Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

Defending Philippa Stroud

May 20, 2010

During the election campaign I met Robin Miller, the Conservative candidate for Arfon. It was during the Church’s hustings it became clear that Robin was a Christian and a pentecostal one at that. A lot of what he said struck a chord with me so after the hustings ended I made sure I got a chat with him before leaving. First of all I told him straight away that I wouldn’t be voting for him because he held unionist views and he politely told me that he respected that but that he still wished to discuss things with me. He told me that he was working at the Centre for Social Justice, a’n independent (but Conservative leaning) think tank researching and developing policies on poverty.

It all sounded very interesting so after I got home I turned to Google and went to the CSJ’s website and found that Robin’s boss and CSJ Director was the now famous Philippa Stroud. Over the past few weeks the name Philippa Stroud became a swear word for the liberal-secularists and although she didn’t get elected as MP her appointment by Ian Duncan Smith as special advisor sugests that she’ll be a punch bag for some time to come. Google her name and you’ll see what I mean. Basically she was involved with a Church that, allegedly, prayed over to ‘cure’ gay people. I say allegedly because Philippa Stroud denies the allegations and The Guardian has now pulled the story sighting unreliable sources.

This is, of course, a very sensitive issue but I feel compelled to contribute to the very public discussion about Philippa Stroud. First of all let me dare to defend the practice of praying with gay people who ask you to do so. For people who believe the Bible one can’t deny that gay sex is seen as sin, if you do not believe this I respect that, but you must recognise that this is what the Bible teaches even if you don’t believe that yourself. So, if a gay Christian (note, I believe that a gay person can be Christian) want’s to turn his or her back on gay sex in order to walk in the light of the word and asks me to pray with them about it I see no problem with that. It wouldn’t be any different to praying over any Christian who struggles with any other temptation.

But let us put the specific issue to the side at the moment because I think the witch hunt Philippa Stroud’s had to endure is a sign of a deeper shift in society. Her view of homosexuality isn’t the true bone of contention I don’t think, but rather the fact that she publicly confesses faith in Jesus and membership of his Church. The tone of most articles, reports and blogs about Philippa Stroud suggest that people who hold a faith perspective are essentially unfit to hold public office. This view is symptomatic of the anti-Christian liberalism which is rampant throughout society today. Secular society needs to understand that Christians give to God what is God’s and give to Cesar what is Cesars and that we, nonconformists with pentecostals included, strongly believe in the split between state and church. There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that I, Robin Miller or Philippa Stroud or whoever else have any intention to enforce our Christian values on society through the secular state if we ever get to hold it’s rains of power.

Finally, what is rather ironic about Philippa Stroud is that she is rather left-wing by Conservative party standards. There’s no denying that the work of the Centre for Social Justice under her leadership has been responsible for putting forward a Conservative vision of social justice that is much more progressive and to the left than what we would expect of the party.

Now, I don’t know why I’ve felt a need to defend Philippa Stroud? I’ve never met her and it is quite possible that she is a rather unpleasant person! But I feel that I have to defend her as she, whatever her personal quirks are, is a fellow follower of Jesus and her track record of working with the poorest people on the margins of society suggests that her attitude towards social justice policy will be beneficial and a salt like influence to any future Conservative government. The primary role of the church is to save souls, state and government has a different role to play and I trust Philippa Stroud knows this.

Advertisements

It’s election time…

April 9, 2010

I’ve just returned from Llanw, a Welsh Language Christian festival, the closest thing we have in Welsh speaking Wales to Spring Harvest. One of the seminars was lead by Arfon Jones, the faithful servant who’s working on beibl.net a sort of Welsh on-line Youth Bible. Arfon has a great passion for the Bible as a whole (obviously) but he’s at his best when he talks about what the Bible teaches us about justice; so I looked forward to his seminar on ‘A bias towards the poor’. He said a lot of challenging things but one thing that stood out to me was his warning that we as Christians, evangelicals included, tended to be selective in our Bible reading with regard to the poor and justice issues. The Bible does not compromise as politicians today do on these issues.

