Captured by Love

Captured by Love

This wonderful “Confession of Faith” can be found here at Michael Hardin’s ‘Preaching Peace’ website.

We confess we have been captured by love –
the constant source of the universe,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Jesus has captured us for freedom.
In his truly human life
he was God among us, crucified by us.
God raised him from death
for the forgiveness of our sin
and the re-creation of our life.

His Father is our Father –
The source of his life and ours,
the God of Israel,
in whose gracious purposes
all creation is drawn to fulfillment.

His Spirit gives life to all
transforming our life from the inside out
by worship, scripture and sacrament
into the community of Christ and of the future
for the sake of the world.

In this triune God we bear witness
to the love which has captured us.
Our vocation lies in God’s mission –
to communicate it here in Aotearoa New Zealand,
to embody it socially
and to care for God’s glorious creation.

In this new-given unity
we live in confidence and hope;
anticipating the healing of creation
and the final flourishing of peace
in Christ.

Rev. Dr. Bruce Hamill
Coastal Unity Presbyterian Parish
Dunedin, New Zealand

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Near Redgate Beach, Torquay (c) Gralefrit 2016

(Davidic Aphorisms Pt.1)  “Personally, I prefer the Hegelian distinction between true and spurious infinity.”

(Davidic Aphorisms Pt.1) “Personally, I prefer the Hegelian distinction between true and spurious infinity.”

What follows will not make immediate sense, or even later sense.  But I’ve discovered that comment threads by my brother David on the Guardian newspaper website (no less), are a work of art.  They are (or have become) a bunch of genuine aphorisms that will betray a sense of the sublime in the ordinary.  It’s not easy to say this, since he is my brother after all, but they have made me laugh out loud, despite their often serious points, and they deserve a wider audience…..

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While cooking is a pleasure, and eating it even more so, Ellen is right to highlight the kind of narrowing of horizons that poverty engenders. Clearly many middle-class people work as hard, if not harder, than poor people, but the point is that having access to cash or credit greatly expands the range of options and a sense that life has a purpose for yourself and your family. Being poor strips away many of the motivations for living healthily because, well, what’s the point in trying. It’s not an excuse, but it might go some way to explaining why poor people eat worse more generally.

It’s weird how the most violent people and the most anti-violent people share the common characteristic of having no sense of humour.  The world would be a better place if we just felt freer to take the piss out of each other more of the time.

What you’re saying only makes sense if you thought that religious belief was automatically opposed to evolutionary science, which I don’t think it is. As with Genesis, its the meanings to which it has been put (racism for one) that is important. It’s all about interpretation.

Nietzsche would be disgusted.

And yet, by the same logic, christian bakers are obliged to bake cakes celebrating gay marriage because to not do so is discrimination. It seems oddly inconsistent…

What I love about philosophy is the way it unsettles our commonsense view of reality. Everything, even the most mundane, is up for grabs. If only I could find a way to teach it in schools, colleges or universities! I’d do it for peanuts if I could.

Not being funny, but I’d hazard the guess that you haven’t read much theology, have you?

Hard to know what to think about this, its either an interesting way of revealing unconscious bias towards belief, or completely fatuous. Either way, I wouldn’t say it, not because I have a superstitious belief in the power of words, but because I don’t think it’s a relevant way to pray (mainly because I believe that God is love).

Maybe, but it is possible that you have misjudged the situation somewhat. I’m not convinced that having low expectations/aspiration is automatically connected to a sense of entitlement by virtue of being male and white (that is a bit of a leap, and not one which I feel is justified). Not seeing the relevancy of striving in school could more easily be explained by a sense that striving academically is a potential cul-de-sac career wise. Speaking for myself, it never entered my head to strive for anything beyond factory/shop work because I didn’t know anyone in my social circle who did anything different. My experience may not be exemplary in this, but I think that the idea that white boys have low expectations because they feel entitled (for what and by whom?) simply because of their ethnicity and gender is a bit bizarre and insulting.

Possibly the issue is not so much that you commented on white males being inherently privileged, but that you suggested that young, working class white boys had imbibed this privilege and had a sense of the entitlement which reality failed to deliver on.

In my own experience as someone who grew up working-class, it is the sense of entitlement that I encounter in the middle-class (male and female) which strikes me as the greatest difference between us and them.

To be honest, I see your point, it is repellent, but it accurately describes the reality.

Being poor sucks!

Personally, I prefer the Hegelian distinction between true and spurious infinity (the former being a dialectical relation, the latter a mere endless progression onwards and upwards). Hegel’s true infinity is quite similar to the Kantian infinitude of aesthetic judgement.

