Tuesday, 24 February 2009

God in public life

I am very aware of a massive difference between what the broadsheet intelligensia say about religion and its role in society and what most ordinary people would say. I must say I am pretty sick of reading papers and hearing new reports that are biased and at times aggresive regarding the faith of many millions of people and the influence that such faith has. I see so many Christians exercising their faith and allowing it to have an influence on lives around them - there is a kind of blindness to this that seems to have infected the people and places of power in this country. An ex-Archbishop I know used to spend a significant amount of time trying to highlight the foolishness of privatising religion and isolating it from any influence on public life. Militant atheists and certain government ministers have exerted pressure to remove religious influence from public life and yet the following article and BBC poll would suggest that ordinary people still roundly reject secularism. Hurrah!


A BBC poll suggests that most people want religion and the values derived from it to play an important role in British public life.
Of 1,045 people questioned by ComRes, 62% were in favour.
Meanwhile, 63% of those questioned agreed that laws should respect and be influenced by the UK's traditional religious values.
The findings contrast with calls from some politicians and secularist groups to exclude faith from the public arena.
Guiding principles
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor warned a few years ago that Christianity was "all but vanquished" as the guiding principle for Britain's moral framework.
Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor argued that Christian beliefs - such as the sanctity of human life and the rule "do as you would be done by" - should continue to underpin the behaviour of Britons.
Church leaders have warned that recent legislation has elevated goals such as freedom from discrimination for homosexual people, above the freedom of religion.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams warned that the government was using legislation to control people's morals as well as their behaviour.
Secularists, including an increasingly militant atheist movement, have stepped up their campaign to "free" the public from what they see as the burden of a lingering attachment to religious belief.
There have been advertisements on the sides of buses, and in the last few days, a network of student humanist associations has been inaugurated.

However, the BBC poll indicates that even at a time when baptisms, church weddings and attendance at Sunday services are declining, people are unwilling for secularism to displace religion altogether.
They may be dubious about specific religious beliefs, and unwilling to accept the teaching of religious organisations about how they should lead their lives, but the survey suggests they are not yet ready to cast God out of public life.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Mountains and valleys

I am looking at Mark 9 - Jesus is transfigured - changed so they see the outward reality of his appearance changing to match the inward truth of his nature as the son of God. I have been asking the question - am I seeing/experiencing transfiguration - seeing spiritual realities. Which leads me to another question... am I spending enough time on the mountain in order to do so?
Also I was struck by what someone said about Peter's desire to build monuments to this moment - to capture it in time. They said "But the mission was in the valley, not on the mountain." There is a need to balance time on the mountain with time in the valley though my experience tells me that we have a tendency to avoid the mountain.... why? Perhaps because we have to climb up to it - I seem to prefer to descend than ascend or at least walk on safe level ground. It seems to me that mountains can be a little dangerous.... I'd better not risk the climb.


Digging or doubling?

Last Sunday I spoke on the parable of the talents. Three men, two of whom had a 'doubling' attitude (they doubled what the Master gave them) and one that had a 'digging' attitude (he dug a hole and buried that which the Master gave him).

The 'digger' had an attitude towards the Master that was wrong. He somehow felt that the Master was mean and lacking in mercy whereas the response of the master to the 'doublers' showed something very different.

We need to check out what our attitude to God is. Do we really see him as a generous father who will give good gifts to his children? If we see him like this we are much more likely to

1) live a life based on making positive investments - putting our money where our mouth is. One of the biggest laughs we had on Sunday morning was when Ian Jenkins was reading the Parable of the Talents and got to that bit where the Master tells the 'Digger' that he could have earned some interest on the money in the bank! Some investments will fail - if we are to speculate to accumulate there will be an element of risk taking. But we must still seek to make investments - not to dig a hole and bury what we have.

2) be unafraid to take risks. One of the things that most winds me up is over cautiousness. The church in our country is too often characterised by a paralysing caution and a fear of failure. I want to encourage an environment that sees taking risks, making investments and making ourselves available to God as key parts of our common life.

Our direction as a church is an investment and a risk. We are investing in mission shaped communities, in releasing communities of disciples in the mission of Jesus. This is a risk because if we wanted to play safe we would have stuck with focussing our energies on more traditional forms of being and doing church - which in themselves are not bad - they are just not what we are called to do.

I am so glad that all the indications are that 'doubling' is what we are interested in rather than 'digging'. But we need to regularly check ourselves on this. Am I investing and putting my money, resources, gifts, skills where my mouth is? Am I prepared to take risks or responding out of fear and therefore becoming over cautious?

Fundamentally am I avaliable to the Lord and responsive to him?

Remember this...

Proverbs 3:5
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.