MPs, bankers, police and media: powerful reasons why free will doesn’t mean free reign

3 07 2012

they didn’t look like this

He started with Adam and Eve, kept doing it through the Old Testament, peaking with the Top 10 and then carried on with Jesus who made it worse by making us have to go to church as well as behave ourselves. All that ‘do this’, ‘don’t do that’. Isn’t God just a rules-based kill-joy who wants us to stand in straight lines and do as we’re told? Isn’t it better to take the rules away and give ourselves freedom? After all, we’re all grown-ups, living in a civilised society these days. 

I’d love to say yes. I’d love to say that now we’ve gone through the Empire-building evolutionary-scoiety Enlightenment stuff about being brilliant, now that we’re aware of the consequences of our actions on a global scale and have social consciences regularly pricked by Pudsey and Gary Barlow, now that we are grown up, we could leave the rules behind. Like joining the sixth form and no longer having to wear uniform and sit with 12 year olds. Free reign. Freedom! 

But if the moral crises of the last 4 years have shown us anything, it’s that there is nothing more dangerous than humans without rules. Like out of control Victorian public-school prefects, without a framework for their freedom humans just cannot control their insatiable desire for power, for selfishness, for self-protection, and for financial gain at other’s expense. 

The economic boom was built on a lie, that financial people knew was a lie until they told it so many times even they thought it was true. The MPs knew their expenses system was dubious at best and corrupt at worst but it was in all this best interests to keep quiet and carry on. Our politicians and our Police knew their relationship with the Murdoch Empire was dangerous and wrong but it was just too good to stop because the perks were too attractive. 

It wold be very easy to cry “Moral outrage! Repent and bring back gospel values!” in a shouty-street-preacher sort of way. Or at least be heard as saying that. Because, I think I am. The more I see our society frame its ethics and moral around a the jelly of “what works for me”, “it’s a victimless crime”, ‘it feels good” and “I’m too big to fail”, the more I feel like donning a sandwich board. 

no irony in the name

Each time something like this happens, our ineffectual and highly-implicated-in-it-all Prime Minister (or one of his clones) says something like “This is terrible and it must stop”, and yet offers absolutely no alternative. And neither does anyone else. Regulation? But based around whose principles? Unless there is an over-arching and generally agreed framework to work from, it’s meaningless.

What God has constantly given us is a framework on which to base society. That framework has shifted and changed depending on where that society is, but even before Jesus the Law was not there to kill joy, but to provide a framework for it. And what Jesus did was raise the stakes even higher, because our motivation to follow the framework was no longer “because we follow the framework’ but “because we love”. 

It is because he loves that he gives us free will, but not free reign. It is because we love that we operate within this framework which is summed up in the two greatest commandments, which are themselves about love: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And love your neighbour as yourself.” We need to restore those as the centre of who we are. And if we don’t do that ourselves, then we cannot point the finger at others for not doing it either. 


in the beginning…

2 02 2011

…was a vast expanse of something because there had to be something but it was just around and there and not doing a lot and all messy and chaotic and out of that God – our god, you know god, God, Yahweh – he brought life from this amorphous mass of stuff not that he was a part of it – he was definitely apart from it – because he wasn’t made and always was and he was there and it was there and he was all mixed up in it and we know that he is in charge and so from that mass of something we don’t understand he made life which we understand a bit more though it is still a mystery and in a way it is like he

b r e a t h e d

and s p o k e

and is like the way a garden comes together after it has been left untended for ages and ages and the weeds grow and you think it can’t possibly be fruitful and then the farmer comes and works on it with a lot of breathing and creating and some resting and at the end of the day (or week) (or season) something beautiful has become of the chaotic mess and we like to tell stories about all that and about the people who were first here and we like to reflect on their lives and how they started so

close to God

and ended up so

far                                       away

and when we read the story we realise that the story isn’t about those people though we give them names like Adam and Eve  or about the places they found themselves like Eden or erm, Ur, or the things they built like the babble tower in Babylon or the floating square box full of animals and it isn’t about how God made all of these things and places and people and real-time 24-style history the story is ultimately and mainly and superbly and undeniably and historically about




and his character, his ability to plan and for the plans to go wrong and for him to get huffy but not so huffy that he throws it all away because his character as we learn is that there is always another chance another way there is always a blessing to replace and overthrow a curse there is always grace to find and blessing to pour and there is always another human to choose to be a part of the plan and not apart from the plan

tower of babble

and what a wonderful beginning and what crazy stories and what interesting archetypes of people from the good to the bad the farming to the urban the faithful to the sex-crazed the clothed to the naked the punished and the punishing to the blessed and the continually blessing and and the ever-faithful and the

curiously creative

and the immoral and the right-thinking and the stubborn and the hurt and the desperate and the slave and the master and the mother of the murderer and the murdered and the hopeless and the hopeful  and the warrior and the peacemaker and the friend and the enemy and the loyalty of family and good decisions and bad decisions and the promises fulfilled from generation to generation


and I have only got to chapter 15 of Genesis.


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