He said that we have a tendency to over spiritualize verses of the Bible. For example, we tend to claim that Jesus was talking about spiritual poverty when in reality he was really talking about real poverty etc… In other words we like to read the Bible through the eyes of our own lifestyle and our own political and social values instead of letting the Bible steer out lifestyle and our political and social values.

In this election climate I think Arfon’s challenge is especially important. As Christians we must not let our politics govern our faith but let our faith govern our politics. Over the next few weeks in the build up to election day I hope, time willing, to discuss what this means in practise.

Empire is sin incarnated

February 26, 2010

The highlight of sin in this world is empire and imperialism, both shown by force and subtle political leanings against the oppressed. Politicians and individuals who don’t see the sin of empire in their beliefs and actions are as blind as we all are to our own sin, if it wasn’t for the Holy Spirit to have opened our eyes. Empire does damage but it always looses in the end because it’s master lost the greater battle and the King of Kings won – Jesus. Thats why I live in hope despite current evil attitudes towards Welsh, Scottish and Irish freedom aspirations from English centric politicians both in London and from within the Celtic nations.

Will the real Jesus please stand up? (MP3)

November 30, 2009

I was kindly invited to speak at Penrallt’s Youth service on Saturday night. The theme of the talk was ‘Will the real Jesus please stand up?’. Most of the material, as faithfull Driscoll listeners will know, is taken from the first chapter of Vintage Jesus.

Unfortunately the first few minutes are missing from the recording but you can pick the thread of the message fine from where the recording starts.

Download MP3 (PC: Right Click+’Save File As…’, MAC: Ctrl+Click+’Download Linked file…’)

Extremist

November 28, 2009

Quote of the day from Martin Luther King. Most famous for leading the civil rights movement but also a Minister of the Gospel.

The question is not whether we will be extremist but what kind of extremist will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love?

Martin Luther King page on RE:Jesus

The wacky and daring Philip Pullman

November 24, 2009

Meanwhile, my attention was draw to this superb article by George Pitcher today. George is an Anglican priest and the Telegraphs Religion Editor. He utterly destroys Dawkins and his atheist brigade using a dynamic mix of wit, humor and plain knowledge.

Here are my favorite passages. In this one he points out that Pullman isn’t the radical he claims to be:

Yesterday, it was the turn of the millionaire author Philip Pullman, who’s writing an alternative ending to the story of Jesus Christ. Well, how wacky and daring. “A friend” is quoted as saying: “He knows it will be controversial, but he has some serious points to make.” Perhaps as serious as the scholars and theologians who have wrestled with the doctrine of the atonement since the time of Augustine, or the late, great Oxford don John Macquarrie, who posited a viable alternative ending to the Christian story at the Cross, with no resurrection. C S Lewis was imagining alternative Christian narratives when Pullman – who reportedly claimed in 2001 that his aim was “to undermine the basis of Christian belief” – was just an idea in the mind of God. Do these people actually read any theology before presuming that they’re being envelope-pushingly radical?

In this he points out the hilarity of Dawkins blindness to his own religious prejudices:

But I suppose it’s easier to decide that all Christians are brainwashed, wall-eyed literalists, that there is no catholic tradition of mystery, that the Reformation never happened and that we are driven by the imperative to force our religion on the next generation – a charge I would take a little more seriously if Prof Dawkins hadn’t recently endorsed atheist summer camps for children.

George brings his article to a close by calling on the atheists to “relax, fellas” because “we’re not forcing our faith on you or our children. We’re just trying, like you, to make sense of the world.”

Osian jailed as part of the struggle for equal rights for Welsh speakers

November 5, 2009

Tomorrow, Friday November 6th at 9.30 am my friend, Osian Jones, North Wales organiser for Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society) will be sentenced to a month in prison by Pwllheli Magistrates. The magistrates have already warned him that he faces imprisonment because of his refusal to pay fines for his part in non-violent direct action on High Street stores as part of a Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg’s campaign for a comprehensive Welsh Language Measure that would give Welsh speakers equal rights in all spheres of society.

Osian will be the second member of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg to go to prison this year. Ffred Ffransis was imprisoned back in June for refusing to pay fines also imposed for his part in the campaign for a comprehensive Welsh Language Measure.

