17 08 2011

Feral, evil, savage, immoral, callous, lost causes. Those who do violence to others in the name of quick profit are called many things. Be they hoodies ransacking Debenhams and taking what isn’t theirs or bankers gambling our money and taking what isn’t theirs.


But name-calling is so easy. It starts in the playground and continues into adulthood.


What we need to do is pause.


Pausing is that thing you do when you count to 10 before you yell at your child or slap a cyclist or swear at a Policeman or call people names.


Pausing before speaking or acting means that we have a chance to think. Because what this country really needs is space to think. Deeply.


Deep thought will lead to deep justice. For the rioters, for the rioted; for the looters, for the looted. For bad bankers and for those trampled underfoot.


Without a pause, there is only revenge, knee-jerk reactions, spite. We don’t need spite. We need justice.


Justice is good. Justice is enough.We believe in deep justice not cheap spite because of our God.


People often fear God‘s justice, but we welcome it. We do not go beyond that to spite because to do that is to ignore the Jesus we claim to follow. If we do follow him we must rise above that. To do that, we live differently, love differently. God’s justice is fair. God’s justice has unfailing love as its core. That seems a good place to start.


It’s why the Torah said to a violent and warring tribal community an eye for an eye is enough and not a life for an eye like everyone else said. It’s why Jesus said love your neighbour and pray for those who persecute you instead of hating them and returning violence with violence like everyone did. It’s why Jesus told radical and offensive stories of good Samaritans and bad priests, or good chavs and bad toffs. Or whoever your feared ‘other’ is.


There have been many fascinating debates over the last week. We have seen the surface of many deep issues scratched – about families, about community, about fatherhood, about gangs, about stories, about underlying moral codes – and this has been brilliant. It is about time. We in the church are always talking about these things, as Nick Baines wrote about the apparent silence of Rowan Williams.


As followers of Jesus we need to be the ones who carry on with this. Because we believe in pausing, and then acting. We believe in being embedded in our communities. We believe in crossing the road to the injured and the wounded, however ‘other’ they are. We do this all the time. This is our chance for others to see it. Like here, in Wolverhampton. Like here, across the country. Like on CNN, with Patrick Regan of XLP. Like in the Guardian, with Martin Saunders.


But we do not do this to score points. We do not do this for eternal reward or a pat on the back.  We do it because we believe in deep justice, not cheap spite.


It’s that simple. And that hard.

house of cards

17 07 2011

It’s terrifying when it all comes tumbling down. The world so carefully crafted around you, a world built around friendships and favours, shared interests and mutual fears. A world carefully controlled by the interlocking spiderwebs of self-interest and self-preservation. A world in which the original reason you built  your house of cards is long-forgotten amidst the task of maintaining your current position.

Maybe this is News International. Maybe this is the continuing revelations about deep corruption at the heart of our free press, elected politicians and our Police force. That is certainly a house of cards that is tumbling, tumbling, tumbling. How far will it fall?

It’s made me think about, well, me. Us. About how easy it is to get drawn in, to take a simple and firm foundation and begin to build on it with cards. After all, we are called to influence the world we live in; so it is important to know people to be able to do that. So how do we choose those worth knowing? Card 1. We cannot know everyone, so who do we ditch? Card 2. It is important to have the press onside. Card 3. Better the devil you know. Card 4.

Jesus had an unusual relationship with the ruling elite. They wanted him as one of them, but they couldn’t have him. The Pharisees saw his qualities and some of them saw his truth – see Nicodemus – but he was too risky for them. They had a house of cards they did not want the Spirit to blow through. Position, favour, reputation. White-washed tombs, Jesus called them. Looks great on the outside, but contains only death within. Harsh?

It’s easy to knock those in the public eye. As the webs of deceit and corruption surrounding surrounding News International and our ruling elite are exposed, it is easy to look in righteous anger. And rightly so. Yet in that old cliche from the 90’s, What Would Jesus Do?

Remove the plank from your own eye before you point out the speck in your brother’s.

I know the church has friends in high places. Not just the ‘established‘ church, though of course we probably go as high as it’s possible, what with the Queen being the Supreme Governor of the church and our Bishop’s sitting in the House of Lord’s. There’s also many Christian lobbying groups and think-tanks, from Theos to Ekklesia to CARE to Faithworks and Charities Parliament; there’s well-known and unknown Christians at the heart of our decision-making, like Steve Chalke to Rowan Williams and many others from across the spectrum of evangelical to Catholic, conservative to liberal.

We must pray for them. We must help in holding them all to account, whether we support them or not. Do they get too close, or not close enough? Are they blowing on the house of cards, or helping build one? We’re in it together. We’re about Jesus, not reputation. Kingdom, not personal empire, whether we mix with Prime Ministers or local councillors or the local gang leader.

There’s a lot of houses of cards out there. It’s good to blow on them. It’s not good to sit on them.

Though we cannot help it. After all, what is faith, if not a house of cards?


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