One thing I love about Kant is that he was intelligent enough to recognise that the most important questions can be convincingly argued as either yes or no.

I’m a christian, and I have no idea what you’re on about.  I also choose not to wear a poppy because it clashes with my red eyes. Freaks people out.

Well, I enjoyed the article at least. Star Wars may not be Macbeth – and Lucas is no Shakespeare – but as a massively popular story, its interesting to analyse it this way.

I strongly doubt that robots will ever replace humans in any significant way.

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The Rise and Fall of God

Ascension Day: ‘The Rise and Fall of God’

Luke 24:36-53 (Acts 1:4-11)

Ascension Day! I know, I know, most of us are like: Say that again!

Most of us who have been Christians for some time now and heard of this strange thing called ‘The Ascension of Jesus,’ but, if truth be told, we treat it like we treat a Big Issue seller: We know it’s there, but we can’t wait to get passed it and onto other things.

And even when we do, for a brief moment, consider the ascension of Jesus, we will most likely have those embarrassing images from film and TV in our heads of that awkward moment when Jesus is blessing his disciples, hand raised (as we see in much post-Enlightenment art), as he is strangely lifted into the sky, and hid behind a fluffy cloud. If we’re not laughing at how silly it looks on the screen, we’re certainly left wondering if it really happened like that!

Bright scratches

And so the Ascension of Jesus has become like that embarrassing uncle everyone avoids at weddings. It becomes a footnote in history and to the gospel story we tell. By all means mention the teaching and the cross and the resurrection and the reign of Jesus, but….well, the ascension is more than a tad embarrassing.

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Christianity & Psychotherapy

Christianity & Psychotherapy

After listening to a great article of Radio 4’s ‘Beyond Belief‘ and the discussion about the relationship between ‘religion and psychotherapy’ (read: Christianity & psychotherapy), I have transcribed a four minute interview with a Christian Psychotherapist, Tony Yates of Cornerstone, that takes place about half way through the program.  The questions are asked by the presenter, Ernie Rea.

Q. What drew [you] to this particular discipline?

I got into Psychotherapy by coming from a troubled background, going into therapy myself, and then deciding that this might be the way in which I could work in the future with other people who had troubled backgrounds of one sort or another, and who doesn’t, really, one way or another?

Q. You’ve had widespread experience of working with all sorts of people, including Evangelical Christians, who I gather come to you in unexpectedly large numbers?

Every one of my clients, without exception, have come from the Conservative Evangelical wing of the church, or perhaps and Irish Roman Catholic background.  I’ve never had a client from the Liberal wing of the Church.

Q. Well you clearly think it’s indicative of something. Why do you think Evangelical Christians are in need of such therapy?

Because of the way they’ve been brought up; with the best intentions, they’ve been brought up under a regime of a sense of sin and the consequences of sin, which are shame, it’s like a stain on the soul, it’s like you’ve transgressed the laws and expectations of God.

Q  Does that mean that Evangelicals are less aware of the inner subconscious self which is the source of who we are and why we do things?

Much less aware than my secular clients.  It’s almost as though the discovery of the unconscious which happens when they come into therapy, is another world they’ve hardly ever suspected.  They’ve never heard much about Freud, and the discoveries in the early part of the 20th century, or if they have they’ve been warned against it, in the same way that they might be warned against Dawinian Evolution.  So they’ve come trained from childhood, taught from childhood, to look upward rather than inward.  And when they come to Psychotherapy they have to switch their direction from looking upward toward God, the Church and the expectations, inward to what they have repressed in their unconscious.

Q.  Without breaking any patient confidentiality, can you give me one example of the sort of thing that you would encounter?

If you take sex and anger, of course they’re raised, the Evangelicals, to believe that sex before marriage a bad thing.  So they have to grow up in a society that is wall-to-wall promiscuity and pornography, sex is everywhere in the modern world.  They have to grow up inhibiting those expressions, while their hormones are raging.  It must be a bit like sitting on the lid of a cauldron to stop it from over-flowing, and they marry in their mid-twenties, without any prior sexual experience, and they marry someone with the same background.  You can imagine the problems from that.

But much more damaging than repressing sex, I’ve discovered, is repressing the natural appropriate warm expression of anger, so unlike their secular clients, they never have a teenage rebellion, and that’s very damaging.  They can’t challenge their parents belief, because their parents are a little bit like the representatives of God on earth, of the Will of God.  That’s a formidable array of power above a Christian child to rebel against if he dares, and if he does, the mere threat of shame stops them from ever getting there, they just keep themselves repressed so that they don’t have to feel shame.

