One week ago on Easter Sunday, George Carey decided to ask the above question. His piece in the Mail on Sunday immediately split opinion and managed to succeed in getting Christians to talk about all kinds of issues that had precisely nothing to do with the importance of the Easter period.
I have always lamented the way Christians are incapable of speaking with one voice. The Catholics say one thing, the Protestants say the other. And in between those simplistic categories there’s lots of noise too. We’re too busy infighting over secondary issues, is it any wonder that so many outside of the Church don’t know what those inside the Church stand for?
All that to say, I think that whatever you think of Lord Carey, his piece was ill timed. Perhaps he felt Easter Sunday was one of the few days in the year that his opinions would be listened to by the national media. And he may well be right, but that end doesn’t justify the means.
Persecution must be expected
Jesus said to his followers: “If they persecuted me they will also persecute you”. And sure enough, right from the start Christians have been persecuted. They’ve been burned at the stake, thrown to the lions, crucified, tortured, imprisoned and beheaded.
None of these things happen in the UK today. Some of them are happening in other nations. Thanks to the work of people like Open Doors these disgusting acts of violence against Christians are being challenged.
Because of the severity of this persecution in other nations, it’s my belief the word ‘persecuted’ should be reserved for this kind of physical attack. Continually being called names for holding Christian beliefs may still fit some dictionary definitions of persecution, but it’s nothing compared with being killed for your faith. There are other words like “marginalised” which may be more justified.
Left Vs Right
Christians who sit on the left (both theologically and politically) tend to criticize Carey more than those on the right. While those on the Right are often full on, brash and a little bit arrogant in shouting their religious views from the rooftops and expecting everyone to listen, those on the left have the opposite problem. They’re often wooly, pandering to whatever culture tells them and therefore willing to compromise on orthodox theology.
Because of the Left’s pandering to culture, is it any wonder that they see persecution as a less important issue? They simply aren’t encountering it in the same way as those on the Right who dare to tell people they’re heading in the wrong direction and away from God’s best.
In talking about persecution there is a danger Christians begin to navel gaze. But the positives should be spoken of as much as the negatives. We have a free press, a fair and just legal system and a fully operational and thriving democracy where everyone’s views can be heard. Neither our press, judiciary or parliament are perfect, but if any of you disagree with my last sentence, you need to spend some time in a country like Saudi Arabia where Christianity is banned. You’ll be less eager to complain about Britain’s treatment of Christians if you understand the state of the world outside our island.
The truth is there’s a huge amount of good being done by Christians at the moment. And we’re not persecuted for it. On the contrary, politicians and some portions of the media praise us for projects like Food Banks and Street Pastors.
I was shocked to read one person on Facebook recently say of the Bible “shame its two thousand years old really can we really still apply those scriptures to modern day morals?”
This person clearly knows even less about history than me! The sheer irony is what they call “modern day morals” are in themselves biblical! The Bible has given this country a clear concept of right and wrong. We have the Bible to thank that we’re a civilized society in the first place. Why do we believe murder, theft and rape are wrong? Some of this country’s greatest politicians read it in the good book and believed it. Arthur Pink (1886-1952) called the Bible “the mightiest factor of all in shaping the moral progress of the race.” Wilberforce was motivated to end slavery because of his Christian beliefs. I won’t bore you with numerous other examples I could pick out.
Is there a growing tide of secularism that would dispute this historic influence for good that Christians have had? Yes. And it’s why some Christians say they are “persecuted”. But they are not. They simply need to understand that our nation is no longer a Christian nation. With this huge change well underway a number of things will happen. One of them is Christians will continue to have a less privileged place in society. Our views will be questioned more than in previous generations. Our beliefs will be laughed about on primetime television. None of this is persecution. A lot of it isn’t new. It’s just increasing in severity. And we must be mindful of a slippery slope. Just because persecution isn’t happening right now, it doesn’t mean we aren’t heading in that direction.
What is Happening?
While Jesus told his followers to expect persecution, this is obviously not something any of us should be actively seeking.
The appropriate response is to campaign to see an end to persecution. Jesus said “the poor you will always have with you” but that hasn’t and shouldn’t stop Christians making poverty history.
