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Welcome… everyone October 7, 2011

Posted by Phil Groom in Christianity, Church, Life Issues.
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16 comments

Originally posted back on May 14th, I thought I’d bring this post back to the top since it’s attracted some interesting comments recently. Please feel free to join in and let me know what you think: is the Bible “the Word of God” as Jonathan believes? If it is, do “we” — does anyone — have a responsibility to “submit” to it, as Jonathan contends?

In either case, what does the phrase “the Word of God” mean, and what would the process of “submitting” to it involve? Is God a tyrant in the sky who issued a series of once-for-all dictats from above but who, for reasons best known to Godself, stopped issuing them 2,000 years ago and now we just have to go along with them, no questions asked?

Over to you, my splendid friends…

–Original Post–

Believe Out Loud: the ad Sojo wouldn’t run

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Christian Broadband: Censorship, a Sensible Precaution or a Cop Out? December 17, 2009

Posted by Phil Groom in Life Issues, Technology.
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4 comments

YESTERDAY EVENING I received an email from Christian Broadband, trying to persuade me to sign up to their protected internet service. At one level it seems like a good idea: there’s so much filth and other crud out here (I nearly said, “out there”…) — why not let someone else do the hard work of filtering it out? And let’s not pretend it isn’t a problem: millions of people, Christians included, find themselves ensnared by internet pornography. Christianity magazine ran a couple of features on the subject back in February this year and at LST that issue sold out in record time: as I said at the time, porn sells.

But is a service like Christian Broadband really the way to deal with the problem? To me the approach feels far too much like the thought police: allowing someone else to decide what I or anyone else on my network may or may not read or see, which sites we may or may not visit. Worse: that person is not even a legitimate authority but simply someone who claims to know best.

Here’s the Christian Broadband approach:

Do you know what your children are looking at whilst they are doing their homework?

Do you know what your husband is watching while he is checking his e-mail?

Or your wife when she is chatting with friends?

That, I find deeply disturbing. Fair enough, children need protecting: no child should have completely unfiltered content available to them — that’s why newsagents put the porn mags on the top shelves. Responsible parents should be using some sort of filtering technology.

But those next two questions seem to strike at the very heart of human relationships. No, I don’t know what my wife is browsing right now; and she doesn’t know what I’m working on right now. But we trust one another: that’s our starting point, that’s what our relationship is built upon. Mutual respect, mutual trust.

Yes, there may be some people whose relationships have broken down, who need the reassurance that a protected network can bring: but what’s left if we make fear and suspicion our starting point? I applaud the initiative: I am appalled at the implications.

I acknowledge that the vulnerable need protection, that some things should be censored, even banned. But for that, I want the legitimate authorities, the law of the land and international law, to be proactive. I don’t want my internet access restricted by someone whose only claim to legitimacy is a set of ‘Christian’ values that I may or may not agree with.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; but when I grew up, I put childish ways behind me: I became responsible for my own thoughts and actions.

Christian Broadband: a sensible precaution for kids, I guess; but for adults capable of thinking for themselves? Looks like a cop out to me.

Screaming inside… September 15, 2009

Posted by Phil Groom in Christianity, Life Issues, Poetry, Theological Reflection.
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5 comments
The Scream

The Scream

… as another friend is diagnosed with breast cancer.

Watching, waiting, hoping, praying… wondering at the futility of praying to a God who seems to have already opted out of the situation … is not the God we cry to for healing the same God who — if s/he is the God so many Christians, so many passages of the Bible, so much of the Church crack him/her up to be — could have prevented the situation?

That God is a myth, a fantasy, a desperate hope … like Father Christmas at Christmas time as we all collude in a massive pretence for the children … we know it’s not true, but we want the magic …

Another friend I spoke to asked me — if the God I wanted to be real, was real, what would that God be like? This poem emerges from that question …

The God I want God to be
would not allow
such things to be

The God I want my God to be
would sit a child
upon her knee
and gently speak
then set her free…

That child would learn
to walk alone
yet never lonely be
that child would soon
become full grown
and fully adult she
would dance
and sing
and joyful be
and tears of grief
would never flow —
she would not know
such things could be.