Gralefrit Comment:

Sadly, Evangelical Christianity has suffered and still suffers from the worst kinds of repression, a reason why:  i) that all the Christian clients above, are from the same Christian tribe (Evangelicalism), and ii) why so many Evangelical churches suffer from abusive and violent  forms of relationships.  It is a branch of Christianity that I am affiliated to, and whilst it is not the whole picture, I have seen its rather crass tendency to illicit a kind of superman-Pharisaical Christianity that isn’t Christianity; or a super-spiritual-man gnostic Christianity.  Both in fact betray the actual Gospel; a Gospel that is, if true [and it is], welcomes the sort of psychoanalytical progress we’ve seen over the past 120 years or so.

It is why theologian Rob Knowles suggests,

“Church members are trained into coming to church without any expectation of growing into ministries of various kinds”; and this is because we have often facilitated “Church cultures of ‘tot-level Sunday-school for adults’ that alienates any Christians or non-Christians who reject infantilization, and that suppress any preaching that brings the maturity-forming, disciple-making power of the Scriptures alive” (Relating Faith, pg. 122-3).

My pal Joe Haward comments in an as yet unpublished paper,

“In psychoanalysis, a person exists through a lack, a split, a fissure. We may have dreams of being complete, and perhaps at a very early point in our lives we felt no lack, no split, no separation, being just one with whatever surrounded us. But as far as we are creatures of language and desire (and to Lacan language and desire are what separates the human from the animal being), we are split beings: split between ‘things’ and ‘words’, between what we want and what we get, between what we feel like and what we look like, between present and past, between what we think we say or want and what we actually say or want (that is between conscious and unconscious).”

GirardAnd now, Rene Girard, at the end of his interview with Steven Berry, published in Reading the Bible with Rene Girard, edited by Michael Hardin (review of this excellent little book coming soon), takes issue with psychoanalysis itself.  In a brief critique of Freud as the one who targeted the father-figure to the degree that the father became the scapegoat of the culture.  Girard argues that this cannot be done in todays more fractured culture, because of the sheer fact of the importance of peers to a child, and so not merely “the father”.  This is why Girard calls Freudian analysis “outdated”, he says,

“Psychoanalysis in a way lives on values that are already outdated.  I have a friend, a good friend, who’s seeing a psychiatrist but he’s also a psychoanalyst.  He said today people use formulas that are unbelievable.  Previously in psychoanalytical theory the Oedipus complex was what you had to fight; now psychiatrists talk about injecting more Oedipus into people.  They don’t have enough meaning; the don’t have enough backbone.  My friend, because we have great discussions, says he thinks it can be a death of mimetic desire, which is the worst thing of all.  I mean, not a death through conquering mimetic desire, but just no more mimetic desire.  I mean a world where there are so many cheap pleasures and no more taboos” pg. 192

If we were to make a link though, between the interview above and Girard, with Protestant anxiety and activism that ensures they need some kind of therapy, Girard makes this wonderful point immediately prior to his Freud comment above, he says,

“I’m taking about some relaxation of tension (with a hurried Christianity), which is a form of charity at the same time toward your fellow man.   I’m talking about an acceptance of good fellowship, joy, and relaxation, which are sometimes a bit missing in modern forms of Christianity, democracy, and so forth, which are never relaxing” pg. 190

Fellowship, joy and relaxation!  Who’d have thought?

I don’t know if psychoanalysis is outdated.  I’m sure it has a lot more to offer, despite Girard’s comments.  Even in his introduction to ‘The Church’s Pastors’ in ‘The Contemporary Christian’, John Stott lists various categories that add to the confusion about what an ordained pastor is.  He writes, “Are they priests, prophets, pastors, preachers, administrators, facilitators, social workers or psychotherapists?” ( emphasis and re-ordering of the sentence mine).  In my brief experience, being a pastor covers all these and then some.  I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or not, it doesn’t feel like it.

However, in his typically brilliant style, G. K. Chesterton makes a telling obervation in his short article ‘A Criminal Head’ in ‘Alarms and Discursions‘.  The first sentence below is only slightly pertinent to this discussion, that “heads” could be “taken to pieces” in more than a surgical manner, thus well worth a look ; the second, pertinent to contemporary debates about the rich and poor, a psychoanalytical treasure trove in its own right:

“In a popular magazine there is one of the usual articles about criminology; about whether wicked men could be made good if their heads were taken to pieces. As by far the wickedest men I know of are much too rich and powerful ever to submit to the process, the speculation leaves me cold.”

