Memes, Proverbs, and Movie Quotes

The internet is filled with “memes”. I use the “” advisedly, because they are distcint and different from the psydo-scientific term Meme. Of the “memes” that are floating about the internet, most seem to be a comment on life, but there are some that seem to be suggestions on how to live a better life. These are either portrayed ironically (as in, showing a negative behaviour in a humours light), or by repeating some general words of comfort in the form of positive reenforcement.
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Do Clones have Souls?

Random question. Would a clone suffer from “Original Sin” Also, byextension, would it have a soul? – A Question I was asked by a friend. My Answer is below.Random question. Would a clone suffer from “Original Sin” Also, byextension, would it have a soul?

An interesting question. One I quess that by the time I’ve answered this, your going to wish you hadn’t asked.
First, we need to define “Original Sin”. To do that, I’m going to make a few assumptions. The first is that your talking about the popular understanding of “Original Sin”. This is the one that is taken primarily from the thought of St. Augustine. This is taking to assume that Original Sin begins with what is known as the “fall”narrative in Genesis 2:8-3:28, and talks about Eve being convinced by a snake to eat a piece of fruit from the tree. This brings about the loss of intimacy with God (they are thrown out of the Garden), and they are made to toil and suffer, and of course, death enters the world. St. Augustine explored this and found that it was through intercourse that the Man passed the “stain” of Original Sin onto his offspring. St. Augustine believed that sexual desire was “bad”,like many Christians of his time, but his influence is one that Christianity has struggled to throw off.

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Prophetic Voices from Renewed Ancient Traditions

I was at a lecture today at the Baptist College of South Wales in Cardiff, curteusy of my training. The interesting thing that came to light (amongst the learning about the Celtic Tradition (which I’m very interested in), the Anabaptists, and the New Monastic Movement), was this idea that prophetic voices have not been lost in the church, despite what many people have been lamenting. Perhaps, instead, that the prophetic voices for the church have actually been there for many years, and from the point of view of history we can see their influence, but we are currently in a time of transition that has never been faced by the church at any time in it’s life which as focused the sights of people looking around for the renewal of church that people know must be happening. They have brought their sights to new forms of church, to new ideas, to a new way of reaching people in this changing time. However, the lectures that I went to today suggest that actually what people are looking for is something with an anchor, but a very, very long tether.
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American Episcopate ahead of their time?

Amidst calls for another reformation in the Catholic Church, the American Episcopal Church is busy forging ahead on it’s own. The news that’s making the headlines is of course the consecration as Bishop of Canon Mary Glasspool. This is not because she’s a Woman, the presiding Bishop of the US Episcopal Church is Dr Katherine Jefferts Schori, a woman. It is more because Canon Glasspool is in an openly Gay Civil Partnership.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, fearing for a split in the Anglican Communion, has repeatedly asked for “gracious restraint” in this matter. Now that the decision has been made to go ahead with the consecration of Canon Glasspool, a statement from the Lambeth Palace (as quoted in the Church times) says that this raises “very serious questions, not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole” (Dember 11, 2009, Church Times). The usual responses have been seen from the Fundamental Christian groups, getting all hot-and-bothered about the way that it might affect them. It of course, raises big questions about the communion, as many African Bishops are against Single-Sex marriages. With this going ahead, it is going to leave the traditional Anglican Communion in tatters, especially if there are no sanctions brought against the American Episcopal Church for going against the communion.

The problem is that someone had to do something. Someone had to say that those three lines in the Bible that have been used for oppression had to be changed. We’re not still fighting for Slavery. We worked out that was wrong. Glasspool is the height of all the arguments that the Anglican Church in the UK have been arguing over. Single-Sex Issues, and Women in the Episcopate. Here, in one woman, we have both. The world will hold it’s breath as she gets ordained, and all the liberals pray that she doesn’t screw up. A good example will ensure that others will be able to follow her.

The one thing that isn’t being said that there was also another development in the USA this week that shows that, despite the most vocal Christian opposition, it is busy actually being more liberal than the rest of the world. Clergy in Washington, Iowa, Vermont, and Massachusetts are able to preside at civil same-sex marriages, and bless them. Essentially, it is possible for Clergy who’s conciousness allows to marry single-sex couples. Yes, that’s right, AMERICA is allowing clergy in some states to bless single-sex marriages.

Yes it may be up to individual faith-communities who they see as married and who they don’t but the LAW of America say that they are married.

