Searching for Church – Sunday’s lesson

thenwhy    from Asbo Jesus blog – Jon Birch

Sunday morning was a salutary reminder of two things. Firstly, how grateful I should be for the company of former employers and fellow employees of Frontier Youth Trust and Oasis College of Higher Education. Working alongside them I have been encouraged, allowed and even required to think, some would say “outside the box” although I tend to prefer Tom Peter’s view “Box? What box? I don’t see no box. Screw the box.”. As should be the case with all good study my chief learning outcomes have been to realise how little I know and how much there is to read about everything.

In all areas of faith and life being able to talk, discuss, debate, disagree and occasionally think aloud the unthinkable has been a huge privilege I have simply come to take for granted. Being part of these authentic communities of practice, being able to negotiate my identity within them and experience the grace and generosity of spirit they try to model has been formative for me. Yes, of course I could come up with a list where over the years there were ‘bad’ situations where we could have handled things better, where we could have been more gracious, more generous. Even so, overall, I’m truly grateful for the chance to be part of a “Christian community . . . where we keep the flame of hope alive among us and take it seriously so that it can grow” (Henri Nouwen).

Which brings me to the more ranting bit of this post and here I’ll leave out names and locations. As I have recently moved house I am trying to find a faith-based “community of practice”, a.k.a. a church, to be part of in a new location. The second salutary lesson of Sunday came in the form of the sermon which was the most ill-informed, untheological effort I have heard for decades. The visiting speaker, spoke well and wore a rather sharp suit. He managed to take part of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ and miss the point so completely that it had no savour and shed no light.

He claimed Biblical authority at every turn as unrelated Bible texts were juxtaposed to suit his agenda is a quite breath-taking misuse of scripture. History was reinterpreted for us in a resolutely childish manner – no, I take that back as it represents an insult to children everywhere. It wasn’t childish it was ‘1066 and All That’ but without any sense of irony. The state of the British Empire and commitment to Christian faith in the United Kingdom are according to the Bible (allegedly, Jeremiah) inextricably linked and thus we don’t have an empire anymore because we have sold out our status as a Christian nation, I seem to remember Darwin got the blame for this. As to the interpretation regarding the current State of Israel – I can’t even begin to unpack the anti-semetic garbage that underpinned it. I live in hope the speaker hadn’t actually thought the logical conclusion of this bit through.

I think it was intended to be a ‘challenging word’, it was, the biggest challenge was sticking it out to the end to see if got any better. It didn’t. He concluded by stressing to us that he there was statistical proof that what people wanted was sound biblical teaching – they didn’t get it.

“That”, as Forrest would say “is all I have to say about that.” Well, no, that isn’t true. . . but I’ve reached the end of trying to be civil.

Changing lights – Red to Green

I was rejected and in despair. The Labour Party’s leadership election had left me cold. The bulk of MPs backing Owen Smith, or perhaps it was hatred of the other candidate, just didn’t seem to correlate with the level of support for Jeremy Corbyn amongst the local Constituency Labour Parties.

At first I thought the £25 fee wildly undemocratic and all the High Court/Court of Appeal juggling beyond embarrassing. It did cross my mind that this was a fundraising scam to increase party funds. That would have been manipulative and sneaky but at least it would mean that this wasn’t the PLP acting in a mean-minded way to exclude poor people from engaging in the democratic process.

Then, the rejection email arrived, no explanation, despite registering on 20th July, I “do not currently hold any status with the Labour Party”. I briefly hoped this marked a return to good socialist principles on the relevance of social status. But no, apparently not, it actually meant I was ‘persona non grata’ in the leadership election process.

So, there I was attempting to support a party which, except for the last election, I had voted for since the early eighties. A party whose existing Westminster elite, although unelectable as a government themselves, seem to believe that policy rooted in social democratic values is unelectable. In September last year Paul Krugman observed, in the New York Times, that The Corbyn upset isn’t about a sudden left turn on the part of Labour supporters. It’s mainly about the strange, sad moral and intellectual collapse of Labour moderates”

Sorry Labour I did try, really I did but I’m going with the Greens. They believe in shared leadership something you clearly don’t. Peter Tatchell recently tweeted that the Greens are “a democratic, united, radical, visionary party”. Labour, that was supposed to be your job. Of course, the true reason for my shift from Red to Green is really incredibly shallow – any party which can put a Blues Drummer of the Year nominee into a leadership position gets my vote.