Whatever, long may psychoanalysis address what it means to be fully human; long may the Gospel of Jesus Christ speak life and truth to all humanity; and speedily may false versions of a suppressed gospel be exposed for what they are, that the victims of it may be set free to live a life less of guilt and shame, and more of life and joy!

Meadow

 I took this somewhere in Devon

Mission and Bosch

Mission and Bosch

Below is a brief refelction I wrote a few years ago of David Bosch’s outstanding Transforming Mission – paradigm shifts in theology of mission.

transforming-mission-bosch-david-j-9780883447192Bosch’s work has been given the highest praise, with such eloquent descriptions as immense, great, comprehensive, magnum opus, summa missiologica and magisterial, among others, for his book Transforming Mission.  This is worthy praise for the work of a man held in such high regard for his loyalty and commitment to mission in the church and the mission of the church.  It is very important to understand that these nouns and adjectives of praise for his book do not in any way suggest that all is well with the world of mission, or that Bosch has in fact covered every angle and said all that needs to be said about mission, and especially about what he calls “Elements of an Emerging Ecumenical Missionary Paradigm.”  This sentiment was well expressed in an article by Bevans and Schroeder when they compared the theological genius of Aquinas with the outstanding missiological contribution of Bosch, suggesting that as theology ‘need always to be done after Aquinas,’ likewise, missiology need always ‘be done after Bosch’ (Bevans & Schroeder 2005:69-72).

Some of Bosch’s most insightful critics are among his closest friends and colleagues, and it is within these critiques that we discover areas that Bosch may have overlooked or been completely blind to in the first place.  We will return to some of these voices in due course, but first a broad brush stroke is in order.  Bosch’s insights, written in the late eighties and published in 1991 reflect a profound and well thought out view that many Christian authors and missiologists especially in the West are still struggling to define, namely post-modernism.  For Bosch to elucidate this slippery concept at such an early stage in the way he does has really set the scene for much discourse on this subject.  We observe this because it is inevitable that with any description of a culture in flux, which is essentially what a paradigm shift is, and attempts to fully explicate at such an early stage, at least earlier than many other cultural analysts were writing, would surely be frustrated, even assertions that it could be fully comprehended would surely be naïve.  Bosch does not presume to have done this primarily because he knows he is referring to something that is happening now, it is in a sense live, and subject to unpredictable change.  Since this is still the case in our day, how much more in his day?

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What the prophet does and why the lambs bleat

What is your notion of a prophet?
I suspect the Western Protestant Church has made a right hash of this ministry.

Reducing it to mere predictions.

Either doom or glory, or vague hope & polite niceness.

Reducing it to clichéd slogans that mean anything and everything ….and nothing.
Reducing it the “wacky fringe of the church”:
The bigger the beard the greater the prophet!

Reducing it to spontaneous mini-messages of bespoke theological preference!
Reducing it to magic, on a par with ancient and modern gnosticism:
God’s weird little secrets made known to the special weird few!

No.

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False Prophesy is Pie in the Sky!

We need less (zero) ‘Personal Idiosyncratic Eschatology’ (or P.I.E. for short – I made that up all on my own); and more of what Eugene Peterson in his brilliant book Run with the Horses refers to as the true nature of the Prophet:

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1. A prophet lets people know who God is and what he is like, what he says and what he is doing.

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2. A prophet wakes us up from our sleepy complacency so that we see the great and stunning drama that is our existence, and then pushes us onto the stage playing our parts whether we think we are ready or not.

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3. A prophet angers us by rejecting our euphemisms and ripping off our disguises, then dragging our heartless attitudes and selfish motives out into the open where everyone sees them for what they are!

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The Myth of the Myth of Palestine

Israel_Palestine_Flag[1]It is, if I may be frank, quite pathetic that the spurious charge of a myth should so perpetuate itself.  In fact, it is nothing other than Girardian scapegoating on an industrial scale.  If you can convince a person or group that another person or group is somehow less than deserving, less human, less, just less….less…..less….in whatever way is chosen, it stands to reason you can do anything to them.

ANYTHING!

The founder of the WZO (World Zionist Organisation in 1897), Theodore Herzl, had the primary objective of seeking a homeland.  The irony for this German Jew, was that he loved the German civilization, he didn’t even like the Hebrew religion, and nor did he consider himself scattered or disparate – he loved European culture, as did many of his bourgeois compatriots!  He was also a failed playwright, and even in writing his book Der Judenstat (An attempt at a modern solution to the Jewish question), his primary motivation was, as Goldberg percieves, to establish his credentials as the “sober, judicious Doctor of Law rather than the author of drawing room comedies.”

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