Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Buddhism, Pentecostals and Flattened 7ths

Daibutsu Buddha
Originally uploaded by davidteter
Found myself talking about Smith Wigglesworth during my sax lesson yesterday. Smith Wigglesworth was a Pentecostal plumber from Menston in Yorkshire. Ron, my music teacher, is a Buddhist. Among other things he’s interested in healing. If I remember the story Ron grew up catholic but was disillusioned when his priest couldn’t handle some of his spiritual experiences.

John Drane and others reckon there’s lots of people out there for whom the church just isn’t spiritual enough. Looks like there’s some evidence to support this theory. At least in south Manchester.

Have we Christians spent too long worried about and accommodating to rationalistic, secular, materialism and not enough time just getting closer to God and letting it show?

Dentistry and God Talk

Found myself talking about God at the dentist’s yesterday. Both the dentist herself and the dental nurse had their questions. Getting caught reading books on evangelism after christendom can lead to some interesting conversations.

The dentist, a practising Catholic, wanted to know the difference between being an evangelical and being evangelistic, “They are not the same are they? Because Catholics can do evangelism but I don’t think they are evangelical.” And, “At the freshers’ fair at uni I was talking to the Christian Union but when they found out I was Catholic they said, ‘Oh no, this is not for you; the Catholic Society is over there’.” Thinks: Catholics doing evangelism? – please God. Thinks 2: When oh when will evangelicals learn to be generous and hospitable?

The nurse told me how she had initially taken atheism for granted but was now developing an interest in God. “People always gave me the impression that God was like a man up in the sky but I reckon God’s everything that’s all around us. What do you think?”

As the novacaine took effect I found myself thinking about David Hay’s research into the spirituality of those who don’t go to church. Apparently there’s a growing readiness out there to speak about things spiritual but a groping after a language with which to do so. It seems that people are uncomfortable with transcendent, anthropomorphic God-talk finding it much easier to conceive of the divine as an immanent presence. Not sure if the nurse was groping towards pantheism or panentheism but I do know it’s hard to give a coherent answer with your mouth full of fingers, cotton wool, vacuum cleaners and instruments of torture.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

No Country .. Just Blood

During the last week I’ve been gripped by the two most critically acclaimed of this year’s Oscar nominees, There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men.

Seeing these powerful films back to back is an interesting experience. Interesting and deeply challenging.

There are important differences between the two films: the first has a powerful score, the second virtually no soundtrack whatsoever; the first is a character study, the second is in large part a gripping thriller; the first has a striking opening section with virtually no dialogue, as the second heads toward its ending it leaves action behind in favour of reflective dialogue.

What struck me most though were the similarities. Both films are dominated by superbly realised, deeply menacing villains; both are brutally violent; both have unconventional endings; both are concerned with father-son relationships. But above all both are profoundly pessimistic.

In No country Tommy Lee Jones’s weary sheriff despairs of a world gone wicked as he simultaneously desires and fears judgement on his own life. Blood is an almost Shakespearean tragedy painting a bleak picture of the destructive power of misanthropic greed. The central character hopes to become rich enough to be able to live without other people. “No man is an island” and in the process of becoming truly insular by destroying all who are close to him, Daniel Day Lewis’s ruthless oil man is finally stripped of the last vestiges of humanity.

If this is how our contemporaries see the world, they are desperately in need of hope. In the year of a co-ordinated mission initiative under the banner of Hope 08 is the church capable of painting an authentically optimistic alternative vision? Here’s hoping.

This Week's Poll 01/03/08

If you want to do more than just click, comment on this post

Previous Poll: Is it just a matter of time until the Christian church as whole recognises the validity of committed Gay relationships? 12 votes in total, 8 yes, 4 no. One more vote, I vote no.

I reckon that at least in the foreseeable future, there will continue to be a strong fundamentalist expression of Xnty that will be socially conservative, reactionary even. This is especially true when one takes into account the nature of vigorous expressions of the faith in the developing world. I think however that there is likely to be a strong trend towards embracing homosexuality among mainline denominations in this country. I reckon we will see this even among non-fundamentalist evangelicals.

Of course the poll while ostensibly asking an "objective" question gives opportunity to express personal views, so here's mine. I really hope that the church as whole does give a full and equal place to gay people without out any discrimination whatsoever on the basis of sexuality.

With regard to the various comments: I thinks Catriona is spot on with her historical observations; I didn't us the phrase "Gay Marriage" because many gay people are themselves uncomfortable with the expression believing it to be irredeemably tainted with patriarchal overtones; I reckon Stephen makes a very good point with regard to not waiting until there is unity; it this an issue that is central to the gospel or not? - I reckon Phil and Tim's debate is based on a false antithesis - surely the gospel is both about God's gracious restoration of relationship with individual people and also about the restoration of justice in the society of people. A gospel without one or the other is surely less than the full gospel. Actually I think I would rather express my understanding of the gospel as God's gracious restoration of the whole of creation so that it truly embodies and displays God's glory. This includes (among other things) the saving of individuals and the saving of society.