29 July 2007

Sermon - Judgement and the Light of Christ

Today's sermon: Judgement and the Light of Christ.

A Blog for 'The Methodist Recorder'???

OK, I'm flummoxed. There is a relatively new blog in cyberspace entitled The Methodist Recorder.

For those who are not 'in the know', the Methodist Recorder is a weekly newspaper for the British Methodist Church. Something like The Church Times, except that The Methodist Recorder doesn't have competitors in the way that The Church Times has The Church of England Newspaper.

Anyway reading through The Methodist Recorder blog, I'm inclinded to think that it is a wind-up. However, it's using the logo and the address of The Methodist Recorder.

Wondering what others think?

25 July 2007

The Religious Right

Caveat: This is meant to be an expression of personal opinion. I hope I reason fairly well. I do not, however, make any representation that my opinion has any sort of 'academic' or 'objective' basis. It is merely opinion from observation.

What is the 'Religious Right' and does it have anything to do with being a 'born again' Christian? Indeed does the American 'Religious Right' have anything to do with British Christianity? I think not for a number of reasons.

First of all, I don't think that the 'theology wars' as they are raging in US and UK Christianity are perfectly contiguous. There does seem to be one central issue (homosexuality), and there are intersections between the two battles but I don't think that there is perfect symmetry. That is, I don't think that 'conservatives' or 'liberals' on both sides of the Pond are necessarily battling for all the same things. Show me a conservative Christian in the UK, for example, who is in favour of the death-penalty. There might be an individual or two out there (there always is) but this is hardly a loud voice in conservative British Christianity.

But what is the 'Religious Right'? Let me quote one blogger who identifies as 'Religious Right' rather than quoting the myrid pejorative definitions of 'Religious Right' in cyberspace. This particular blogger thinks that the 'Religious Right' hold as core to their belief system that human beings have a God-given right to life, liberty and private property.

My whole objection to this approach is that it's not even Christian, let alone 'born-again Christian'.

First of all 'rights language' is hugely problematic in the context of orthodox Christianity. I believe (and someone more informed than I can correct me if I'm wrong) that rights language is based in Enlightenment humanism and not Christianity. It might be a reasonable secular translation of the Christian concept of prevenient grace; a secular humanist can hardly quote Psalm 139 or say that God loves everyone equally. But 'I have rights' is an ontological concept - about my very being - that belies what the bible tells us about our original sinful nature. In Christian terms, none of us has rights, but God does offer his love, forgiveness and salvation (grace) to everyone.

The other issue that have a huge problem with as a Christian is the idea that every human being has a right to individual property and individual wealth. This philosophy is the antithesis of the great commandment to love God and love one's neighbour and to be our neighbour's keeper. The love of individual property and the belief in an individual's 'right' (sic) to amass as much wealth as he or she likes is at the heart of the idolatry of American culture.

Note that I'm not talking about 'what economic system works best in a secular context'; that may very well be the political right to individual ownership. But I hope that this is the kind of pragmatism that I believe will be eliminated in The Kingdom when we are all able to follow God's commandments in perfect obedience.[1] My objection is that, in my experience, 'the right to invididual ownership' is truly viewed as a core spiritual value by both the Religious Right and much of American culture. I think it's genuine idolatry.

You'll hardly be surprised that I agree that 'The Religious Right is neither'. As someone who considers myself 'born again' and as someone who believes that the concepts of 'New Birth' and 'The New Creation' are absolutely central to Methodist spirituality and tradtion, I honestly believe that 'The Religious Right' is sub-Christian. Dare I invoke the famous statement: 'There I stand. I can do no other.'

[1] For the avoidance of doubt, I do not believe in 'works-based salvation'. I believe that The New Creation is eschatological and founded on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The Kingdom is 'not yet' but it is also 'here and now'. The 'Religious Right' also disagrees with the 'the here and now' bit.

14 July 2007

Jesus Meme

Over at Perspectives, Crystal has tagged me for the Jesus Meme.

The rules are that those tagged will share 5 things they "love" about Jesus. Then they must choose 5 others to tag. I'm going to break the last rule as I'm on holiday at the moment. I'm also feeling 'blogger's block' in case anyone hasn't noticed!

1) I love Jesus because he is my brother, God incarnate. I love the incarnation because, to me, it means that God cares enough to 'get alongside' humanity.

2) I love Jesus because he is my Saviour. Not content to simply 'get alongside' humanity, the incarnate second person of the Trinity came to save us from our own sinful natures.

3) I love Jesus because he teaches me how to be fully human. By both word and example Jesus sets the example for how God means humanity to be.

4) I love Jesus because he teaches me how to love. Jesus displays a love that is practical and real, a love that perserveres through thick and thin.

5) I love Jesus because he is a healer; his healing love displays the heart of the Father. If we have seen Jesus, we have seen the Father.

04 July 2007

Alan Johnston freed

The BBC reporter, Alan Johnston has been freed.

Good news!