The fuss about Glasspool means that this little gem is passing by the fundmentalists. While they are busy pointing up at the Bishop, they are missing the fact that America is working through it’s very own grass-roots revolution.

Now, if only the rest of the Anglican Communion could start moving forward, we may yet be able to avoid a split, and embrace this reformation with open arms.

~BlackXanthus

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Why is the Church Obsessd with Sex?

Recently, I’ve been debating with a few people I know, the issues of Sex and the Church. It appears that the Church seems to mask “sex” in the lofty idea of “morality”. It appears, at least on a cursory glance at relevant press releases. It all seems to revolve around precisely what the point of having “sex” is. Based on the Bible, they read it and see that the point of “sex” is for procreation, and so any form of “sex” that isn’t intended, or has the possibility of, producing offspring the Church can point too and say that that is imorral.

Speaking as an Anglican, when the Synod voted in the early 1900’s to allow men to ware Condoms, the basic argument was essentially torpedod. This move allows men and women to have sex for pleasure. The line that it should still happen inside Marriage is at least still strong, but the argument that morality should, as it is today, be linked to strongly to “sex” is patantly absured.

So, fast forward to 2010. The second biggest debate being held in Churches all over the world is about Homosexuality. Interestingly, by and large, lesbianism is forgotten about, but is generally linked together under the same barrier. The argument that if one passes they both will be accepted.

The debate often revolves around 3 issues. The first is that Homsexuality is “unnatural”, because the “sex” doesn’t produce children. This, I guess, it a logical line of thought, however, it only remains so if the Church is ALSO condemning every couple that doesn’t marry and start breeding straight away, or, for a more sane argument, any couple that cannot have children, or choose not to. The reason for the inclusion for couples that “cannot” have children, is that is precisely the arguement that is levelled at Homosexuality. That they cannot have children.

The next argument that it is unnatural is one that is difficult for both sides. One side holds up that homosexuality can be seen in nature, and the other counters with the fact that, from a certain point of view, Pedophilia is natural*. However, we should be talking about “consentual adults”, and not get ourselfs side-tracked with an argument over Pedophilia. Some would put forward a notion that God’s Design is that Man and Woman is the only way, however, we have no proof that this is so. All the examples that are given are given by fallen people, and the one perfect example is given by a celibate Christ, which is no help at all.

The argument that it “says in the Bible” has been answered before on this blog:http://blog.valhalla.jara23.co.uk/?p=285. This has been debated for many years, and is probably the only really sensible argument left. This at least turns the attention away from Sex, and more into a Didactic Reading of the Bible.

However, this issue is more insiduous than it may first appear. Homosexuality has caused the ArchBishop of Niger, Peter Akinola to say that Homosexuals are ‘deviants’, ‘perverted’ and ‘in rebellion against God’. He’s not alone in his comments. The entire idea that Christians could unilateraly hate a group of people because of what they do behind closed doors just seems bonkers.

Of course, I’m a liberal, who would rather spraed the love of God, than denounce people for a few badly-used lines in the Bible, so this post may be a little biased.

Christianity does not stop at Homosexuality, of course. All kinds of ‘deviant’ behaviour is ‘against’ God. BDSM, Furries, and all other kinds of sexual pleasures are considered ‘deviant’ also, but where, in this, is God’s Love?

We are called to be Excellent To Each Other. To just be nice to one another. Why is what people do in a loving relationship a problem?

Fundamentalists are all about a transoformational God, just so long as it’s not them that’s being Transformed.

BX

*This is part of the “slipery slope” arguement. It is generally used to evoke emotional responses, rather than considered thought.

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Prison Chaplaincy; A walk on the other side

Just before Christmas I served time as a Prison Chaplain in a Prison. It was only a week, part of the palcements that those of us at Theology College do to ensure that we have a well rounded understanding of the options that are open to us. It was a very strange experience, something that I think will haunt me for a very long time. I also hope that it will make me more understanding of the plite of those who are in Prison.

The first thing that struck me about being inside was the helplessness. I could have been asked to be let out at any time, but still following people, and having doors locked and opened for you, knowing that you can’t leave under your own recognicance. There was something terrifying about that. People who say that we are too soft on prisoners really need to feel what that’s like. What it’s like to be locked in. That is definately punishment, especially for those of us used to going where we like, doing what we want when we want it.

