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The Westminster Declaration: Just Say No! Dissenting Voices #hangem April 20, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Current Affairs.
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9 comments

Updated 22/04/2010

A note following on from my post a few days ago, Westminster 2010: Protecting freedom of conscience – but whose conscience?

Encouraging to see more dissenting voices emerging, specifically:

The beauty of it is we’re all coming at it from different directions: me, because I believe in marriage equality for gay and straight couples; Annie because she recognises the reality of our post-Christendom context and believes that attempting to legislate for Christian rights is wrong; and Jongudmund because he sees an outrageous hypocrisy in the stance taken against embryo-destructive research that fails to take the same stand against IVF — go read his post in full if you can’t get your head around my précis.

Good old dissenter and activist Steve Chalke got there before us, though, and his organisation Faithworks has issued a press release that lays out very clearly what is so utterly wrongheaded about this declaration:

Faithworks represents 22,000 Christians from a variety of theological and political backgrounds, our theology is inclusive and not imposing, and our purpose is to encourage people to express their faith through serving others without discrimination.  In contrast, the Westminster 2010 Declaration sets Christians up on a moral high ground and implicitly creates divisiveness. It does this at just the time when the church’s morality has been called into question across the world.

And top marks to Lee Moore who got there ahead of Chalke: Why I Won’t Sign Westminster 2010 & Why You Should Read it Carefully Before You Sign

As I said before: Westminster 2010: would Jesus sign it? I don’t think so.

Now, beautiful people (by which I mean you, beloved reader), enough of what not to do. What positive action can we take to sort out this dysfunctional government of ours? Hang ‘em. That’s what I say: hang the lot of ‘em. If you’d like to see parliamentary reform, vote strategically for a hung parliament.

Together, we can do it. Together, we can beat the system: join the campaign at hang-em.com, on facebook and on twitter.

Update, 22/04/2010: Thanks to @Jon_Bartley at Ekklesia who got there even earlier, it turns out: Conservative church leaders launch anti-war declaration for general election (April 4th). His concluding paragraphs sum up the problems with WmD (thanks t’other Jon) rather well:

What it does show is the extent to which those putting the Westminster Declaration together are dualistic in their thinking, selective in their focus, and ignore some of the most central aspects of their faith that have something to say to the world around them – despite their claim to be ‘representing’ Christianity.

In their zeal to combat the ‘marginalisation’ of Christianity, they are actually doing a great deal to marginalise the faith themselves.

What what shows, you ask? Go read Jon’s full analysis.

Dead Gods and Butterflies: Part 2 April 15, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Christianity, Theological Reflection.
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So there she was: alone. Nothing existed. Nothing was everything and everything was empty. Except for the pain… the ache of emptiness, of loneliness, of infinite void.

She reached within herself. There was nowhere else to reach, and from the depths of her being, from the essence of her very self, she took something precious: her love.

She knew what would happen, she knew there was no  way back, she knew that once she set things in motion they would go on … and on, for ever. But she did it anyway:

“Let there be,” she said; and other sprang into being. Other. Wild, free, beautiful, uncontrollable: other.

Other was light and darkness fled. Other was sound and silence ceased. Other was hope and dream and horror and nightmare. Other was loneliness ended and tears begun.

Who could have dreamt it? Who could have imagined such tears were possible? That so much blood could flow? That wounds could be so deep? The blood flowed and the ground soaked it up, the thirsty ground, the yearning ground, the screaming ground.

She stepped down and the ground welcomed her. She walked and talked and danced and sang. She told stories of love and laughter and light and life. She reached out and touched, she spoke words of peace, she bade the blood-soaked ground be still, she calmed the storm and stilled the wave. She fed the hungry and healed the sick. She gave sight to the blind and sound to the deaf. Cripples danced in her presence, thieves returned their ill-gotten gains, harlots ceased their trade, soldiers laid down their arms and true friendships blossomed. Some spoke of the dead being raised. And she laughed, oh how she laughed…

Until that night when the thieves came. The thieves who had not returned their stolen wares, who did not wish to surrender to love. They seized her and whipped her and beat her and raped her and killed her … and the thirsty ground drank her blood.

But her wounds were our wounds and her death was our death and she bore our grief, our iniquities. She had no loveliness or attractiveness to draw us to her: she was stricken and bruised and broken and used and spent and torn apart and left in a gutter.

And then came the stranger, a wanderer. Where did he come from? No one knew: no one saw him arrive and no one saw him leave. Gently he picks her up, gently he cradles her in his arms, gently he carries her. His tears fall upon her face and mingle with her blood and stream down her side … and the thirsty ground drinks of both her blood and his tears.

And from that ground, where blood and tears mingle, there blossoms red a million, million shimmering butterflies: life, endless, glorious life, death defeated, death no more.

And still she weeps and still she bleeds and still she loves and still butterflies swirl through space and time and wherever their wings pass, new life is born. Life of life and death of death and love of love of all.

Westminster 2010: Protecting freedom of conscience – but whose conscience? April 14, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Current Affairs, Theological Reflection.
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8 comments

My thanks to Eddie Olliffe for his post yesterday drawing attention to Westminster 2010, supposedly a ‘Declaration of Christian Conscience’ drawn up with what appear to be the entirely laudable aims of “protecting human life, protecting marriage, and protecting freedom of conscience”. Bravo indeed, good things, worthy of protection, and issuing a loud call to

all parliamentary candidates to pledge that they will ‘respect, uphold and protect the right of Christians to hold and express Christian beliefs and act according to Christian conscience’.