George Carey did have half a point. I’ve heard of more than one convert from Islam to Christianity in the UK who has received physical abuse from Muslim gangs.
Some of the stories which the Christian Institute have taken on are worth considering. There have been a few real cases where Christians have been unfairly treated, just because they hold to Christian values, which are now in the minority. (But not all cases are justified. If you run a B&B, you can’t discriminate based on sexuality Christians should stop crying “foul” when they’re the ones in the wrong! We have to play by the rules.)
In conclusion, Christians aren’t for the most part persecuted in the UK. But we are often side-lined, mocked or ignored to a much greater extent than 50 or even 20 years ago. Rather than complaining about the increasing secularisation of our country, we must carry on doing good in our society. We have a right to kick up a fuss if and when we are unfairly treated or marginalised. But we should be wise in knowing which battles to fight. This debate should remind us of the millions of Christians whose persecution is so horrific, that a debate over what “persecution” really means is not necessary.
Not really, I was just on a date with Stacey.
Nevertheless, we did enjoy attending three separate and very different events to mark the day Jesus died for the sins of the world.
On the way up to London I listened to a sermon about the ancient Hebrew prayer known as the Sh’ma. The most memorable phrase from the Sh’ma is “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength”.
Sometimes you hear people say things like “I’m a very spiritual person”. But the writers of the Bible wouldn’t have understood such a claim. For them, everything is spiritual, even going to the toilet. Therefore the soul isn’t a part of you. It’s the whole of you. There isn’t a part of me that’s Christian. The whole of me is Christian meaning that my faith influences every area of my life.
And because regardless of what you believe, everything we feel, touch, see and experience is in some way spiritual, I am not embarrassed to tell you that after listening to the sermon, I switched podcasts and caught up with BBC Radio 4′s The Now Show!
A 90 minute long production of the death and resurrection of Christ was taking place. But we just caught the last half hour.
The first thing we saw were three men hanging on crosses and covered in blood. I was reminded that Christianity isn’t a ‘nice’ religion. It deals with the real-ness and gritty-ness of life. It’s not just a nice story, but an earthy hard-hitting message.
It was rightly difficult to watch as Jesus was beaten and crucified. I noticed some parents shielding their young children’s eyes and ears. I imagine parents at the time 2000 years ago would have done the same. There were many other similarities between the actual events, and the drama. Some mocked what was unfolding in front of their eyes. Some showed complete contempt for Jesus. As Jesus bowed his head and died, one young girl said in utter disbelief and shock “God’s dead?!”
The crowd reaction was as intriguing as the drama. When people think of Christianity they probably don’t imagine blood and guts but rather old men speaking soft, quiet words about ‘loving thy neighbour’. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for the latter but the Passion play reminded me that Christianity is fiery and real too.
Next stop was St Paul’s Cathedral. The website billed the 5pm service as “the most powerful service of the year”. It was my first time inside the great building and my gaze was immediately drawn upwards. 300 years on, the builders and designers should be proud of themselves. Their aim to construct a building which draws people’s gaze up toward heaven to remind them of God has succeeded again and again and again.
As for the service, I could have sworn it was being conducted in Latin. But we were quite far back and nearly everything was sung rather than said. Either way, I didn’t understand a word of it, so we left after 15 minutes.
Our final stop was HTB’s Queensgate. The small but pretty church looked stunning. It was a traditional building, but kitted out with modern lighting, instruments and people (the majority were in their 20s and 30s)!
Any description of the ‘Alternative Good Friday Service’ simply wouldn’t do the event justice. Rather than everyone facing the altar, the stage and the band were in the middle of the building and everyone sat in-the-round. There was a giant cross shaped container which held water. The congregation were invited to take a piece of dissolvable paper, write their sins on it and place it in the water. There was also an opportunity to light a candle, receive prayer and hear a talk from the Bible. The service was full of both reverence and joy. And the music was stunning.
The day reminded me that Christianity is alive and well in London. Thousands of people watched the Passion play. Many people heard the message of the gospel for the first time at HTB. All in all, it was a very good Good Friday.
I reckon Obama has a pretty good PR team behind him. I keep seeing photos like this on Facebook and Twitter:
I’m not trying to be overly cynical here, but it’s easy to forget that shots like these are often (if not always) staged.
