Thursday, 26 May 2011

Fundamental Disconnection

So, I went to the cinema recently to watch a light hearted film named 'Attack the Block.' It's a fun film that feels very homely to a born and bred Londoner. Yutes with so much bottle they'll kill aliens.

Beneath this film was a deeper message though. It's heroes are 5 boys, the classic estate like characters, hoodies, Air Force 1s, BMXs, all the gear. The film kicks off with these five boys mugging a lady, Sam. This lady is unarmed, helpless and very vulnerable, yet these boys hold a knife to her and take her stuff. Hardly the stuff heroes are made of. Yet what is revealed as the film progresses is that these boys were just as scared as she was, they just acted up, pretended they weren't. They have to act macho. They mug because they feel they have to. They steal because they feel they have to. But behind this bravado they have personalities and ambitions just like you and me.

As the film progresses Sam grows closer to the boys, and begins to realise this. They never hated her or had anything against her, they were just doing what they thought they had to. By the end of the film the boys are her friends and saviours.

A mugging is usually associated with loss of possessions. Mobile phones, money, credit cards, jewelery etc. A mugging is all this and more. A mugging robs you and the perpetrator of their humanity, and that is the worse thing we can have stolen. When we are mugged, instantly they perpetrator becomes a criminal. We lose the ability to relate to them and build up a hatred for them and very often never have the chance to repair that broken bond. We never get to find out why they mugged us, who are they, what they like, we just see the bad of them, and when a person is a summation of there negative parts, then they lose the ability to really be a person anymore.

It is why the story of a Peckham mother who lost her son in a knife-crime is so touching to me. That mother went out of her way to spend time with the killer of her son, as to her humans aren't just killers. She knew there was more to this person that killed her son, a history, a family, interests, passions. She wanted to repair the broken bond between herself and another human. She lost none of her humanity in this instance, she actually understood better what it means to be human. In the process no doubt she restored some of the humanity that this person had lost in putting a knife into another human.

It is so easy to see people just as categories. Murderer, footballer, thief, politician, banker, teacher, homeless, check-out lady. People aren't categories. Behind every person is a story, a story better than any film you've ever watched. When we see people as machines we lose our own humanity. When we hurl abuse at a footballer, when we ignore a homeless person, when we watch naked women in pornography, when we fail to say hello to the check-out lady we lose a bit of humanity, as we look at another person but see an object. An object made to serve us, provide us a function. This is not why God made people, he made them all with specific purposes and functions.

Ignore no-one, recognise all, trust me life will be a lot more interesting.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Review Culture

As talking in work today I thought back to a series of phrases I heard all to commonly from friends:

"The Bible is irrelevant"
"How can you trust such an old book"
"It's just full of boring old stories, the Bible's no fun at all"
"How can you believe in a book that has so many fatal inaccuracies"

The purpose of this blog is in no way to answer these questions, that takes a small book. The purpose is to question the culture we have of all to quickly making a snap judgement about something we have never read, watched or studied. So many of the people I've heard these criticisms from have never read the Bible in full, if they had they would find little jems like this:

From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.
2 Kings 2:23-24

We live in what I call a 'review culture,' a culture I am very much a part of too. This culture tells us we are very busy and important people, and that we have no free time. It tells us that no-one else works as hard as we do. It also tells us that we don't have the time to sit down and watch a film and see if it is good or bad anymore, we need to read a review first, then that will validate our choice to watch or not. I am very much part of this culture. I will never buy a video game without reading scores of reviews on it to come to a final decision.

In a way reviews are incredibly helpful, they allow us to make decisions, and take into account the viewpoints of others. When buying a video game I find reviews incredibly helpful and allow me to spend my money wisely on games I will enjoy.

My worry is not with review but with what these reviews are on. Take for example a recent book named 'Love Wins,' written by an American pastor named Rob Bell, a book which has stirred more controversy and media publicity than much in recent memory. Many people with in the Christian circles I am a part of made a judgement on the book without ever even getting close to reading it, myself included. Making a judgement based on the reviews of biased people, and never taking time to make a judgement themselves. Only one friend even challenged me on this viewpoint.

