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Showing posts from January, 2015

Follow Jesus, Emmanuel: pray without ceasing

"Follow me," says Jesus. Alright, that is presumably why we're here: because we want to follow Jesus. But how?

Once upon a time, in the East, there was a monastery on an island in a remote lake. Now this monastery was well overdue due a visit by whatever the Eastern Orthodox equivalent of an Archdeacon is, just to check that the monks weren't using foreign rites or putting up any new icons without a Faculty. So, the Archdeacon-equivalent set off on the long journey with his retinue of pharisees and penpushers from Moscow or Constantinople or Bedford or wherever, and reaching the coast finally got some stout young fellow he'd met in a bar one night that he didn't really talk about very much any more to row them across. The Abbot welcomed the team with a hearty glass of water and lashings of dry bread, and they got down to business, strutting around the monastery, examining the fittings, asking questions they thought might sound penetrating and insightful, and …

Revolutionary values (extension of my last post)

My first reaction to last week's murders was one of anger against Islam and solidarity with Charlie Hebdo. When I looked at some of the past front covers of the magazine, though, my sympathies began to shift. You might like to look at some of them here and make up your mind: http://www.buzzfeed.com/lukelewis/charlie-hebdo-front-covers#.fgJ9pj39W .

 Nobody has a right not to be offended, and nobody has a right to kill over an insult. That is for sure. What the terrorists did was utterly wrong. But we might want to reflect a little before we start wielding the 'je suis Charlie' placards down Berkhamsted High Street.

It is hard for us to understand the extent of Muslim offence at the portrayal of their prophet. Yet Christians too have rioted and killed over the very same issue of religious images, first in the 8-9th century iconoclastic crises in the East, and later in the West during the 16th century Protestant Reformations.

Yet this pales compared with the horrors of the …

A gentle plea

This is a personal plea on something that is increasingly troubling me.
Nobody has a right not to be offended. Nobody has a right to kill over an insult. That is for sure. 
And, as a matter of free speech, journalists have every right to insult minorities— but that does not mean that they should. 
Tomorrow's massive, multilingual print run of Charlie Hebdo featuring a drawing of Mohammed on the cover is like someone running round the streets swearing at every Muslim he meets. Is that a noble and just use of one's right to free speech? Does it make the argument for free speech stronger, or does it not rather weaken it? 
Charlie Hebdo's response plays right into the hands of fundamentalists. By bullying a largely migrant minority with largely poor education and little mainstream political power, it will encourage further resentment and the radicalisation of now moderate Muslims. Last week's murderers will have won. 
My plea is this: exercise your freedom of expression by boyc…

Charlie Hebdo and the Baptism of Christ

Today, as Jesus queues up with the sinners and descends into the waters He has made, He shows us who our God is and what our religion is meant to be. This week, Islamists murdered several journalists in Paris thisweek for “insulting their religion.” The BBC, whose subtlety in religious affairs makes the Guardian look like the Dalai Lama, pulled their correspondent Caroline Wyatt out of storage to give this staple response: "In rational, post-Enlightenment Europe, religion has long since been relegated to a safe space ... Not so Islam." Salman Rushdie has given us his two penn'orth, as well, calling religion “a mediaeval form of unreason.”So, you and I are part of the same problem as the murderers. These are kneejerk reactions, butthey represent a pretty popular view of what religion is, and what we are like: people who need to be contained, nice and ‘safe,’ out of the way, in case we decide God wants us to go out and shoot people. Idiots who leave our brains outside the…

The Prayer Book and Anglican Identity - The Cathedral and Abbey Church of Saint Alban

Date:  Saturday 28 Feb Time:  10.30am-3.30pm                                    Cost:  £20 What does it mean to be Anglican, and how can the Book of Common Prayer help us to answer the question?  On this study day, we will look at how the Book of Common Prayer, in its various editions from 1549 to 1928, has both reflected and shaped controversies over what the Church of England is or should be.  In the first of three sessions, we will explore the history of the Prayer Book from 1549 to its final authorised form in 1662, and its use for both Reformed and episcopalian polemic.  The second session will involve group work, as we piece together comparisons of Prayer Book liturgy and doctrine with those of contemporary Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed liturgies.  Finally, in the third session, we will explore the continuing influence of the Prayer Book today, with particular reference to the deposed book of 1928 and modern Anglican liturgy. Tutors:  The Revd Dr Tom Plant, Tutor in Comparative T…

Charlie Hebdo and the Baptism of Christ

On Wednesday, several writers and cartoonists were murdered in their office in Paris. Predictable voices have risen from the latte-sipping sets blaming 'religion' as a whole for the problems of the world. The gunmen did not follow 'religion,' though: they followed religion. Religions are different, and there is no more excuse for tarring us all with the same brush as for blaming all Muslims for the actions of a fundamentalist minority. The liberal press will never make the latter assertion, but they are quite happy to make the former, and we should be wary of it. 
The feast of the Baptism of the Lord shows a God quite different from the imagined bogeyman of Guardian 'Religion.' The Christian God is not a god, but the God He has revealed Himself to be, and this Sunday's feast is one of the most profound revelations of His nature. 
First, as Jesus is baptised, the Father's voice proclaims Him Son and sends the Holy Spirit upon Him. God is revealed as Trin…

Epiphany without the Wise Men

What if the three magi had never shown up? After all, it is because the magi tipped Herod off that Jesus would be born, all the infants on Bethlehem were put to death. So might it not have been better if the the wise men had never picked up that week's horoscope?

As a caveat, there is one thing to bear in mind: there is no record outside Matthew of the massacre taking place under Herod. It might not have happened. The rest of the story, though, fits in surprisingly well with the historical picture we have of Herod and the religions to the east of ancient Israel. The Jewish historian Josephus, writing later in the first century, tells us that Herod really did have superstitious fears about a usurper being born, and contemporary Jewish accounts talk about his cruelty and cunning. As for the Magi, we have documentary evidence that Babylonian astrologers were expecting a universal king and deliverer to be born in the West, which of course is the direction they travelled in to get to J…