Monday, 2 February 2009

To Blog or not to Blog...

Since I arrived here in Oxford in October last year I have deliberately not been blogging. As well as working on my Masters I have been enjoying some space to think about the future. The old blog had vanished anyway, and I wasn't in a hurry to make the new one a regular thing. Facebook updates kept me touch with friends and a part of me was asking what I was blogging for anyway? I suspect part of it was about a time that I cared about being 'someone' and that it was a hangover from a time when I was in touch with a lot of people and doing a lot of public speaking.

Those days feel like a long time ago and I can't help feeling that I've grown up a bit. I still find faith in God easier than faith in the church, I still have views on plenty of things, still write, still see movies and plays. But blogs are not great places for discussions and I'm less driven to 'prove I'm right' or be noticed.

So if you were wondering where I had gone, I'm fine. In fact I'm probably better than i have been for a long time. A better human that is - as even if I do start blogging again, I don't think it will be driven by self marketing.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

In Trouble?

A few people have heard about the following word-on-the-web study, here it is so you can make up your own mind about it.

1 Timothy 6:1-2
All who are slaves under a yoke should show full respect to their masters so no one will speak against God's name and our teaching. The slaves whose masters are believers should not show their masters any less respect because they are believers. They should serve their masters even better, because they are helping believers they love. You must teach and preach these things.

The Bible supports slavery! Don't believe me? Read those words again.

Now here is a real problem. Christians believe the Bible is not simply another book, but that it is special, that it is 'God's word'. How we exactly understand that phrase 'God's Word' has been the source of endless rows in the church, but everyone agrees that it means we need to take it seriously. The problem here is that instead of challenging slavery Paul tells Timothy that slaves should be especially obedient to their masters. If the Bible is God's Word, and if here it says slaves should obey, then surely that means God approves of slavery? Doesn't it?

For hundreds of years that is exactly what most serious Christians believed was the case. But they were wrong! Paul grew up in a world where slavery was normal. Some people try to excuse him by arguing that Paul could not have condemned slavery because Christianity was a new faith that could not afford to upset the social order. I think the problem is much simpler. Because slavery was normal it never crossed Paul's mind that it was wrong, that it took away from people the freedom that comes from being made in the image of God.

Two things to think about from today's reading then. Firstly we need to use our brain to understand the Bible and the way the people who wrote it saw the world. If we don't we'll get the meaning wrong and end up believing God really does like slavery. He doesn't - HE HATES IT!! Secondly, what are we so used to in our world that we think it's normal, even if God hates it?

Grumpy Old Man

Okay, so I'm moaning...but I just wonder what the church is coming to when a gig by a Christian band is advertised as 'hey, come and see this band...they've just come off the biggest grossing tour by a Christian band ever'.

Since when has pulling in money been a measure of either the power of a ministry or artistic value?? If we really have sunk to that level we are in such trouble words fail me!

Monday, 8 September 2008

Word on the Web

I've been asked to write the final week of studies for Word on the Web. A project that sends daily Bible reflections free by email. The invitation is a bitter sweet one as I set up the project 8 years ago when I worked for Church Army. At the time we were just about the only people offering this service and lots of people thought we were mad to even try. Today the situation is different and a number of projects and ministries provide a similar service.

After I left the project it had a couple of other editors who have combined keeping the project on the road with their other duties. I don't think I'm being unfair if I say that they never really had the time to keep the project developing as it might have deserved, and so it has really marked time rather than renewed its self since it began.

What amazes me is that despite this over 6,000 people still receive the emails every day. Of course not all of them read it every day, but many do. It was always a simple idea, that carried a simple (but I hope never simplistic) message.

A number of people have asked me what a feel about the closure of word on the web...I'm thinking about how to respond to the question, as this morning I'm not quite sure.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Danger - This Poem Might Make You Think

A poem by one of the U.K.'s leading contemporary poets, Carol Ann Duffy, had been withdrawn from an anthology for schools because of complaints about it. The problem? It tries to understand a young person who uses a knife by looking at it through their head.

How stupid! This is not a rant about poetry needing to connect to everyday life (it should and does) - but what kind of thinking says we hide the problem away and don't try to understand what is happening? Some young people do carry knives - we know that. What Duffy's poem does is allow a teacher to explore the feelings and reasons that are behind the action of such individuals. But oh no - the exam board have caved in and joined the 'stick out head in the sand' brigade and taken the poem out.

How do we tackle knife crime? How do we address the feelings that cause young people to feel the need to carry weapons? Just increasing punishments (important though these messages can be) will achieve little. Here was an opportunity to help young people think through the ideas behind the action and it has been thrown away.

A sad day for poetry, for education and for society. Right...that's off my chest...I'll go a read a poem about daffodils (until the pollen police say it has to be banned because some people will get hay fever from them so its unfair to suggest they provide a beneficial service).


I’ve been mulling over our family trip to see the new Disney/Pixar movie Wall.e

Once the children got into the fact that the first third of the movie has almost no dialogue they really enjoyed it. There is a certain irony in watching a computer animated film that warns of the dangers in living a virtual life and there is a bigger irony that Wall.e, who spends his life clearing up rubbish, was then transformed into a give away from a certain well know fast food chain. Guess where most of those toys will already be!

I could also wax lyrical about the robot that is sent to see if earth can sustain life is called Eva – lots of links to both the Biblical story of creation and to the doves sent out from the ark to see if the flood was reducing – but you can make your own links there.

What also strikes me in my post-greenbelt buzz is that the movie celebrates human creativity. The captain of the spaceship discovers the wonder of dance, of planting seeds, of community. Maybe that is why Greenbelt works for so many people? Because it provides a moments when they are not dominated by screens and business and they have opportunity to reconnect with what really makes us human, creativity, community and faith.

Despite its commercial, corporate parentage Wall.e asks some big questions about values. What is important, can we keep living the way we live, what really matters, is life to be escaped or lived? I love Greenbelt because it doesn’t make money by asking those questions, but connects people who are attempting to work out honestly in their daily lives how we answer those questions as people of faith in a world that does often feel its coming apart.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Greenbelt 2

There is so much more i could write about Greenbelt, but here a just a few, short, random thoughts.

Firstly I was amazed by the amount of work and dedication of the teams who keep the whole thing running. The teams who work through the night to keep people safe, the people who run the control room, the medics, those responsible for safety and the list just goes on and on. For the last few years I have simply enjoyed being a festival goer – the step up to having an area of responsibility opened my eyes to the incredibly commitment of so many people to the festival. They are an amazing bunch and it was great to work with them.

Secondly I’m really pleased about the response to a number of bands on the fresh talent stage. On that stage we had bands who were made up of performers aged 18 and under. In their extensive review of the music at the festival crossrhythms magazine wrote “Certainly The Royal Welcome sound good enough to be hiked up to Greenbelt's Underground venue next year together with the other two outstanding bands from the Fresh Talent venue, Something For Sophie and Toxic Federation. It seems Greenbelt can still unearth exciting grassroots talent.” I’m so pleased that the talent of these young bands was recognised both for them, and because I believe giving young people a chance to develop their skills in the arts is a key part of what the festival is about. You can find the full review of Greenbelt at

Thirdly it was great to work with a fantastic team of over 100 youth workers all pulling together to create a great weekend. You know who you are...thank you!!