Tuesday 26 June 2007

Obama: "Faith got hijacked."

Obama said Saturday that the religious right had “hijacked” faith and divided the country by exploiting issues like abortion, same-sex marriage and school prayer.—“But somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together,” Mr. Obama said. “Faith started being used to drive us apart. Faith got hijacked.”

read more | digg story

I think Obama has hit the nail on the head here - Reminds me of what a lot of people have been saying recently about the current hunger for spirituality being a quest for connection and community while institutional religion (not least Christianity) seems more concerned with marking boundaries and raising barriers.

Wednesday 20 June 2007

Spread a little Love wherever you go!

Now your soles really can magnify the Lord. Shoes of the Fisherman sandals leave their unique message "in the sand at the seashore, on sidewalks after a rain shower, and on wet pool decks." Because, "while the words disappear as the sands shift and the sidewalk dries, these footprints leave the greatest impression on the soul."

Hand-finished in Thailand, Shoes of the Fisherman sandals are blue and white with a contoured insole, and are "waffled to keep feet cool." Take your first steps into a new world of witnessing for just $19.95 (plus postage and packing). Available here.

I suppose thats what you call "Walking the Talk"

Marriage and Pre-nuptial agreements

Like most clergy one of the happier parts of my job is conducting marriages. They are very fulfilling to be involved in and I always feel a certain privilege in my role as officiant. However one development which seems likely to become a part of the scene in Ireland is the pre-nuptial agreement which will it seems to me make it difficult for those of us who act on behalf of churches to continue to do so where such agreements are entered into.

Why am I so worried or what is my concern? Well it comes down to this: From a Christian perspective marriage is a covenant not a contract and there is a significant difference. A contract can be voided by mutual agreement and is based on limited liability and on distrust. A covenant cannot be broken in new circumstances and is based on unlimited responsibility and trust between the parties.

But what about divorce - does it not already undermine the covenant of marriage? I am a realist and I do believe that people should get second chances and that most marriages which end in divorce were entered into in good faith. However if on the other hand you enter into a marriage with the conditions for dissilution already discussed it seems you are 'preparing to fail' and that is a fairly hopeless and sad basis for any relationship.

So what would I do if asked to officiate at a wedding where the couple had entered into such an agreement? I think I would have to refuse, for to do otherwise seems to me dishonest and misleading. The Church wedding is not just a fancy backdrop to a civil occasion. It is something different than the civil ceremony and perhaps we need to make that clear to those who are embarking on this path in life.

Double Misconception!

A mother of seven has today been awarded €90,000 in damages after a sterilisation operation failed and she gave birth to two children. However, Mr Justice Peter Kelly refused to award the woman and her now estranged husband damages for the cost of rearing the two children to adulthood. In what was the first claim of its kind, the couple had said they should receive the same costs as would have been incurred if the two children were raised in foster care. They were seeking just over €381,000 in damages for that aspect of the case. (RTE.ie)

Not simple this case - it seems that the doctor knew that the operation had failed and explained the first post-op baby by saying the mother was already expecting when the procedure was done! I imagine he was praying hard that she would subsequently feel called to chastity - but like St Augustine it was a case of 'not yet' and so his failure was rumbled.

I think the judge got it right - not least because of the consequences for the two children whose parents would effectively be compensated for their existence. Whatever the circumstances of the mother concerned it seems unhelpful for all concerned to bring economic compensation into the delicate mix that is parental love and care. I know that they never planned to have more children (obviously) and that they had good reason but would such massive financial compensation really make it alright? I suspect it would make an already difficult situation even more devisive. This was a case where the wisdom of Solomon was called for and in his arguments Mr Justice Peter Kelly did a good job. The judge said that the benefits of having a healthy child outweighed any loss incurred in rearing them. And he said that if he did award damages in such a case it would open the door to a limitless range of claims in respect of every aspect of family life.

Common sense won the day and on this occassion we have been well served by our judiciary.

10 Commandments for the road!

This from the Vatican:

Drivers’ “Ten Commandments”

61. With the request for motorists to exercise virtue, we have drawn up a special “decalogue” for them, in analogy with the Lord’s Ten Commandments. These are stated here below, as indications, considering that they may also be formulated differently.


You shall not kill.


The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.


Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.


Be charitable and help your neighbour in need, especially victims of accidents.


Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.


Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.


Support the families of accident victims.


Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.


On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.


Feel responsible towards others.

Hmmm - now we await the "Summary of the Law" Any suggestions?

Giving God a bad name?

