the weekend, we need an internal moral compass as well. To be precise, we need a conscience. We need it in order to apply to our lives the four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, moderation and courage. Whether we do so successfully depends crucially on what sort of people we are. If we are virtuous we will act virtuously, and become more virtuous in the process. Well, that's the theory anyway.

Am I saying only religious people can be virtuous? Certainly not. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said, controversially, last Thursday that "For Jesus, the inability to believe in God and to live by faith is the greatest of evils. "Evil is a word with many shades of meaning, but this seemed to come close to saying that atheism is wicked.

I beg to differ. One of the most virtuous men I've known was my own father. He was an out-and-out atheist, a Dawkins before his time. Though he disagreed profoundly with my own choice of faith - I'm of the same persuasion as the cardinal - my father certainly wasn't evil. Indeed, a Catholic theologian once said that virtue in an atheist is more admirable than virtue in a believer, for a virtuous atheist pursues the good purely for its own sake, whereas the virtuous believer hopes for his reward in an afterlife. There's a sobering truth in that.

The opposite side of the coin is that wickedness is more wicked when committed by a religious believer. It destroys trust. Many Irish people have abandoned the Catholic faith in recent years, and I would not be surprised to hear of more doing so in the light of recent events, because of the scandal of children being abused sexually or sadistically by priests or nuns. So the inability to believe in God may have a lot to do with the dreadful example set by some of those who do believe.

And I also think the inability to believe in God can, paradoxically, be a source of grace, even something like a gift. It's as if God switches on the light for some people, but for others He deliberately leaves it turned off so they have to create their own light. They have to discover for themselves how to be moral and virtuous, and why it matters.

Believers and non-believers together have the urgent task of promoting the idea of virtue in order to remoralise our entire economic system and our whole society - before it all finally falls apart.

Monday, May 25, 2009

What a muddle! Far Right and the Archbishops slog it out.

It's been a funny old week in politics and religion here in the motherland. For those from the colonies a little update:

We have European elections looming and there is a traditionally low turnout at the polls for this event - such a low turnout that it is hard for the winners to claim a mandate on such a small proportion of the potential electorate. This cynicism has not been helped by revelations in the national press, particularly the Daily Telegraph, of the scandal of M.P's expenses. For those of you who have been on Mars, this is related to some apalling greed on the part of a significant minority of elected public servants in their interpretation of what constitutes legitimate parliamentary expenses. Seemingly they include the cleaning out of a moat and the construction of an ornamental duck-house to say nothing of the married M.P. couple who each claimed for an allowance for a different second home. The revelations have been gobsmaking and reveal, as my Dad said, too many snouts in the trough. It is a truly dreadful betrayal of trust.

Everyone wants to give these folk a bloody nose at the next election and the next election is the European election.

How do you give the major parties that sort of bloody nose - for they are all invoved?


You either don't vote at all (well that's already most people before we start the protest) or you vote for a fringe party.

Herein lies the problem.

We have the far-right British National Party contesting seats. This is the party which claims it is not racist and is being persecuted for telling the truth about the Islamifaction of Britain and the spread of Sharia Law.

That it has been caught out so many times for spreading falsehoods and misinformation about minority groups seems to have escaped their notice as they try to present a legitimate political face.

However, scratch the surface.....

Muslim blood will be spilt, he wrote

VILE posters that bore racist abuse and threatened to spill Muslim blood were sent through the post by a Halifax British National Party activist.

Brian Darren Wainwright, 38, fired off his hate-filled mail to a mosque, Calderdale's first Asian councillor and an anti-racist campaigner.

In court yesterday, he admitted sending letters with indecent, offensive and threatening messages. Sentencing was adjourned. Calderdale magistrates heard that last February Wainwright sent a poster bearing a skull, crossbones, an SS symbol, a swastika and the words "white pride" to anti-racism campaigner Paul Sutcliffe.
The poster showed Mr Sutcliffe, a member of Halifax-based anti-fascist group Unity, with the words "Halifax C18 to visit" – referring to the Halifax wing of racist group Combat 18.