Osian Jones said:

It’s interesting that both Ffred and I faced prison this year for our part in this particular campaign. What is more significant is that Ffred the ‘offences’ for which Ffred was imprisoned go back to January 2001 which proves that this particular campaign has been long and hard. The sad thing is, that the Welsh Language LCO which is now on offer, and which is the product of all this campaigning is utterly inadequate since it does not give the Welsh people their legitimate linguistic rights which enables them to live their lives fully through the medium of Welsh, nor does it’s powers extend to the private sector.”

“Even though we argued our case with conviction before committees in both the National Assembly and at Westminster it became obvious to us that the legislative process in Wales is both wearisome and defective, and that we have no choice but to continue with our direct action campaign. I hope that my imprisonment will give other people the inspiration to campaign for the language and that we will see the responsibility for legislating on the Welsh language transferred in it’s entirety to the National Assembly in the near future. The Welsh people have had to wait a long time to see their linguistic rights realised. They deserve a great deal more than the LCO which is now on offer.

Please pray that God will grant Osian courage as he faces the next month behind bars in the name of a just cause.

My first English sermon

October 28, 2009

Last Sunday I preached at Penrallt, the English Baptist church in Bangor. I must admit that I was nervous wreck beforehand because my whole spiritual life, except for my regular does of State side MP3’s, is lived entirely through the Welsh language. But I think that the Holy Spirit carried the sermon through in the end. It’s in the reading at the start and the prayer at the end that it’s most obvious that I’m communicating in my second language.

After conquering my nerves the sermon went well. It was nice to preach in-front of a large and young audience and it was great seeing people laughing at my jokes – jokes that just fall flat on their face when I try them out in Welsh churches! But the most encouraging thing was to see people coming to me at the end thanking me and telling me that God spoke to them through the sermon.

Here is the sermon:

I hope I’ll get more opportunity to preach in English in the future but I’m still sure that God has called me to whiteness through the Welsh Churches.

Start Something Tour Video Diary

October 8, 2009

Back in July my band, Society Profiad, went on the Start Something Tour with The Repercussion, Tom Whitman and Steff Elis. Most of the video is in Welsh but the most interesting part of the video is in English – if you skip to 2.30 you can see what we got up to in Casllwchwr the birthplace of the 1904 Revival.

NOOMA Soundtrack, Vol. 001

September 24, 2009

Most Christian music i listen too are not really my kind of music. In other words if it weren’t Christian I wouldn’t listen to it! Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin and Tim Hughes write brilliant worship music but if it were not worship music their musical genre wouldn’t even come on my radar. They’r good at what they do, very good, and I have been blessed through their music but you get my point right? If Tim Hughes was not a Christian he’d probably be James Blunt, and to be blunt about it I wouldn’t buy that album.

Brie+StonerBut two Christian albums I bought recently are albums I would definitely have bought even if they were’t Christian. The first is the NOOMA Soundtrack, Vol. 001, the second is Mars Hill’s Rain City LP which I’ll talk about in another post some time soon. With Rob Bell’s NOOMA video’s one of the things that first struck me on the production side was the amazing music and the producer/editor’s subtle and effective use of it. The soundtrack, like most soundtracks, is a compilations with a handfull of tracks by two artist; five tracks by Brie Stoner and eight by David Vandervelde.

dvBrie’s vocals, especially in the opening track Rain Down, are totally mesmerizing. She sounds a bit like Gwen Stefani which you’ll all be familiar with after she sang Don’t Speak with her band No Doubt some twelve years now! Stylistically it’s sort of melodic indy-rock which is cool. The second artist David Vandervelde is a cool guy also. Once again what we have here is indy-rock with slightly less melody than Brie which is satisfyingly replaced with psychedelia. Where Brie is down in LA unsigned looking for the big brake David is based up in Grand Rapids, Michigan home of Rob Bell’s church; but David can be found, according to his wikipedia entry, at Bethel Reformed Church every Sunday – a reality I find hard to conjure in my head but then again who would of thought the U2 rockers would be big mass goers. Hold on… no, he’s based in Nashville according to his MySpace. Anyway, it’s not important!

Here are their MySpaces:
Brie Stoner
David Vandervelde

And the NOOMA soundtrack can be found on iTunes for £7.99 which is worth every penny.