The following is a comment (a very long comment!) which I sent in response to a posting by fellow Irish blogger GUBU aka Sarah Carey (Sunday Times columnist and frequent panellist on various Irish TV/Radio shows). Sarah was discussing a recent book by Christopher Hitchens: God is not Great: The case against Religion. In her blog she points to a radio interview with the author’s brother who disagrees radically with him. My comment is so long and obviously erudite I thought it worthy of posting on my own blog ;-):

Sarah – interesting clip. I had already read a review of Hitchens book in the ST culture section this past weekend. The reviewer, Christopher Hart saw through the circular nature of most of his arguments (“All wicked rulers are in essence religious, and therefore all religion is wicked”) but bizarrely in my opinion seemed to swallow the portrayl by Hitchins of Jesus as anti-Gentile, otherworldly and focussed on what I call the “I’m a Christian – Get me out of here!” attitude to the World.

Sadly this ‘evacuation theology’ (Thank you Rob Bell for that wonderful description) is what Christianity has for the most part presented to the World and one can hardly blame Hitchens and the like for reacting against it. But it is soooooo wrong! Jesus was not about pie in the sky when you die! When he was asked to show his disciples how to pray he said “thy kingdom come ON EARTH as it is in Heaven! In other word’s this world is not simply a waiting room for something better – this is it! As Rob Bell a contemporary writer and Christian pastor put it when speaking in Dublin last week: “Nobody gets beamed up!”

And as for being anti-Gentile…..what Bible was he reading?…..This is the Jesus who was so radically inclusive and contemptuous of barriers and boundaries that he got up enough noses to get crucified! Tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritains, lepers, all the unwanted people on the margins were the ones Jesus hung out with – despite what the Christian Right might like to tell us.

The problem is not so much with Jesus but with Christianity as a religion and how it presents (misrepresents) Jesus and in that sense Hitchens is justified in much of his criticism. As Mahatma Gandhi famously said: “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

If you want a great read on the Church’s misrepresentation of Jesus, which is as much for atheists as Christians can I suggest “A heretics guide to eternity” by Spencer Burke which manages to pull Jesus out from under all the shit the Church and Religion has heaped on top of him through two millennia! Its on amazon at http://tinyurl.com/2zeutd and well worth checking out.

Just to give you a flavour some of the points he makes are as follows: “Nowhere does Jesus call his followers to start a religion. Jesus invitation to his first disciples was to follow him”….”religion at its most basic, provides a way of understanding the relationship between humans and the divine…for centuries, religion generally developed along the arc of human progress, but it no longer seems to be the case. At some point, religion dug in its heels and stopped advancing………..Religion works best in fixed societies…where ideas are static and boundaries are clearly defined. But this is not the postmodern world……Religion by nature always tries to divide…Spirituality seeks common ground……….What if God’s primary occupation isn’t punishment for sin?.............The role of religion is to point the way to God, not to control the flow. The goal is not to make people forever dependent on the Church………..Maybe the greatest gift the Christian religion can offer the world right now is to remove itself from the battle for God……In our current culture, it isn’t the local church or pastor that is providing a compelling vision of the afterlife but musicians, filmmakers and authors……….The message of Jesus is about making connections with each other and rooting the world in the love of God………part of faith’s role in society is to inject a vision of another way of being human…..grace is a miracle because it is not controlled, structured, shaped, or handed out by human beings or their religions”

Many in our churches today would dismiss this as ‘heresy’ and they would be right but they forget that the one who we wrongly call the ‘founder’ of the Church was the greatest heretic of all. And ironically I think Christopher Hitchens would be much more comfortable in Jesus’ presence than many of those who are a part of that institution we call Church.

Sorry to be so long-winded Sarah but this confusion of Jesus with Christianity really gets me wound up!

Thanks for providing a safety valve!

More thoughts on reality TV – Connection not equal to Communication!

I know, I know! – Two consecutive posts about reality TV. I am obviously ill ;-) I was listening to a podcast discussion earlier today from wiredparish.com and one of the contributors was talking about the whole Reality TV phenomenon and how it has become so central to many peoples lives. In exploring Society’s addiction to the genre he observed that those being observed in these shows are being forced to experience Community without the distractions of the increasingly inter-connected world from which they are temporarily removed. Deprived of phones, internet and TV they have no option but to speak to one another and engage with one another face to face in real time and with no electronic gateway required. In doing so they rediscover an authentic experience of Community which ironically for all our inter-connectedness is a rare and diminishing reality. So it seems that what motivates us to watch these bizarre phenomena is envy – NOT envy of celebrity – but envy of an experience of intimate interdependent Community.

Redemption of Reality TV!

This is one of those rare moments when beauty breaks through banality and takes the legs from under you! Watch it and see what I mean! The singer is Paul Potts - a mobile phone salesman who went on to win the recent 'Britain's Got Talent' show. This was his audition and if it doesn't either make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up or make you shed a tear then I suggest you call the undertaker because you are obviously dead!