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  • Christians in Politics

    I was - and am - saddened by Tim Farron's decision to step down as leader of the Lib Dems citing incompatibility between his faith and his role.  I admire what I perceive as a gracious, honest and integrity-filled statement of his reasons - which will of course have read by many of other faiths or none. I've read many repsonses on line, ranging from generous to ungenerous, informed to uninformed, kneejerk to considered.  What I'm writing attempts to be generous and honest, if not researched or espically considered.

    I am sad that he feels he cannot continue to lead his party, and that for him the tension between faith and poltics has proved untenable at this level.  I think, in principle, he is wrong to say that being a Christian and leading a political party is not possible, and the evidence of others through the years would support my view (and I don't mean the superficial claims made by some who, it seems, can go to church on Sunday and bash the poor in Monday).  I also repsect that, for him, it is so.  There are huge differences between general principles and personal experiences.

    Many have commented on the unfairness of the repeated questioning on his views of same sex relationships, and, in my view, it was unfair, if by that we mean every other leader should have been asked the same or equivalent questions.  There were questions he wasn't asked that others were; maybe that's unfair too.  As my Dad used to say, no-one ever said life would be fair.  I am saddened that this one question seems to have become the focus, and perhaps the tipping point, when there was so much that was uncontentious and positive... afterall his party increased thier number of MPs so presumably he did suceeded there.

    I am glad and grateful for all people of faith, Christian and otherwise, who enter the world of party politics.  I am grateful for their willingness to try to hold together faith and deeds, to make a difference for the good (imagine any of the parties without the salt and luight of their presence).

    I wish Tim Farron well for the future.  I pray that he finds peace and joy and fulfillment in his next steps.  perosanlly, I wish he hadn't felt the need to step down and had been able to find a way to hold the tension creatively.  If nothing else, his decision has reminded me of the reality of being open about faith in a very visible public role.

  • Not Ein Feste Burg afterall!

    The conference was the best one I've been to in Scotland, and vasty different from my experience back in 2010 when it was not an easy place to be.

    The title was irrelevent - none of the speakers were using it - and actually the overall sense was one of gentleness and relaxation.  Some of the hymnody was not the greatest, but that's alwasy an easy hit.  I had an easy get out of singing one, the lyrics of which included the phrase 'I am a sinful man' - erm, nope.

    The Psalm 27 studies were fine, nothing to set the heather alight and some seriously iffy exegesis in places, but over all, good stuff that was uncontentious.  The two seminars I attended - on 'sabbath' and on 'prayer' likewise were good stuff but nothing new.  That is totally fine, sometimes it's good to be reminded of familiar stuff, and it was certainly all very positive and encouraging.

    It was good to catch up with people I know and cherish, and also to see people I've interviewed at the Board of Ministry (who seem to have no problem remembring me - is that a good thing?!)

    I'm glad I went, and for the first time in eight years have returned home feeling the sense of wellbeing that had previously known at such events.  Patience and waiting were among the virtues alluded to by the various speakers... it's good to see that patiently sticking at it and waiting in the hope of a more affirming experience has finally come good.  Perhpas that is something to keep in mind in other areas too.

  • Interpretive Choices

    Today I'm heading off to St Andrews for the annual ministers' conference.  I am looking forward to catching up with colleagues and friends in lovely surroundings and hoping for a good few days.

    One thing troubles me, even before I go, which is the title of the event, "A Mighty Fortress".  I am sure it's been chosen because it's the title of Martin Luther's hymn, 'Ein Feste Burg' and because there's a lot of stuff around at the moment relating to the 500th anniversary of Luther's 39 theses nailed to the door of the Wittenberg church that history tells us began the protestant Reformation.  I get all that.


    The focus is on Psalm 27 which, in English translation doesn't use the word 'fortress' at all:

    The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (KJV)

    The Lord is my light and my salvation; I will fear no one. The Lord protects me from all danger; I will never be afraid. (GNB)

    The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid? (NIV)

    The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold/refuge of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (NRSV)

    God as refuge, shelter, strength, even stronghold - this is a very different image from a fortress, at least in contemporary English usage.

    In a world where there is so much violence and suffering, use of militaristic imagery isn't helpful.  God as fortress - as a military power to quash enemies, however they are defined, doesn't seem a good idea to me.  And I don't think it's what Psalm 27 says anyway.

    I am fearful that such langauge encourages a form of Christian defensiveness and aggression that troubles me deeply.  The world is not our enemy, we are not to flee from it, rather we are to be salt and light, sacrificially entering ther world to transform it.

    I'm hoping to be very pleasantly surprised...

    I hope, I genuinely hope, that this will be an opportunity to encounter something fresh of God.  So I'm going with an open mind and an open heart.

  • The least of these...

    The contrast between a Hebridean beach and the Emirates cricket ground in Old Trafford could hardly be more stark.  A lone piper plays laments as the flag-draped coffin of a 14 year-old girl is carried across the beach en route to its final resting place.

    Today a family laid to rest their beautiful daughter, one of 22 people killed in Manchester.  Today their reaonsable hopes and dreams for her were buried in the rich earth of the place where she had played a child.

    There are no words to speak in the face of such tragedy.  There is nothing that can begin to touch the pain the sorrow of those who knew and loved Eilidh MacLeod.

    Eilidh is one person, and in some small way symbolises the countless people who, world-wide, are innocent victims of terror attacks.  She is one of "the least of these" of whom Jesus speaks - and the way we treat them, the things we do or fail to do for them, are done to him.

    Rest peacefully, Eilidh.  I never knew you, you are, to me, just a name, just a photograph on a television screen.  To your family, and to all who knew and loved you, you are more precious than gold, more beautiful than diamonds, and leave an unfillable gap in their lives.  May God hold you - and all vitims of terror and violence - safely in the arms of love.

    Eternal rest grant unto her, oh Lord,

    And let perpetual light shine upon her

    May she rest in peace


  • Love Wins...

    Some eagle eyed OB crew member spotted this wonderful moment when a police officer was dancing with children at the #OneLoveManchester event last night, and managed to get it broadcast.  The video lasts just about one second, but speaks volumes.

    Personally, I don't want to see more armed police on our streets.  Armed response can be summoned very swiftly if needed - and can be targeted where needed.  Others of course may think differently.

    This image is defiant and fun and utterly-British (I'd say Mancunian but I know the same spirit exists in London and Glasgow and Warrington, all places I've lived and all of which have known tragedy).  It says that evil cannot defeat good.  It says that fear cannot defeat enjoyment.  It says that love wins.

    Last night Ariana Grande fronted an event that was a peaceful and joyful rejection of evil.  Many profound - and apparently faith-based - words were spoken by young performers.  That this response was possible gives me hope.