PR and politics mix now more than ever. Social media gives us all an extra platform to voice our opinions – politicians or not. It’s important for these leaders to keep up their persona.
But what is Obama’s persona? In the above pictures he wants to tell us that he’s “one of us”. He’s cool, down to earth and normal. His regular joke telling halfway through speeches and even the odd bit of singing adds to this.
But there have been concerns recently that he’s not quite being taken seriously enough.
The election looms
As he starts to think about re-election, Obama needs the American nation to get behind him and support him more than ever.
What better way to assert your authority than use the world’s most powerful military and secret service to assassinate a few people. No, I’m not joking. Here’s the deal…
Obama has been in office a grand total of two days. He issues executive orders to demonstrate a significant break from Bush’s reign. One of the most important was his pledge to “restore the standards of due process”.
The issue of Guantanamo Bay had and continues to hurt America and their image around the world. Obama talked about a new, more open system of government. He wanted to restore the public’s trust that their government would abide by their own constitution. He promised to close Guantanamo.
The trouble is, Guantanamo is still open.
He also broke his promise on military commissions (they were suspended on his first week in office, but in March last year, they were re-instated).
But this isn’t news, politicians break their promises all the time. Sometimes they may even have good reasons for this, times change and policy needs to adjust.
What is news is that 6 times more drone strikes (assassinations) have been carried out under Obama than they were under Bush.
What I am about to write has already been in the media, but what’s interesting is it has not been leaked. It’s come from the White House quite deliberately. It’s PR. And the reason Obama is happy to let you know about it, is because he wants to be seen not only as a fun, family man, but a serious commander in chief who can make tough decisions.
Cards containing faces and descriptions of terrorists, usually in Pakistan are laid out in front of Obama every week and he decides who to target. He nominates individuals to face the wrath of the American military. There’s no “due process”, just a flat out assassination. The drones go in – unmanned, remote control aircraft – and kill whoever Obama and his team have ordered the assassination of.
You may think from my tone that I’m against these assassinations. In reality, I don’t think it’s a simple moral issue and I’m in any place to make a judgement either way. But I do think all of the world’s governments need to be to held account and journalism offers a way of doing this.
Why is Obama doing this?
It took America a staggering 20 years to put an end to the father of modern day terrorism – Osama Bin Laden. What’s shocking is the Americans had Bin Laden’s named marked before the first world trade centre attack. They didn’t deal with him in the run up to 9/11 and it took them a decade after one of the worst days in American history to kill him.
With this history in Obama’s mind it’s no surprise he’s stepped up assassinations. He’s just trying to get rid of the next Bin Laden before it’s too late. Hindsight allows us to look back and see the Americans could have easily killed or captured Bin Laden before he took a single American life. But at the time the nation’s most powerful people just didn’t believe he was a threat. It looks like Obama is refusing to take the risks and make the assumptions his predecessors did. And for that, who can blame him?
So perhaps the title of this blog is wrong. For those as stubborn as me please read “Some reasons why you might like to, if you get a chance, care to download 27 million”.
Yes, that’s right I’ve been clogging up your Twitter and Facebook feeds all day with harsh instructions. “Click here” “Do This” NOW!”
But apparently you’re allowed to bug people when it’s for a good cause?
What could be a more important cause than freeing the 27 million people who are currently bound in slavery?
Slavery is illegal everywhere, yet it happens nearly everywhere.
That’s why 27 million has been released into the charts, and as I write this, it sits at number 5 in iTunes and number 1 in Amazon MP3.
The fact that it’s been put together by two Christian artists is the icing on the cake. Don’t get me wrong, it’s irrelevant who is singing the song. What is important is the message gets out, the song is bought, and the money raised is used properly.
It just seems fitting that the reason Wilberforce began his work in 1787 lives on today.
In a world where Christianity can (sometimes rightly) have a negative reputation, it’s right that we acknowledge where us Christians do occasionally get it right!
Make no mistake: Wilberforce got it right, and he was motivated by his belief that all people are created equal by God and are worthy of our love and respect. His campaign resulted in slavery being made illegal. That was a massive step forward and we must never underestimate the significance of his work.