The job of the Chaplain is essentially to be a voice that is primarily on the side of the Inmates, and also to explain the establishment to the inmates when it doesn’t make sense. It essentially fills that grey area where infromation needs to reach all inmates, but there isn’t really a sensible way to make sure that it does. They are also, more and more, taking on the roll of councellors, as the prison service has cut down on the number of councellors available in its’ prisons, and there wasn’t as single councellor in the prison I attended, but we’ll come back to that.

The day for chaplains starts in the same way. There are 3 places that require a visit from a chaplain every day. The first is healthcare. This is the place where inmates go if they are feeling ill, it is also the palce where they go when they are feeling suicidal, or have attempted to take their own life. They are then watched 24 hours a day, in a cell with a plastic front. Two of the people who were there on watch, one seemed very disturbed, the other was just excessively sad. At the point when he needed some profiessional help.

The second place that chaplains go is Segregation. This is the palce where inmantes go who have been separated from the main prison population. This is normally as punishment for actions such a fighting or smuggling. These cells only contain a bed, and they are not allowed books or anything else to entertain them, as such, it is imperative that the chaplain comes down to check on them, make sure that this sudden and stark loss of even the small number of priveleages doesn’t push them to wanting to take their own life.

The third place that someone goes is to Detox. This is the palce where people go who are comming down off various drugs. These are normally those that come into prison still addicted. Sometimes, even high. Obviously these need to be watched because the pain and mental confusion that can occur from cold-turkey might drive someone over the edge.

While on Placement, we were to partake of various different types of activities that the chaplain does. I got to go to “initiate” inmates. On arival all inmates are asked a barrage of questions, ranging from “have you been in prison before” to “do you have any disabilities”. Some questions are asked by a variety of people, but these are the ones that I remember the chaplain I was shadowing asking. Of course, amoungst that, the question “Do you feel suicidal”, which was asked in several subtle ways. While walking around shadowing the chaplain, we met a guy who was made up to be getting out. He was (as all inmates do), promising to go straight. He had a child that had been born while he was on the inside and he was desperate to go and look after him. We talked to him a few times, because we were mostly wanting to talk to his cell mate that was in “education”. One of the people we met while doing this was an inmate who told us that the reason he was in was that he was opsessed with his Ex Girlfriend. It was violating the restraining order that had landed him in prison the 3 times he’d been in. It occured to me that we should perhaps refer this guy to a councellor, to help him with the obsession, and stop him re-offending, and deal with the heartache. When I told this to the Chpalain, he agreed, but then told me that there were no councellors, which was probably why he’d ended up re-offending in the first place. Seemed a bit barmy to me.

During my time there the men (as they were referred too) were rehersing for their Carol Service that was happening on Sunday. This was something that they were putting together with the help of some volunteers, and a Conductor from the BBC. The men had written a nativity sketch, which was meant to show what the nativity meant to them, written from their point of view. IT contained some amazing lines, like “Your from the East and you don’t know Karate?”, and “Gold, Frankinsens, and Murr, and your walking around Bethlehem at night without knowing how to defend yourself? that’s not very wise is it?” (to which the wise men responded “Wise men don’t fight”). The thrust of the play was the shepherds, who were “ordinary men”, with flaws just like the men in prison (there was a shephard who was addicted to a “poppy potion”, for example), and yet the birth of Christ was for them as well. They also had a Choir for this service. It was made up of men who volunteered (though it was difficult to see if it was “to sing” or “to get out of the cell” for some of them. A lot of them came because their friend was comming). It was impressive to see the change from their Thursday Practice (where they sounded like drowning cats), to their Sunday performance, where they were almost sounding like a Choir. It was amazing, and I found myself being proud of them.

It was, by and large, a very strange experience, as you can tell from this slightly meandering reflection. These men who were so used to having other men around would suddenly tell you things in near-public, with their eyes focused on you that you probably wouldn’t tell your best friend of several years. It is a very odd experience.

The one thing I learned about it all was how normall these people were. It’s easy to think that those that are in for life are in some way some form of inhuman monster, but their not. By and large, they are sweet, and sometimes gentle, and just like you and me. That, I think, was the scray thing. The ones I met were indeed just like you and me. They told stories and you thought.. if I was there.. then yes, perhaps I would have done the same.

I spent a lot of the week thinking “there but for the grace of God go I”. The results of spending a week thinking about that sentance are a reflection in itself.

~BX

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Fridge Magnet

Today I was given a Fridge Magnet. It’s something that’s going to go in my “Rainy Days and Mondays” file. It was the simplest of gifts, yet the story behind it was… well, huge.