This has become especially prevalent with religious books. So many of my friends have written off the Bible on the basis of hear say, on the basis of what they heard others say. Very few have read all the Bible, and the rest have read sporadic chunks. Sweeping judgements based on others opinions may seem initially intelligent, and allow us to form conformed well thought out view points, but these viewpoints aren't ours. How can we make a judgement on a book we haven't read, especially one with the historic significance of the Bible. Christians, how can we make a judgement on a book we haven't read, especially one with the historic significance of the Qur'an.

My final word is to urge you to be your own thinker. If you're my friend, please take some time to read the Bible, as it is something I live life by so don't write it off so quickly. Others, I urge you to think for yourself, and make your own viewpoints, life will be a lot more interesting when it's your view, not that of newspapers, preachers, celebrities, movies or politicians.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Celebration of Death

Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Ezekiel 33.11

This past week has been one that will be remembered worldwide. The news reports of the death of Osama Bin Laden (right) were met with widespread relief and joy. So much so that the rocky presidential campaign of Barrack Obama has thrown it's Hail Mary pass, and could be in for a touchdown with a second term in office. As a writer it's hard not to look at these events and look for more than the surface meaning.

Throughout these events, while part of me knew that this was a good call by Barrack Obama, part of me had an odd feeling, a feeling of almost sadness over the death of 'The Most Wanted Man in the World.' Then I turned on a news report to pictures of Americans dancing, singing and laughing, with cries of "USA, USA," ringing out in a show of solidarity against this man that had caused them so much hurt. Theses images disturbed me though. They were not dissimilar to the images of Al-Quaeda supporters cheering after the events of The Twin Towers. The same rejoicing at the death of an enemy. To Al-Quaeda all the West is an enemy. To the West in our scapegoat culture Osama Bin Laden was the 'face of terrorism.'

A report showed an interview with a widower of a 9/11 victim, expressing his joy at Osama's death, and his hopes that his wife is looking down from heaven and that Osama is getting what he deserves in hell. Now while Osama will be getting what he deserves in hell, I then realised what this sadness is. I realised that people were rejoicing at the death of a human. Then I realised Christians were rejoicing in the loos of a soul to hell. I looked and realised the radical grace of Jesus was lost on these people.

Up until his last breath Osama could have been saved. Had he asked for Jesus on his deathbed, he would be destined for heaven, his past wrongs forgiven, all the deaths, all the plots, all the terrorism. The radical grace that Jesus embodied to us is available for all, even Osama. Jesus said to them, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Mark 2:17

Had these people been asked 'Would you be happy to know that Osama is in heaven?' most would be outraged by the concept. I presume he is not, but had he asked for Jesus he would be, and many of these people would have spent eternity with him. But to be outraged is to misunderstand the gospel. The gospel is for the broken, for the sinner. The gospel asks people to call on Jesus and repent of their sins. If Osama had called on Jesus he would have felt the weight of his wrongdoings, the weight of his terrorism, yet he would have been born again, completely changed.

Many of us Christians forget that Paul, one of the most prominent members of Christian history, the founder of the early church who has such a hand in the way we have conducted ourselves as Christians throughout the ages was a terrorist himself. Had he been around now he would be on all sorts of Most Wanted lists. He used to go around killing Christians in mass. The reason he got away with it was because like Hitler, he picked on an unliked people group. The power of grace is shown through Paul's story. The fact he became the leading gospel preacher of that time is a phenomenal demonstration that God can use any situation, any person for His glory.

So I for one, mourn the death of Osama as a soul lost to hell. I imagine the sheer weight of the testimony had he been saved, the challenge it would have put on our understanding of grace. Yet still I am thankful that my God is just, and that as this man did not accept Jesus, he will receive just punishment. But what a powerful testimony that would of been.