Simon Clegg, prosecuting, said Mr Sutcliffe felt threatened and distressed and contacted police. Wainwright, of Lee Mount Road, Lee Mount, Halifax, sent a second poster to the Jama Majid Ahl-E-Hadith mosque in Halifax on March 19. The 68-year-old secretary of the mosque who opened the literature was extremely upset by the poster, which bore the skull and crossbones and the words "Muslims will die."

On April 1 a poster was sent to Coun Mohammed Najib at Halifax Town Hall, saying a race war would begin in Halifax in five days and Muslim blood would be spilled.
Mr Clegg said: "This was a dedicated attack on a place of worship, a seat of democracy and the home of an individual who campaigned against racism." On November 5, Wainwright was arrested in Keighley as he distributed BNP literature.
While in custody, police raided his home and found more racist literature, handwritten writings including one entitled "White England: One Solution" and a copy of the poster.

A handwriting expert confirmed Wainwright's penmanship matched that on the posters. His DNA was found on one of the stamps and on the gummed seal of one of the envelopes.

Peter McCaughley, for Wainwright, said he was a dedicated family man with two children and a 15-year-old step-daughter.
He added: "I don't seek to minimise the effect of the letters on the victims but it was just one letter to each."

Wainwright, currently unemployed, has twice stood for election. In 2004 he was a council BNP candidate for Ovenden, polling 894 votes to Linda Riordan's 1,263. He stood as BNP Parliamentary candidate for Hull North in 2005 but polled just 766.
Wainwright was granted bail.

(The Halifax Courier.)

To this muddle we need to add the decision of the Anglican Church to forbid its clergy to campaign for the BNP or to be seen publically to support them in any way and now we have the distasteful election poster above which implies that Jesus would vote BNP. In return the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have warned the nation not to use their votes at forthcoming elections to punish the main parties because that will let in the far-right whose followers will surely turn out in such numbers as they can muster: the fear is that these votes will be bolstered by the disaffected from the mainstream parties. This plea would have made more sense if the Catholic Archbishops had joined in but perhaps they were erring on the side of not providing the oxygen of publicity.

The racist BNP uses the world's most famous Jew as a vote puller and then tells the CofE that it should stay out of politics.

But then as my Dad would say again, "It's all very well being told NOT to vote for fringe parties but what's the alternative? Vote for the snouts in the trough again? If we do that then we are complicit and nothing will change."

They will waste their votes instead on UKIP, the ant-E.U. party.

It's a funny old world.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Night Crawlers

I don't think I live a particularly healthy lifestyle. I train a few times a week and eat a balanced if generous diet when at home. I hardly sleep during the hours of darkness. I eat a great deal of dirty early morning fried fast food. I also breathe in far too much 2nd hand smoke and more than occasionally get direct threats against my life.
In comparison with some of our regular customers though I must look like a vegan Buddhist.
I see the same folks, several times a week getting more than mildly intoxicated. They stumble in from warm up bars here and there, neck a skinful more inside then grab a late night takeaway to stuff into themselves as they shuffle home. They must be more nocturnal than me. They have two alternating skin tones, a washed out off white tinged with grey and sun burnt to lobster. They have the physique reserved for smack heads and those with serious cancers. They seem to exist only to be active in the drinking hours and spend their lives drinking cheap booze and covering their social failures with another night to forget.
This kind of regular keeps the tills turning in bars, clubs and takeaways all over the world.
I get to go home and am glad that even my twisted anti-social life with almost no usable free time I still don't have that bad a lifestyle. I could always be a punter.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Muslim speaks

For some time, but mainly on other blogs, I have found myself in debate - often strident debate - about Islam.

I am not an apologist for Islam but some of the apallingly ill-informed things which I have seen written needed challenging. My lovely colleague Halima, a role model for all young Muslim women, was reduced to tears by one particularly vitriolic post but sadly felt that it simply wasn't worth engaging with.