Let me start somewhere that could be thought of as the Begining. Last Week, I preached a Sermon. It was a simple Sermon, about taking time to enjoy the Peace of the Lord. It was a sermon that said that the next time your somewhere, just taking a look at creation, take some time to rest on the Peace of the Lord, just resting in him, asking nothing, and expecting nothing, but just enjoying being there.

Everyone said they liked it. Rave Reviews, if you like. I didn’t really put very much stock in it despite the warms of feeling, simply because I didn’t want it to go to my head. Nor did I want the bar to be so high that meeting it in my next sermon was impossible. Shortly afterwoulds, my placement supervisor talked me though the sermon. There were a few flaws, the kind of thing that is often difficult to see, but nothing, in her mind, that was going to be a problem in the future, no bad habit, no mumbling, that sort of thing. Most of the points were the kind of things that by and large would become less of a problem with experience. At the end of the meeting, she mentioned a guy who drove a train.

This guy, however, had listened to my sermon. During that week, he’d found himself alone, and the words of my sermon came back to him, and he sat there, resting of the Peace of the Lord.

I was bowled over. Christ, through me, had managed to reach someone. I had managed to deliver the words that Christ had called me to deliver. It was.. and Awesome feeling. It was the kind of thing that I was going to write down when I got five minuits. This week, the guy had come up to me, and given me a Fridge Magnet, his way of saying Thank-You.

I can’t put the effect of this Fridge Magnet into words. I was Humbled. He was thanking me, and I was so shocked, that all I could say was thank you. I stood there, being unable to say anything but Thank You, and the guy was obviously touched. It was an honour to be in that situation. An Honour so Great, that all I can do is thank God for being able to there.

Amen.

~Black Xanthus.

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A commentry on “I am the Truth, the Way, and the Life”

Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:6, NRSV

This is one of those lines that quite annoys us liberals. It seems to portray a very narrow-minded view of God, and not one that sits quite happily with our view. Indeed, it was a topic of some small discussion at a lecture last Friday. I personally have been struggling with this statement, so often used by the American Evangelical Conservatives to prove that those that who don’t believe are doomed.

However, I was reading ” Dear Rowan, Please Save the C. Of E.”



A fascinating book, by a self-confessed heretic, and former Unpaid Priest of Upton in England. The book itself is fascinating, and it is interesting to find out that his licence to serve as a Parish Priest was revoked because of some of his actions and Theology.

In the closing pages of this book, I found a reference to Bishop John Robinson, a New Testament Scholar, who wrote the book Truth is Two-Eyed



I’ve not read this book, though it may be worth getting out of the library to take a look. Anyway, here’s the section from “Dear Rowan” that caught my eye:

Those opposed to liberals, especially liberals like me who regard other religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism as equal to Christianity, usually quote the words ascribed to Jesus in John’s Gospel: ‘No one comes to the Father but by me.’ Bishop John Robinson, a great New Testament scholar, became an acquaintance of mine, and something of a mentor, in the final months of his life. He presented to me a copy of what he regarded as his finest book, Truth is Two-Eyed in which he argues that this saying should be interpreted in the light of John’s opening verses, which provides the theological prism through which the rest of the Gospel should be interpreted. Jesus is identified with the eternal Logos, the divine Word that is the agent of all creation, and is present throughout creation. Thus we should expect to find that all people, of any religion or none, possess an innate knowledge of the divine; the path of Christ is to deepen that knowledge.

This is not a view that the Author, Rev. Robert Van de Weyer holds, but it started ringing bells for me. It shows that the line “I am the Truth, the Way, and the Light” is something much deeper, much more profound than a simple reading of it would suggest. Here you can see the divine “call” that circulates through everyone, that connection to the other that exists within, and throughout everyone. The call that gives rise to superstitions, other forms of religion, other access to the divine. It’s an answer that I’m sure I knew when I was much, much younger, but have forgotten between now and then. It was nice to have it brought to life, and even better to be able to put it here, with references for those who might be struggling with this particular piece of the Bible, as I was.

Thanks,

~BX

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The Experiment, (Day 3)

So, today we had a Taize service. This is mostly lots of quiet meditative music, with bits being repeated, softly, gently and in harmony. Things being repeated for as long as was felt necessary, but all hte context of silence and meditative prayer. I had already been asked to serve at the ceremony, which was nothing short of… uplifting.