… and still, deep inside, I scream, and the echo of that scream, repeated by a billion other voices, haunts my dreams…

Notes from a Gay Christian Woman August 7, 2009

Posted by Emma Jayne in Christianity, Church, Life Issues, Theological Reflection.
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20 comments

Being gay is not a lifestyle option.

I didn’t wake up one morning and decide, “Now I shall be gay.” Nor is it about something that I do or how I behave in bed. Being gay is a part of who I am, and when you tell me — in your condescending way — that you hate the sin but love the sinner, you’ve completely missed the point.

Do you tell a black woman that you hate her skin but love the person within? How then can you tell me that you hate my being gay but love me?

But you say that’s different, that she was born that way, whilst I was born — well, what do you know about how I was born? You look at the outside: only God can see the heart.

You say it’s OK to be gay as long as I don’t do gay: that I must remain celibate. You say that sex is for marriage, but you deny me that privilege. You put fences around me — for my protection, you say. But that’s not true, is it? The fences are for your protection, to keep you safe from me, from the threat that I and my friends supposedly present to your nice, clean-cut clearly defined community.

But I won’t play your games. And so you drag me before your angry God, with your stones in hand, ready to throw at his command. “We caught her in the act,” you say.

He looks at me and he looks at you and he shakes his head and bends down to draw a line  in the sand. He writes above the line. He writes below the line. He crosses the line. But you can’t see what he’s writing: you’re standing too far away, not wanting to be contaminated by my ‘sin’ … my lesbian love.

There. I’ve said it. Yes, I’m what you call a ‘dyke’, a woman in love with a woman; and this angry God of yours: he looks at me and he loves me and he understands and he accepts me. He looks at you and offers you the same but somehow the stones in your hands that were meant for me have turned into a hammer and nails for him.

He stands and faces you, holds out his hands.

“We want to help her,” you say.

“Whoever looks at a woman lustfully has already raped her in his heart,” he replies. “Is that how you would help her? By planting your seed in her belly to make more of you? Has she not already been hurt enough?”

I listen, amazed. I look at my body. How little you know, I think. This body of mine that you would take and break and make into one of your own: how little you know. My body — is this my body? It has never bled like other women’s bodies: I have never known that gift, that glory, that … indignity. These seeds you would plant would not grow, could not grow: an infertile field, with no hope of a harvest. But you: what do you see?

“She is evil,” you say. “She has a devil.”

“What?” he asks. “Are you not devils, making these accusations? Is this how you drive out devils?”

He holds out his hands again.

“She is a sinner,” you say. “You’re supposed to say, ‘Go, and sin no more.'”

He smiles. “Go, and sin no more.”

“No,” you say, “to her, not to us. Look — we’re the ones with the stones, the hammer and the nails. We can kill both of you.”

His smile disappears. He holds out his hand, draws me to my feet, whispers, bids me depart: the scene, he tells me, is going to get messy…

Differently Sane June 17, 2009

Posted by Phil Groom in Life Issues.
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5 comments

Twitter. You know it makes sense. I know it makes sense. To me, it makes sense because it connects: it takes me to places and links me to people that I didn’t know existed.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to two of those people:

@bourach and @serial_insomnia who blog, respectively, at conversationswithmyhead.blogspot.com and serialinsomniac.wordpress.com.

Both of them struggle with mental health issues or insanity or whatever it is you want to call it. Personally, I call it being human; and both of them are courageous enough to blog about what’s going on in their heads, about their battles with madness and the difficulties they face.

I find that their honesty and openness in describing and discussing their lives and thought processes puts me to shame as I hide behind my mask of normality. Me, normal? Geometrically, maybe: at right angles to the rest of the universe. Perhaps one day I will have the courage to tell the world what’s going on in my head.

Who decides what’s normal anyway?

@bourach and @serial_insomnia: I salute you.

Is the BNP racist? Are dodos extinct? Thoughts on things that ought not to be June 14, 2009

Posted by Phil Groom in Current Affairs, Life Issues.
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3 comments

Many things in life simply ought not to be. Some we can change, some we can’t.

DodoConsider the dodo: wiped out by human greed, hunted to extinction. Gone for ever because we, as what has become the world’s dominant species, placed our own interests above everything else, because the island upon which these birds once lived simply wasn’t big enough for them and us. All we can do today is look back in shame; and if we dare to dream, hope somehow for a Jurassic Park style breakthrough in science to bring them back from a preserved fragment of their DNA.

