25 August 2008

Other gods?

My friend Sally has written an interesting post on the subject of whether the followers of other world religions worship a different God from the Christian God. I have a lot of respect for Sally and her views even when I disagree with her;  and this is one of the rare times we disagree! Anyway what she said, as well as some of the other comments on the post, got me thinking.

The most intriguing comment was by my blog-friend
Tim Chesterton who suggested that when people say that other religions worship 'different Gods', that they are saying that they believe different things about the God they worship than people of other religions.

The problem I have with Tim's suggestion is that I often feel I'm worshipping a 'different God' from many people who call themselves Christians. And I sometimes feel that my concept of God has more similarity with people of other religions - particularly progressive Jews, Sikhs and Baha'i.

What I specifically mean is that there are many Christians who seem to worship a hard God who is eagerly waiting for human beings to slip up so that he can punish them. These individuals wouldn't say that this is their official doctrine, but they act that way. They also voice objections to my brand of 'soft and fluffy' Christianity that really believes that Jesus meant 'forgive your enemies' when he uttered these words. On the other hand, many progressive Jews, Sikhs and Baha'i would say that a merciful God who calls us to forgiveness is at the centre of their beliefs. I often feel that I have more in common with some of these individuals than with other Christians, yet I feel it is my duty not to reject my Christian brothers and sisters.

As Sally noted, this is a very complicated question and I'm not claiming to have all the answers to it.  I thought it was an interesting discussion, though.

20 August 2008

Durham Cathedral Bookshop

Phil Broom Groom has initiated a petition to the authorities of Durham Cathedral to take control of the Cathedral bookshop, currently being run by SSG.  I could not make a direct link to the petition, but it can be found here: 

Once there are 50 signatories, Phil is going to forward the petition to the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral.

You may be interested in signing the petition and passing the word along.

Yikes! How did that happen?

Fourteen years ago, my husband and I attended my university's 15-year reunion.

Today, I've just received
an invitation to our 30th reunion.

Yikes! Where did those 15 years go? It doesn't seem that long ago.  The 30 years since graduation does seem 'long ago', but it seems more like 20 years than 30.

And yes, I'm waiting to be told that time only goes faster as one gets older, so go for it! ;-)

19 August 2008

Challenge and Comfort

I stumbled across a blog post two days ago on a blog I don't normally read.  It was an expression of an idea that I've come to be familiar with over the last ten years of Christian internetting: that the Church in general is 'too nice' and that we need to start being tougher on people: both people in the church and people in 'the world'.

I'm also currently reading Ken Costa's book
God at Work[1]. On page 43, he uses slightly different words to a phrase I've heard before. Costa writes:
As we engage with society's issues, we are called to confront anything that draws people away from God, but at the same time to comfort those who are struggling. But how often does our society end up confronting those who need comforting and comforting those who need confronting?
I've head this saying before as 'afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted' but I think I prefer Costa's 'confront the comfortable and comfort those who need comforting', even if the phrase doesn't have the same word-play. I think Costa is absolutely right that there is something about human nature that makes us want to 'get in good' with those who are in power rather than to confront them with their wrong-doing. Similarly, the sinful part of human nature means that we are often tempted to hurt those who need help: be it on a macro-scale (e.g. rich countries exploiting poor countries) or at a one-to-one level (e.g. taking out our frustrations on someone who we perceive can't hurt us).

When we say that 'the church is too nice' do we mean that we are not challenging those who are comfortable in their wrongdoing? If so, then we need to think and pray about how we can have the courage to speak God's truth in a challenging but constructive way. By the same token, there will always be people in society and in the church who need comforting and we
are most certainly called to comfort those who need it.

It's not just 'the world' that is tempted to confront those who need comforting: the Church has also fallen into this temptation and succumbing to it is probably an excellent way to serve The Enemy and to be a bad witness for Christ.

[1] God At Work: living every day with purpose by Ken Costa, London, Continuum Books, 2007.

15 August 2008

It Hurts

We've been in the United States and rented an automobile from a well-known rental company (let the reader understand).

We rented the car at Cleveland Hopkins Airport which is about 40 miles from where my parents live in Hudson, Ohio. Most of the driving from the airport to Hudson is on the freeway (motorway).

On Tuesday morning, the front right tyre had a blow-out and we rang for roadside assistance. No problem. Someone showed up in about 45 minutes and put the spare tyre on the car. So far, so good.

But, of course we don't want to drive around with the spare tyre and we would want to have a standard tyre fitted. This is where the problems started.

Well, the company said, you can swap your car for another. Except none of the concessions - other than the one at the airport - have any extra cars. OK, no problem, the company says. Here's the name of a garage; you can go there and they will fit a new tyre. Good job we rang the garage. No, we won't fit the new tyre unless you pay for it because The Famous Car Rental Company don't pay their bills.

We are not happy bunnies. We have left the rental car in my parents' driveway and we're using their car for the duration of our visit. We'll still have to drive the 40 miles to the airport tomorrow on the motorway at 50 miles an hour. Going this slow on the motorway is a terrifying experience if you've never tried it.

07 August 2008

Heard on the Television

Gotta love US television. Sometimes non-Christians have great perspective. Here's a short sound-bite that captures everything that's wrong with 'taking the bible literally':
The bible has nothing to say about selling beer to minors!
Have a nice day! ;-)

03 August 2008


A thought-provoking post from Sam Norton: Who did Jesus most criticise?

Sam writes:
Who did Jesus most criticise?
I used to think that it was the people who were sure of their own salvation.
I now see that as misleading.
I think Jesus most criticised those who were sure of somebody else's damnation.
Those were the people whom Jesus damned.
We're all different and I'd not use precisely the same language as Sam.

I think I'd say 'I used to think that the people Jesus was criticising was those who were sure of their own salvation. I now think that he was criticising those who were sure of the damnation of others.'

I'm not sure that Jesus 'damns' those who think that they know who is damned.  But I do think that we are enjoined many times in the New Testament not to make these judgements.

There are those who wonder how can I say that Jesus is Lord if I don't know who is damned?  My response is that I know who is saved and I don't need to know who is damned.  That's God's job.  

02 August 2008

Steve Colbert on The Lambeth Conference

Sometimes you just gotta laugh. Hat tip to Ask the Priest

'This year's Lambeth Conference has been steeped in controversy. And, unlike the good old days, it can't be settled by beheading your wife.'

01 August 2008

Pretres Academy

This week's edition of The Church Times has very interesting article on Pretres Academy.

These are short videos (in French!) produced by The Diocese of Besancon. They follow the pattern of the television show
Star Academy presenting the every-day lives and activities of priests in short videos. Fascinating.