Here in Britain we have a significant Muslim minority and I work on the edge of Bradford, a city with a large and vibrant Muslim community. I am privileged to work with five Muslim colleagues who I have got to know well and count as friends. I feel I have some insights and experiences to offer.

I would not say that all is always rosy in terms of community relations and we have the spectre of the far-right with their scare tactics and misinformation carefully aimed at the politically disaffected white working classes who feel that they have lost out somewhere. What better thing for the far right to do than whip up some anti-Muslim feeling with a campaign of misinformation and lies? Let's not let a little thing like factual inaccuracy get in the way of a good piece of scapegoating.

And yet within the Muslim communities here are those who are happy to play into the hands of the far-right with their own brand of terror as seen on the streets of London on 7/7 and to the great consternation of many Yorkshire Muslims, those men came from Leeds and Dewsbury.

I am familiar with this landscape and I understand it and can discuss it. What I find hard are those blogs based in the U.S. who speak with spurious authority of the Islamisation of Europe and the spread of Sharia law.

It is rubbish.

I let my friend Shakir speak:

These are just some of my thoughts.
Not sure if this is what you want.

Living in the UK as a muslim has never really been an issue in the past, however, after some of the recent atrocities that have been carried out by extremist groups I have seen a definite change in peoples attitudes. In the past non-muslims would be interested in what Islam was about even if they had no interest in becoming a Muslim. It is now viewed with constant suspicion and if you are a Muslim then you must be a nutter.

Many of the extremist groups that take verses of the Quran and interpret them to enforce their own agendas are totally lost in their distorted ideology. To really understand why these people exist one has to delve into who these people are.

Most of the individuals have been brainwashed to some extent. Also, you have to understand that some of these individuals genuinely put their trust in individuals who they believe to be religious scholars. From some religion can be difficult to decipher, it shouldn’t be and isn’t, but, some people find it difficult to understand. The so called scholars use the confusion of people, who want to learn, and turn them into fanatics. The scholars will tell them that if you do what I ask it will give you entrance into heaven.

Furthermore, the extremist groups are no different from a gang on the street. The people in these groups feel they are part of something special and feel they are the only ones doing right and the world is against them because they are right (cult mentality).

In Islam, all you have to do is believe in God, Pray 5 times a day, Fast for 30 days a year, Give money to the poor and visit Makkah if you have the money (I’m not trying to educate you Jack). All this to some seems a boring religion and they always crave for more. This then creates groups who want to change the world. However, you can see from the above 5 pillars it is really straight forward. There is no mention of killing, on the contrary it is all to do with peace. The vast majority of Muslims in the world hold a similar view to me and it is the minority that has tarnished what is a genuinely a peaceful religion.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Licking our musical wounds......

So Eurovision has come and gone for another year. For those of you outside Europe this will mean little but the annual songfest of kitsch and high-camp is an institution. Last night was the 53rd Eurovision Song Contest, staged wonderfully by last years winner, Russia.

For a nation that provided the world with good pop music for nearly five decades it is odd that the song contest goes against type: Britain came in fifth out of 43 behind such musical giants as Norway, Iceland, Azerbaijan and Turkey. Estonia came sixth.

Both the U.K and Estonia are featured on the previous post. Do have a look if you have a few spare minutes.

Here is the winner, with the highest recorded score ever for a winning song.

What do you think?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Good Luck in Moscow Girls

Jade for the U.K.