Consider the BNP: driven not so much by human greed, I suspect, as by fear. Fear that somehow we, the British, are like the dodo, too tame or perhaps too stupid to resist the foreigners who have landed upon our shores. Fear that this island simply isn’t big enough for them and us. Fear of change, fear of difference, fear fed by folly and ignorance. Fear.

Let’s not beat about the bush here: is the BNP racist? Yes. But let’s not travel down that road of fear and hate with them: let’s not dehumanise or demonise. The BNP, for all their folly, are human beings; and the answer to fear is love: as the writer of John’s letters in the New Testament tells us, “perfect love drives out all fear.”

I do not claim that this is an easy way: who amongst us lives in perfect love? Who has never been afraid?

We Get to Carry Each Other

We Get to Carry Each Other

I have in front of me an advance proof of Greg Garrett’s new book, We Get to Carry Each Other: The Gospel according to U2 (WJK, 9780664232177, £11.99, due for UK release August 2009). No U2 fan should miss it. In it, Greg describes a scene from a USA tour in the 1980s: U2 were involved in the campaign for a national holiday in honour of Martin Luther King Jr — MLK Day — and were warned off from playing Arizona. If they did, they were told, don’t play Pride (In the Name of Love) — because if they did, the threat came, “I will blow Bono’s head off.”

The band went to Arizona anyway. Bono faced the fear, closed his eyes, and sang; and when he looked up, Adam had moved from his usual stage left position to stand in front of Bono as a human shield.

Thankfully the shot never came: both Bono and Adam lived to tell the tale and continue playing and singing. But here was love conquering fear. Here was love driving out fear, exemplified, ironically, by the one band member who would not identify himself with Christianity.

This, I think, is where we who are followers of Jesus in the UK are called to stand in relation to the BNP and our immigrant population. The BNP seek to destroy and drive out. Our immigrant population seek to live amongst us. We must be their shield: we must show the way of love by standing between them and the BNP’s message of bigotry and hate.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York were right to issue last month’s call for voters to boycott the BNP. The danger to British society lies not in increasing multiculturalism but in isolationism. Hospitality and welcome to strangers, surely, lie at the heart of British identity — but more importantly for those who would claim to be following Jesus, these things lie at the heart of our Christian identity.

The dodo was driven to extinction by human stupidity. The BNP are not stupid. But elevated to power, they would reduce Britain to an island of dodos: an isolated race — not a separate species, just a race within a much bigger species — that would be unable to compete in, let alone co-operate with, the rest of the world; and that would be both a tragedy and a travesty for a nation that built an empire that, rightly or wrongly, once “ruled the waves.”

The way forward for Britain lies not in a renewed expansionism — the days of Britain’s dominant position in the world are over and done; but nor does it lie in a new reductionism, shrinking in upon ourselves, raising the drawbridge to hide in our castles, rejecting the rainbow mix of colours and influences that have made us what we are.

No: the way forward for Britain — if Britain wants to rescue the word ‘Great’ now so meaninglessly tacked onto the front of its name — is the way of love. We must learn to serve — and what could be a better way for a country known as a nation of shopkeepers?

A World of Pain: Meera Syal on Self Harm June 4, 2009

Posted by Phil Groom in Life Issues.
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2 comments
A World of Pain - Thursday, 4th June, 9pm, BBC 2

A World of Pain - Thursday, 4th June, 9pm, BBC 2

Know anyone who self-harms? This programme with Meera Syal on BBC 2, 9pm tonight, Thursday 4th June 2009, looks like it could offer some helpful insights:

Meera Syal looks at the issue of self harm in the UK. It’s a difficult and distressing subject, but one that Meera has studied closely over the years and which is close to her heart.

In this moving journey Meera she will seek to answer: what is self harm, who does it affect and why? Meera meets people who have experienced self harm, including those that have now recovered and others who are still suffering. She also learns about the complicated issues that can lead to a person taking such drastic action.

Missed it? Now available on BBC iPlayer

BBC Helpline: 0800 0933 193 (calls free from BT landlines)

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