Being as part of the experiemnt was to sit and let myself be open to God, that’s what I did. I took a quick look through the booklet for the service, made a note of anything that I didn’t know, and then closed it. Relying on my memory and for the repeated chants to be able to work out where I was in the service, and what I should be saying or singing. This meant that for the majority of the service I could have my eyes half-closed in that meditative style (so that your body can differentiate “mediative” from “asleep”). It also meant that I could spend a lot of time simply emptying my mind, and opening my heart.

It was… amazing. I felt an… energy flow through me. Not something new to me, not something that I had not known before, but this was the first time that I had let myself go along with it, to let it fully take me where ever it wanted to go. Normally I would just let it fill me, like a glowing light, and remain there, and I would hold this feeling until it vanished like the smoke from the incense. Today, however, I let it flow. Not to anywhere, but let it be a… river. Again, not something that’s specially new to me, but not something I had experienced in a worship service in such a sustained way.

I found myself at the end of the service wanting to keep intoning. Not singing exactly, but listening to the last words of the prayed Taize chant, to keep ahold of the feeling. The songs may be “new” but they did not have that “modern” flavour, they were all in the old Middle-ages style. Heavily choir led, with lots of silence, with lots of listening to the silence and to the music.

I was told to try to write in a “feminine” way when trying to put these feelings onto paper, and I’m not sure that I can. I’m not sure that’s what I felt. It wasn’t a soft, gently love…. It was a… strong powerful brilliant light.

Light of the Lord

As the light of the Lord,
Falls on me like a shower,
as it’s rivers flow through me,
filling my life, my heart with a powerful love,
As the streams flow through me,
Let them flow to my prayer.

Let the Rivers of the Lord,
as they flow through those that hear,
let them be a light to the feet,
and a hope in the darkness.
Let those that see the light
shine it from their hands,
Let them act God’s Prayer.

Let the light of the Lord,
As it chases away the darkness,
as it warms the heart,
and cleanses the soul,
fill the world with His radiance.
Let the Word of God
shine from those who love.

Let the Word of the Lord,
Fall on me like a shower,
Let it’s river flow through me,
filling my life, my heart with a powerful grace,
As the streams flow through me,
Let them flow to my prayer.

~Black Xanthus

It occurs to me that my words are simply not adequate to describe this feeling. It’s something that the poets of ages gone spend nights grappling with, trying to find just the right word to capture just the right feeling.

Healing Waters

Lord, immerse us in the ocean of your love.
Bathe us in your cleansing rivers.
Soak us in your healing waters.
Drench us in your powerful downfalls.
Cool us in your bracing baths.
Refresh us in your sparkling streams.
Master us in your mighty seas.
Calm us by your quiet pools.
~ Community of Aidan and Hilda, From:Pocket Cletic Prayers, compiled by Martin Wallace.

The feeling fills the heart in a way that’s indescribable, but anyone who’s had any kind of experience will know what I mean. A feeling of connectedness, and of grace, and love and power. It is, for me, a quiet peace. Not the frantic charisma that the modern movement of the Charismatics want you to feel. It is the Deep Peace of the Lord that passes all understanding. That stays with you until the world intervenes.

May the blessing of your God go with you this night, gentle reader, and may He keep you in his hands tonight, and raise you up in the morning.

Amen (so be it).

~BX

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The Experiement (Day 0)

So, there I was, minding my own business chatting with a friend of mine from college about our different approaches to God. I question everything, and she “let’s go, and let’s God”. As things go, she eventually dared me to try it. Just to not think about anything, not to analyse anything, but to simply let go, and let God. So, I said that I would, but only if she would spend the week questioning everything. To want to know the why’s, the how’s and the warefores of Christianity.

She said, “O.K.”.

The two of us stared at each other for a while, as the it dawned on us that this was going to take both of us out of our comfort zone. Not just out, but into a dim and distant land that we can’t even see from our comfort zone.

I am, therefore, about to embark on a week of simply letting God talk into my heart, of letting the spirit take me without question. This could be a very, very strange week, or I could find that I spend a lot of time doing this anyway. Either way it will be an interesting experiment.

It all starts tomorrow. The first thing that occoured to me was that I was going to need a notebook, to keep a rough journal of things that came to me. I’ve left my notebook in the pocket of my coat in the car. The car will be going with my wife tomorrow morning, so I won’t be able to get it.

I guess I just leave that to God.

~BX

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A rough reflection on Term

So, term has started. I thought that I should put a few thoughts down so that over the year I have a marker, to show where I started, and where I was going too, or at least, where I think I’m going too.