Sandra for Estonia


Now some of the supplement taking gentlemen in my line of work do like their sunbeds. Seemingly the buff body beautiful is not complete without a large dose of melanin to enhance the apparent definition of their lean muscle. This usually doesn't pass unscathed the vicious wit of men who have nothing to do but stand around sober watching people get drunk. Some of the lads heed this, others can't deflate their egos enough to get in in to their muscle bound skulls.
Ladies at this time of year seem to think that sunbed orange or patchy bottle bronze is a look to be admired. A nicely tanned lady can indeed be pretty. A dripping orange mess however can be pretty funny. Wearing bright and light colours accentuates the depth of colour and makes the tan show to its best. The white bra's straps peeking through, the bright coloured tight tops and linen trousers getting patches of dull brown marks in an 'Is that tea or shit?' way are very amusing. After a few hours dancing in a sweaty summer club you can see the colour pouring off them. Sometimes it even drips onto the faces of pasty looking chavvy boys. This is how as they stumble past us we know that they've been tangoed.


For the first while in a long time I've taken myself a weekend off. I'm hanging up my long coat and clip on tie for a whole two busy nights off. I'm enjoying the delights of sane if not sober company.
I'll be heading out to enjoy the wonders of only drinking on rare occasions. 4 pints and I'll be merry, 8 and I'll be asleep.
There are problems with this seemingly simple plan. I don't fancy heading to a different town for a few so I have to contend with being recognised. I've been doing the 'go away you drunken twat' long enough in this town to be easily identified. I have to carefully select the venues I go to. No loud music or vertical drinking, no discount drinks and happy hours, no dimly lit hovels and no inexperienced bar-staff, all these kind of limit my choices. Luckily with a few years around town I know a select few pubs where I'll almost be the youngest there. The beer will be full price but well kept and I'll hopefully not have to prick up my ears to any bother.
When I'm out I can't switch off. I still keep my eyes open and tend to keep a line of sight to the door. I'll be checking out each merry punter as they bimble in and order their thirst quenching ales. If voices are raised or the language is inappropriate I'll sit up and listen. I think the years of working have tuned my adrenaline response to a very well used fast response. It can crank up my heart rate and focus my mind in less than seconds. Useful when working, a right git when out relaxing as a smashed glass or loud bang gets me out of my seat and ready to rock.
This said, by pint 7 I'll be very slowly rolling out of my seat and by 8 I'll be fast asleep in it, dreaming of loose women, machismo and takeaway food.

An Inspector Calls

I arrived at the knowledge College this morning at my normal time of 7.45 ish to a full car park. What? WHAT? Ah yes, I had forgotten. OFSTED is in today. Well, one OFSTED inspector to be precise; just for the day to do a follow up visit to see that we have made progress on our targets since the last full inspection.

So: one inspector for one day, which realistically means three and a half lessons of potential classroom observation once the admin discussions with senior management have taken place.

And the car park is full at 7.45!

Dear God.

And it's raining hard!

Today we are in full GCSE exam mode so there are no Yr 11s on site unless they are in an exam. This means that there is just the one lesson when I could be observed teaching today. It is my favourite Yr 9 class.

I am happy.

We will be looking at miracles and having fun. (I put the fun back into fundamentalism.)

What is the statistical chance that I will get a visit?

Still, a full car park at 7.45! Talk about panic. As Jagtar said "You wonder how prepared folk who arrive later under normal circumstances really are for their work."


He missed a treat.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

If she stood for election tomorrow she'd win with a landslide!

Democracy at work British style.

A brief background for non-British readers: the Gurkas are a fighting unit within the British armed forces recruited from Nepal. Despite fighting and often dying for us they have been treated shabbily in terms of citizenship rights.

Then along comes British National Treasure Joanna Lumley (the thinking man's crumpet, AKA Patsy Stone from "Absolutely Fabulous"), the daughter of a British officer who commanded the Gurkas and shames the politicians. It is a bravura performance.

Now that's how to deliver a handbagging! I doubt he knew what hit him (but then I doubt he was listening to a word she said. Apparently you don't when you are in The Presence).

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Face to Faith: The value of myths such as the resurrection....

The value of myths such as the resurrection is in their truth as meaning rather than fact, says Michael Horan.