But what exactly is “Christian conscience”? As I commented on Eddie’s post, I have no problem whatsoever with the ideas of protecting human life and protecting freedom of conscience … but I’m wary of the idea of “protecting marriage” and more than a little puzzled about how that fits in with protecting freedom of conscience.

Protecting marriage — from what and from whom? My experience is that most Christians who want to “protect marriage” want to protect it as an institution that excludes the gay community, which then presents gay people with a double whammy: they’re excluded from marriage but then condemned for entering sexual relationships outside of marriage.

Since leaving my comment on Eddie’s post I’ve explored the Westminster 2010 site a little more and it turns out — as I suspected — that this attitude is precisely what the Declaration seeks to protect:

Marriage

We pledge to support marriage – the lifelong covenantal union of one man and one woman as husband and wife. We believe it is divinely ordained, the only context for sexual intercourse, and the most important unit for sustaining the health, education, and welfare of all. We call on government to honour, promote and protect marriage and we refuse to submit to any edict forcing us to equate any other form of sexual partnership with marriage…

My response to that is no, no, no! It is a stance adopted by many Christians, but it is by no means the definitive Christian position that the declaration pretends it to be. I have quite a few gay friends — most of them Christians — and I’d love to see them free to marry, to see their relationships recognised by the wider Christian community. I am not alone in this, not by a long way: witness, for example, Accepting Evangelicals and the The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.

So I cannot — will not — in good conscience put my name to this declaration because it does not protect the freedom of conscience of those such as myself who have come to recognise gay and straight relationships as equally valid.

My call to all parliamentary candidates, then, is to tread very carefully around this declaration. Affirm your support for protecting human life (but do read the full text of what exactly is being called for); affirm your support for protecting freedom of conscience; but be wary, very wary, of supporting a call to protect marriage that sets itself so resolutely against today’s standards of equality.

Westminster 2010: would Jesus sign it? I don’t think so.

To opt out of politics is to opt out of life April 13, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Current Affairs.
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6 comments

In fact, I’ll go further than that: opting out of politics is not an option, it’s capitulation. To opt out is to cop out, to surrender, to abdicate responsibility, to give in.

But don’t worry: this isn’t going to degenerate into one of those terminally boring posts that tries to emotionally blackmail you into voting. I myself may or may not vote in the forthcoming election, but either way I most certainly won’t be signing up to Premier Christian Radio’s ‘Promise to Vote‘ campaign or supporting any of the other coercive voting campaigns. Because politics is about far more than voting: voting is merely the tip of the iceberg — a tip that can, of course, become a tipping point, but which can also become a tripping point, a point at which people can say, “That’s it, job done, duty completed.” Cast your vote and walk away — and that, I think, is more of an abdication than taking a principled stand by refusing to vote when there is no candidate worthy of the vote.

And that’s part — only part, please note — of the problem I’m up against: I’ve yet to see anything from any of the parties that makes me want to vote for them — especially when I know full well that whoever I vote for, the party that finally gains control of our supposedly democratic country will do so not with a majority but with the biggest minority. That’s not democracy, it’s certainly not a mandate from the people when most of us didn’t want that party in power, and I have no desire to support such an anti-democratic system. Suppose that I do vote and that the party I vote for wins against the wishes of the majority: what does that make me if not a co-dictator along with the party?

To me, a far more important principle than voting is freedom. That, I think, is what true democracy and politics are about: freedom; and that freedom must necessarily include the right to withhold your vote as much as to bestow it. Then afterwards, after the fuss has died down, to get back to business by standing up to whichever bunch of clowns gain this country’s inglorious crown.

Don’t be fooled: there’s more to politics and democracy than the ballot box. It’s not how we vote or who we vote for that counts: it’s how we live in between times. Don’t vote with the ballot box: vote with your life.

Let’s be Real History Makers: A Million People to give £1 to Christian Aid April 6, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Christianity, Current Affairs.
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2 comments

Let's be Real History Makers: A Million People to give £1 to Christian Aid

Rage Against Poverty

Seems to me there’s something seriously skewed with Christian thinking when a facebook group like Christian Aid has less than 4,000 fans but a Christian music download campaign gets more than 66,000 people on board.

So I’ve set a new facebook group for anyone who wants to become a Real History Maker: imagine the impact of a million people clubbing together to support Christian Aid by donating £1 each: join today, donate £1 to Christian Aid and spread the word!

Dead Gods and Butterflies April 2, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Lent & Easter, Theological Reflection.
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7 comments

“We done ’im in,” the crowd all said,
“We nailed the bastard,
now the bastard’s dead”

Jesus, bastard of Bethlehem, dead and buried. That’s the way to deal with a god: nail the bastard. All this talk about love and peace and forgiveness: get real.

And the tears flow down my face…

Pain. Is there no end to this pain? Not my pain — I’ve had a relatively painless life; but my friends’ pain … the endless torment, the inner screams, the scars of abuse and self-harm and self-hate… and blood, so much blood…

And his blood flows down his side, drips from his feet, soaks into the ground…

But now: just a corpse, wrapped in a cloth, hustled into a tomb…

Darkness.

Is this really humanity’s hope? How old was he? About 33, they say, but he spoke like someone who’d lived a thousand years.

He was ready to die, and he did. Did he know what it would be like? Did he really know?

Empty now, a husk … a shell…

Dead. No light in his eyes, only pain…

“One of you will betray me,” he said; and I did. He washed my feet anyway, though he knew.

He washed my feet and I walked away.

Into the darkness…

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