Where to start? Last year, as acknowledge by the college as a whole was not good for the community. There were a few issues that caused…. tension between us all. During the second half of last year we were getting over that, begining to heal the wounds. Interestingly, the past three days we seem to be making great progress. Some people have been talking about the bad times of last year, it appears that we’re offloading, rather than trying to scare the first years. Hopefully this “sharing” will actually enable us to move forward. To leave the past where it belongs, and to move forward.

Tomorrow I take the welsh morning prayer, which means a sleepless night. Last year there was the generall feeling that it was not a safe environment to lead services, that someone would say things, would laugh, would point, would… well, you get the idea. That idea is still in my head, still floating around in there, though I think it is less true than it was last term. It’s not that I don’t think I can do it. I can talk confidently in front of people, and I have lead morning prayer for a (small) group of influenctial people while on various types of placement. It’s just leading it here. I have to do it, and I’m well prepared. The Intercessions are written, I’ve read through the service, my cassock and books are by the front door. Everything all where it should be. I’m just nervous. Apparently you never stop being nervous, but hopefully it will stop starting the night before….

The community has changed. There are new people, and I think perhaps new problems. There have been some issues with people and money from a certain place, but with a bit of luck those will be rectified soon. There are people that I can see myself getting along with, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone that I will strongly connect with like I did last year. This, I suppose, is a good thing. I have less time to spend in community now that my wife has moved down, so a few small friendships that allow me to discuss theology, and form simply bonds that (might) last a life time seems to be the way forward.

All in all, however, I think I feel more posetive than I did last year, and definately more possitive than I would have thought possible last year. The college has worked hard to achieve this, they’ve started “diversity training”. Though we were sceptical at first, and the actuall value of the stuff we are learning are questionable, the way that we, as a community, bonded today was actually well worth it. It was fantastic. Oddly, the thing that seemed to have gone down well was the time of “spontaneous prayer” at the end of the session. Though not (technically) my tradition, there was something about the way that we all… raised our hearts together that was magical (yes, I know that Christians object to me using this word, but the English language doesn’t furnish me with one that fits.).

So, here it is. My first reflection. A place to start. Lets see what the year brings.

~B.X

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Eve, distracted by the Shiny

Hello All,

Here’s an interesting thought… Genesis, as a psudo-literal story is a very irritating read. There are two trees in the Garden of Eden, one of Good and Evil, and one Life. When Eve touched the tree, she had disobeyed God (NRSV Genesis 3:3). So she may as well have eaten it.

Lets stop and rewind a little. At this point, Eve is a true innocent. She has no concept of punishment, because she does not know what is “Good”, and by extension, what is “Evil”. She cannot have any concept of what her actions were going to bring about. She knew that God had told her not too, but any kind of reasoning as to why He would do this, or that there could be a punishment is simply beyond here. When she is led by the Serpent to go and look at the tree, she noticed that it was good for food, and pretty, she also noticed that it was desired to make one wise.

So, she was seduced by the pretty shiny thing. She was thrown out of the Garden because of the Shiny.

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of it’s fruit and ate;” (NRSV: Genesis 3:4).

This leaves us with a few problems. Eve, according to the rest of the Bible, was meant to look after Adam. This presumably meant gathering the best food she could find. In the Garden Of Eden, the best fruit available was on the Tree Of Knowledge, or the Tree of Life. Admitedly, the serpent showed her the Tree Of Knowledge first, but presumably, eventually she would have found it, and seen that it was Good.

The second is that she desired knowledge. A woman, who wanted to know things. The Bible says that a woman should not seek knowledge on her own, she must be led by a men. Presumably, the Serpant was a man, so she was following the general feeling of the Bible. You have to remember, Eve had no idea that it was wrong, because she had no concept of the word. Had Eve not been a woman; had Adam found the tree, then presumably this would have been more desirable, because the REST of the O.T. does not condemn the search for knowledge, rather she (wisdom) is to be positively searched for. Wisdom is the most important thing a man can desire.

So what on earth are we to take away from this tale? On the surface, God is a parent who doesn’t really understand toddlers. Telling a toddler not to do something, and leaving it in a room with another Adult that says “Do this”. The toddler, who has no real concept of right and wrong, will follow what the adult tells it to do, it trusts the adult*.

What of Adam? His job, or at least, the job of Men as dictated by the Bible was to look after the women, and to ensure that they didn’t get themselves into trouble. If they did so, it was HIS fault. Where was Adam? Being a man, as usual. There was house-work to be done, gathering food, so he was, of course, unavailable.