The Guardian March 28th 2008

Before talk of resurrection and ascension dies down for yet another year, this may be an opportunity to emphasise just one more time that the earth is not flat, in spite of what the ancients believed. Homer's contemporary Hesiod sang in his Theogony that if a bronze anvil were to fall from heaven, it would be nine days and nine nights before it finally crashed to earth - and it would take as long again to fall from earth into the underworld.

For thousands of years men and women continued to believe in this three-tiered universe: a flat earth with heaven high above and an underworld far below. Gods came down to earth, intervened (or interfered) in mortals' affairs, and returned to heaven. Similarly, the gods and sons of gods could visit the underworld, coming and going at will. But for human beings that descent was on a one-way ticket.

Homer's Odysseus, progeny of Zeus, visited Hades, where he met the shades of Achilles and his former warrior companions among the gibbering ghosts, before resuming his homeward wanderings. Virgil's Aeneas, Trojan prince and son of Venus, also journeyed to the underworld to seek the spirit of his father, Anchises, and lived to tell the tale.

The Jews long believed their Sheol to be a place from which there was no return, but later the concept of resurrection began to develop. During the Babylonian exile the prophet Daniel declared that at the end of days many of the dead would rise to everlasting life. In inter-Testament times, the book of the Maccabees tells of a Jew defying his Syrian torturers, crying out that his God will raise him to a new life. The gospels record the enmity between Sadducees and Pharisees over the doctrine of resurrection.

It was perfectly possible, then, for men in the first century of our era to believe, speak and write about the son of their God, who not only "came down" from heaven to earth, but also "descended" into hell, and after three days "rose" and "ascended" to heaven again.

Many today not only still appear to live in that three-layered universe, but also retain a belief that Jesus' resurrection and ascension were literally physical, historical events. The man Jesus was indeed crucified and buried; this was the historical execution of a historical figure. But it would be a category mistake to claim resurrection and ascension as the continuation of a series of historical events. The crucifixion does not belong with a belief in the supernatural; nor does it belong in the outdated heaven-earth-underworld universe. Those are leftovers from a pre-scientific age.

At this distance in time, and with only the New Testament as a source, we cannot know what actually happened after Jesus' crucifixion. Disillusioned, confused and frightened, the disciples seem to have returned north to Galilee to resume their fishing. As they reminisced, possibly over many months, recalling their extraordinary experiences with Jesus, links began to form between their mental images of him and then-current messianic expectations. Possibly a part of that imagining was the idea, wholly feasible in their minds, that God had raised Jesus into his presence.

There is a historical event of which we can be certain: these formerly frightened men became inspired by the spirit of Jesus, and were emboldened then to devote their lives to declaring that Jesus was the Messiah - risking punishment, imprisonment and even death.

It was said that when the Messiah came he would "proclaim release for prisoners". The resurrection itself, myth rather than history, may be seen as a metaphor for that liberation: men and women set free from whatever it is that holds them captive, with their lives transformed and renewed. The value of myth is not in its truth as fact, but in its truth as meaning, and so to understand the meaning of the resurrection as liberation and rebirth enables us to join with the disciples in declaring: "Jesus is risen!"

Michael Horan is the author of Jesus and the Trojan War: Myth and Meaning for Today, published by Imprint Academic.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Face to Faith

Christians disillusioned with the churches should articulate an alternative, says Theo Hobson

The Guardian: May 2nd 2009
Some of us who are Christian struggle to fit in to any bit of Christian culture. It all seems full of assumptions that we can't accept. Our difficulties are basically liberal: churches seem to gravitate to authoritarianism, and they seem unable to grasp that secular liberalism is a good thing. Most of us come from Anglicanism and have a vague sense that it ought to accommodate us: is it not the most famously liberal of churches? But we have to admit that it cannot accommodate us: its liberal tradition has weakened in recent decades, and seems beyond repair; perhaps it was never very deeply rooted. This is a difficult thing to admit, for it forces us to ask: where can we go? What is our identity?

