27 March 2006

Ordination of Males?

The world and her dog has already linked to the Top Ten Reasons Why Men Should not Be Ordained on Maggi Dawn's excellent blog which I found by reading my friend Dave Warnock's blog (pace, Dave!). But what the heck, this is brilliant parody which I think really points out how our perspective helps us to 'spin' what we already think to be true. And yes, I know I do it too!

23 March 2006

Alienating People from Christ

There are some times I think I'm Alice and that I have fallen down the rabbit-hole. I've been feeling that way these last few days.

On one of the Christian discussion groups I frequent, I have read the following statements from two different people:

1) One was a person who considered themself a heretic for having a hard time with the belief that God sends people to a torturous hell in the next life as punishment for not being a Christian. This person reckoned that they stood on the fringes of our denomination for not believing this.

2) Another was a person who reckons that they cannot be a Christian because Christianity demands the belief that God needed to hurt someone in order to satisfy his wrath and forgive humanity. Since the person could not conceive of God in this way, they reckoned that they cannot be Christian.

Frankly, it angers me no end that people have got the idea that being a Christian demands believing that God is angry and wrathful and into torture. Of course, the Church did teach about 'God The Angry and Wrathful' for centuries and we have to bear our responsibility for our history, whether or not we are personally implicated in propogating those beliefs.

But secondly, I have to wonder whether mainstream Christians like myself have been too silent in not putting these horrible beliefs to rest. Like many, I know that I've been (perhaps still am) too afraid at 'what people will think' if I get up and explicitly say that I don't believe in a God who uses violence as a means of keeping order and that I don't believe in a God who uses the threat of violence and torture as a way of getting people to behave.

Right now, I'm angry. One person has exluded themself from the Church because they can't believe in penal substitutionary atonement and the other is lurking on the margins of the church nursing a secret fear that their disbelief in a torturous hell is heretical and possibly unChristian.

Mainstream Christian preachers have to preach the Good News. *I* have to preach the Good News. We have to preach systematic theology and let people know that not only is it 'OK' to believe in a God of Grace and Mercy, but that this God is precisely what being a Christian is about. The idea that 'no-one admits that they are a sinner unless they are threatened with punishment' isn't a Christian idea, it's an idea born of sin. As Scripture says, 'the devil' is a liar and one way that Evil lies is to perpetuate the idea that God is evil and that humanity cannot be forgiven unless violence is done first. May God forgive us.

12 March 2006

Us and Them

Someone has started a website on one of my favourite theologians: James Alison.

I have to confess that I am not yet able to talk about his work in 'easy sound bites', but one of the reasons I like his theology is that I believe he is able to express orthodox Christian doctrine in thought-forms that are more readily accessible to the 21st century person than the old Protestant sound bite of 'Jesus died on the cross to pay the price of your sins.'

Underpinning Alison's theology is the anthropology of Rene Girard. In very simplistic terms, Girard believes that every society in history has maintained internal cohesion by a continuing process of identifying and expelling a scapegoat. Without the mechanism of identifying a 'them', there would be no 'us' because interpersonal rivalry inside the society would destoy it. US versus USSR anyone? How about US versus Iraq / Iran / Radical Islam?

Alison sees the rivalries that would tear apart society without a scapegoat and the scapegoatting process itself as the manifestation of Original Sin. Where 'the world' (my term, not Alison's) would see the scapegoat as fully deserving of divine wrath, Jesus' resurrection turned the entire paradigm upside down. The resurrection is God's 'yes' to life and God's identification with the victim rather than the victimiser.

I cannot do his theology justice, but I would encourage a reading of his works. For my money, The Joy of Being Wrong is the most interesting, but it is also his PhD thesis and so rather academic in tone. Knowing Jesus is probably his most accessible work and Faith Beyond Resentment: Fragments Catholic and Gay is very moving.

My favourite idea from The Joy of Being Wrong is that one can be forgiven for being wrong, but it is the insistance on being right that initiates a pattern of sinful violence. Fundamentalism, anyone?

07 March 2006

Real Girls Don't Buy Cars

I want to buy a 1-year old Ford Fiesta. I have rung a purveyor of cars that is well-known in 'the circles in which I move'. I'm not naming names. So i've rung this place and told them what I want. No problem, madam, I'll ring you back.

A week later, I ring again. May I speak to John Smith. He's on holiday this week, may I help you? He was going to find a Ford Fiesta for me. I'll find out what is happening and ring you back, madam.


You'd think I'd rung them and said I wanted to turn into a pink elephant.

Maybe I'm being too much of a prima-donna. Maybe it's unreasonable to think that someone would tell me what is going on. But why do I think that if my husband rings them that they might act like we exist?

I think that Real Girls Don't Buy Cars. We drive them, but we don't buy them.