So, what then, did we get thrown out for? This was the days of the wrathful God, so perhaps He’d had a bad day. My guess, is that the answer is a little further down. The Lord God comes to the Garden, and our newly clothed couple get afraid, and HIDE. The Lord calls to the them, “Where are you?” (NRSV: Genesis 3:9). Adam answers that he had heard God, and was afraid of being naked before God.

This, naturally upsets God. Now they know the knowledge of Good and Evil, they can no-longer remain in the Garden. Perhaps this is because they are no-longer immortal, the down-side to the knowledge is death. God, however, doesn’t just throw them out into the cold, harsh world. He stops and makes them clothes of skin to keep them warm.

Satan wanted us out of the Garden (according to apocraphyl sources), because he was Jelous. Because we had eaten of the tree of Knowledge before the tree of life, we were condemned to the world before we were fully armed. Now, armed with our knowledge, we are to seek the tree of life, so that we may show our pass to the Cherubim, and be re-admited.

~E.R.

Re-Interpreting the Bible.

* It trusts the Adult, providing it’s own experiences tell it otherwise. “Hot”, “Bad” etc. YMMV with this annalogy.

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Goddess Rita, and the minor God, Olly

I was Stumbling around the internet, as is my want, when I really should have been doing other things, and I came accross a wonderful article about someone who’s trying to create a minor god called Olly. It was the kind of article with such a random opening that I found myself reading it. There was nothing really new in the article, appart from the idea of the minor god Olly, but there were a few things that I thought worthy of repeating.

We’ve all heard of the myths about Parking. My fellow students here at college will often pray to the Blessed Virgin, or Christ himself for a parking space. I’ve heard many people who have similar beliefs to various gods. This article, however, talks about the modern creation of the Goddess Rita, to fulfill the need of a society continually searching to deal with a brain hard-wired to deal with belief.

The Lovely Goddess Rita, Meta Maid comes from the Song by the Beatles. The worship is not just of offering a prayer when in search of a parking place, you must also put coins into expired parking meters, saying “Praise Rita” as they turn the handle on the meter. Her worship song is of course, the song by the Beatles, all of this seems to enable the people who pray to Rita to gain a parking space.

I found the idea fascinating. We often forget that Gods are meant to help us out with the day-to-day things. Christians would pray about all sorts of things, and liberal uses of “arrow” prayers to help people get through the day. The thing is, that people seem to have an innate sense of fair-play. It is not fair for someoen to continually get a parking space that might deny someone else, without that person doing something in return for the God. In the case of Rita, filling up parking meters and such-like. Christ requires us to pass on our good fortune to others, however we find them. It is this “fair-play” that allows us feel that it is okay to keep asking these strang, small things.

You will find a number of webpages on the net that caution against making selfish prayer. I think that tends to forget the fact that God can say “No”. Often when He does, He has a reason, one that we might not be able to see. I guess, perhaps, that Rita has the ability to say no, but the article doesn’t go into any depth on the complications of her Theology. Perhaps that’s beacuse she doesn’t need one. It is very difficult being a Christian, spending most of your time defending your religion, to remember that there are times when it requires nothing more than a few words and actions of thanks to gain the Grace of God.

So what of Olly? Well, Olly is not yet a fully-formed god. The writer of the article is looking for a god that will ease the mind of those troubles that can’t be helped. The ones that keep you awake at night. You know you’ve done everything you can to prepare, and all there is to do now is sleep, but your worried mind won’t let you. This is where Olly comes in. Olly is vaugly designed to be someone who can take those cares away from you. Olly being short for “Olly Olly Oxenfree”, the call home in hide and seek. The writer is trying to find out what Olly requires, how he should be contacted, and how prayers and worship should be carried out.

Of course, as Christians, we have Christ. He’s a multi-function God. The Swiss-Army Knife of Deieties. He’s there for everything. This, again, causes a problem. For our “fair-play” minds, we feel that we must some-how give something back. Christ does have a list of things that we should do, mostly centering around being good to one another, and worshiping God, but for many people in today’s world, the rituals are so far removed from their life that they no-longer makes sense. In the artlce, the writer talks about how he invented a “spirit of inquiriy” to help him through the day at Job that wasn’t as good as it could have been. This is a spirit that’s in amoungst people, directly affecting his life. The Christian Church used to point to Angles, but it appears that even that has been lost, and forgotten. Angelology has now become the recourse of the “self-help” section of book stores, with a list of magic-spells used to conjour and control your angel. I’m not sure that pushing a devine being around like that is a good idea… why don’t we just go back to asking them? Not worshiping them, but just asking for their help. There is a distinct difference.