What's bugging us? We dislike the fact that Christianity is assumed to take institutional form. If you are a Christian, the assumption is, then you will be in favour of policies that defend the interests of these institutions, the churches, which run Christian culture. This ties Christianity to illiberalism in a way we can't accept. Take the faith schools debate. The argument is between non-believers who want all state education to be secular, and Christians (and other believers), who want a strong faith-school sector. But some of us Christians are deeply uneasy about the way in which churches use education to bolster their power, and encourage phoney church attendance among pushy parents. This is horribly at odds with the sort of Christian culture we want to see.

More widely, we are uneasy about the entire debate about the place of religion in public life. The loudest voices, almost the only voices, seem to belong to atheists on one hand, and conservative church leaders on the other. This country used to have a strong liberal Protestant tradition, which kept Christianity in touch with secular liberalism. This has gone: people now face a starker choice of identity between "secular liberal" and "institutional Christian".

We want to see a new sort of Christian culture that is at ease with secular liberalism. We think the state ought to be secular, and ought to keep all religious institutionalism in close check (including in education). The survival of an established church is embarrassing to us: it makes Christianity seem reactionary, nostalgic for pre-modern politics. But of course the issue is wider than establishment. All churches itch for social control. And all churches need to make laws about what doctrines you're meant to believe, how to conduct "true" worship, and what sort of sex you're allowed. They want to nail Christ down with rules.

The conventional response to this is that such complaints are naive: the downside of institutionalism must just be suffered. It might not always be pretty, but Christianity needs an institutional basis, or it will just dissolve. This is obviously a weighty argument, but some of us, having weighed it up carefully, don't buy it. We think that institutionalism is an expression of the Gospel that betrays it. A new sort of Christian culture must be attempted, away from the churches.

Admittedly it is hard to say what this deregulated religious culture might look like. It will take the form of many "alternative worship" events - attempts to express and communicate Christianity that are not directed by institutions. We have faith that Christianity can reinvent itself in this free, even anarchic, way.

But the first step is simply to say: we exist. We are Christians who dissent from the illiberal effects of institutionalism; we are post-ecclesial, and pro-secular. We know that we are in a tiny minority. But instead of moping in the corner, ashamed of our failure to fit in, we must come out. I suggest we call ourselves "alternative Christians".

What do we want? We demand a new way of proclaiming Jesus Christ, one that feels authentic, contemporary. We hope that, by accepting the truth of secular freedom, Christianity can enter a new phase, in which communication with liberal people is possible, and new cultural forms emerge. Maybe, with such a new direction, this religion can recapture the imagination of the culture.

Theo Hobson is author of Milton's Vision: the Birth of Christian Liberty

Friday, May 1, 2009

Claire again :)

Fifteen is a bit of a tender age to be told that the majority of your friends aren't going to Heaven, will be stuck in Hell, and that there's no hope for ALL non believers. I'm sick of being told I'm wrong all the time by my Cell leaders, and that my interpretations can't be right.

I've been told that I can't pick and choose what I believe in from the Bible by my Cell leader. Slightly hypocritical of someone who does work on Sundays, and who isn't willing to be stoned to death for arguing with her parents (I think thats in the Bible somewhere, neither parents could remember whether or not it was though!). If I can't pick and choose from the Bible, I don't see why she can.

The fact that there's no hope for athiests is a constant theme in my Cell meetings, and I refuse to believe that a God who is all loving is going to let his children spend eternity in Hell. So either there is hope, and the whole No belief, No Heaven is a way of getting more people to live for God or the God I believe in isn't who I think he is.

I feel horrible saying that about God, but some of these answers I'm getting are enough to make me question if a religion without hope for everyone is for me.

I might be making a big deal out of nothing, but I'm sick of the negitive energy that I'm getting from Cell. And sick that the leaders pretend to understand the extremes of teenage subculture. I can hardly walk up to my friend's dealer and tell him he's going to Hell.

Imagine waking up and finding this corpse in your yard!