As the writer of the article says, there is only one way to know what Olly wants from him. To pray the most simple prayer. The first prayer that anyone seeking any God should pray.

So my first prayer is the one I would offer to any new divinity: Reveal yourself to me. Teach me to pray.

Perhaps we should all give that a go.

~Black Xanthus

Source: UUworld.org

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Holy Week Excurstions

A few days late, but I figure that I should write up what I did for Holy Week. Admitedly it’s a bit like what I did on holiday, but hopefully less cheesy and more spiritually enlightening.

I spent the week, along with 3 other ordinands along a gruelling Holy Week. this seemed to mostly be because I spent the week suffering from new bed syndrome. It was a very High, or at least, trying wanting to be High Church, so morning and evening prayer, with at least Eucharist once per day. We spent some time taking part in the services, mostly by being thrown in the deep end. We would show up, to find that nothing had really been organised, and we would be pressed into leading the service, or reading.

We had been asked before the week to lead the 3 hour Good Friday devotion, but everything else was being worked out by the seat of our pants. We had a brief meeting on Monday, but that was mostly allocating the visits to the retirement homes, and the home communions. Everything else was pretty much based on the plan of services that had been laid down.

There were four activities that I took away with me from this week. Each that affected me in a different way, and all, mostly, surprising.

The first was a full day of reading the Gospels. People were allocated a 10 minit slot, and a slice of one of the 4 gospels to read. They could bring their own Bible, or use the Bible left on the Lectern. The wonderful thing about this was the kids that were there from the “Sunday Club” (what was traditionally called Sunday School). They had all arranged/been allocated slots next to each other, and were all sat together to support each other in their readings. There was something moving about it. Though there were not many people actually sitting for the readings, the visitors to the church (it being a popular tourist town) were hearing the gospels read as they wandered round. There was something powerful about the whole experience.

The next was the service foot washing service on Maundy Thursday. The actuall foot washing, though effective, was not nearly as affective as it could have been. It is possible this is because it was the first time that the Church had tried something like it, so a lot of people were a little confused about it all. The message seemed to have been lost because of what it felt like a lack of cohesion of the service. That said, having had my feet washed, I opted to wander around the church barefoot, because the length of time it would have taken for me to put my boots back on would have had me sat in the chairs while the Eucharist prayer began. There was something raw and spiritual about wandering around barefoot in that sacred space.

The Good Friday service was… intense. Yet it worked. We took a dark approach to it. We left very little room for hope, but tried to get people to think about the sacrifice. We had addresses from the point of view of Thomas, the Centurion, Peter and Mary. After the address by Mary, we got someone to sing Let It Be. What surprised us was that there were people in tears. We were told that people were coming in from the streets. We had also been told that by the end of the three hour service, there would only be a handful of people left. That was not the case. It stunned all of us. It was a simple service, one that we had not thought that we’d put a lot of work into, but it appears that the message we had put forward was one that people had wanted to hear. We reached out and touch people. A wonderful reminder of why it is that we’re going through these three years of stressful training.

The Saturday Easter Fire
. This was an interesting service, though there was something about the timing that was missing. It starts with a fire outside, which is blessed. Then this light is carried into the church, where all the candles are lit, as well as the candles that are being held by the congregation. It contains a re-affirmation of baptismal vows, where the congregation are sprinkled with holy water. It felt like it needed to be a bit higher, perhaps with a thurable being swung, and a large stone cross. This would have been a powerful service, appart from one parent with a very, very board child, that insisted on screaming through the service. It child was repeatedly being silenced, but it was obvious that the child needed to have been taken outside. I don’t mind children in Chuch during a standard service, but this special service was successfully ruined by this child. A few loud screams, not a problem, but consistent noise throughout the service is what did it.

There were a few other things that happened there. The strangest being meeting a woman who was unsure about her calling, mostly because she felt that the Church that she was working for was full of all those hypocrites that she despised, that nothing new was happening there. She had put her calling on hold. Our presence there, answering her questions about college, about the training, her being able to see the service that we did on Good Friday and assuring her that it was a fairly standard service, all of that seemed to help. We all made a friend that week.

It was an experience that I hope will stay with me for a long, long time. It reminds me why it is that we’re going through the process of training. It reaffirms our calling, and knowing that we are going in the right direction.

He is very good to us.

~BX

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