But sadly there are now more slaves in the world today, than at any other point in history.
Thankfully, Matt Redman and LZ7 aren’t the kind of Christians who sit back and do nothing. Inspired by the same God who worked through Wilberforce, they’ve put together a great song.
27 Million is backed by all the major anti slavery charities, with the proceeds going towards rehabilitating victims of sex trafficking.
These musicians and songwriters have seen the need and they’ve done their bit.
Now do your bit.
Download for 89p on Amazon.
Download for 99p on iTunes
I couldn’t have been much older than 16 when I bought my first Apple product. I love my iPod classic. All 55 GB of my music fits on it, plus podcasts and even movies.
I was first exposed to Macs at university. People tell me you can still use InDesign and Photoshop on Windows machines, but really…why would you?!
It was around this time that more of my friends started to get iPhones. I’ve desperately wanted once since Christmas 2010.
6 months ago I took a deep breath and spent a lot of money on my MacBook Pro. I’m telling you – once you get one of these things you’ll never go back!
One week ago, I could finally upgrade my phone and get the latest iPhone4s 16GB with unlimited, texts, internet and 2000 minutes. Booyeah!
Here are my thoughts on the iPhone 4s one week in:
- The auto correct feature is scarily accurate and super useful. It’s easy to hit the wrong letter when typing a text, but my iPhone knows what I meant to hit, and automatically corrects it.
- Games are addictive – especially Angry Birds.
- Closing apps is important if you want a decent battery life! And even when you do close everything, the battery life is disappointing.
- Siri is a lot more intelligent than you’d expect.
- The inability to record phone conversations (no matter what app you try) sucks, especially for journalists!
- I’m not sure my life will ever be the same again now I have ShopSavvy and Shazam - yet I’m still yet to use them.
- My skepticism remains regarding Sleep Cycle, but my whole body is constantly willing it to work.
- It’s very very pretty
- Enjoying the fact I don’t need to buy a Kindle – I can download books from Kindle and Apple’s bookstore direct to the iPhone
- I’ll never carry a Bible again. It’s in my pocket – all 209 versions in 75 languages.
- Instagram makes me looks like a decent photographer.
- Despite all of the above, I know I’m not getting as much out of my iPhone as I could. Open to app suggestions
- Really enjoying having a phone calender again – the fact it syncs with my Mac is a major bonus
- Foursquare is ridiculous, pointless, stupid. And I love it.
- I’m eager to try out Facetime
- I’m feeling the need to have a technology sabbath. Turn all technology off for one day a week. In the words of Tim Hughes “the more ways we have to connect, the more we need to learn to unplug”.
I’ve become somewhat envious of little JP and his Cineworld unlimited card! He’s spent the last 3 months watching every film that’s come out (and by ‘every’, I mean ‘every‘. He even sat through Twilight. But we won’t talk about that sordid event.)
It seems like yesterday that my parents were discussing whether a 15 rated (or even 12 rated) film was suitable for little Josh to watch. In reality it was well over a decade ago.
Anyway, now that I’ve suitably embarrassed little brother to my hundreds (I wish!) of readers, the point is; I wasn’t sure what to expect tonight. To be honest, I didn’t really think about it. I merely assumed the film wouldn’t be too “full on”.
I certainly didn’t expect to witness seven men being torn apart by wolves. Ok, ok so they didn’t all get eaten. One man fell out of a tree…and then got eaten by wolves. Another man went to go and make some yellow snow…and then got eaten by wolves. Another man…ok you get the picture.
The storyline is simple. A plane crashes in the middle of what Alaska. Only a handful of people survive, and most of those end up being attacked and killed by…you guessed it. Wolves!
The film verged on horror – a genre I absolutely detest. I’m not ashamed to say I actually looked away for two of the adverts that were shown before the film even started! I am simply not built to sit there and be “entertained” by having the hell scared out of/into me.
The Grey is not for the faint of heart. It doesn’t keep you on the edge of your seat, it makes you lean back, as far away from the action as your seat will allow! It makes you jump numerous times. My heart was given more of a workout watching the film than the bike ride home (in -5 temperatures I hasten to add).
Which brings me to my next point…the setting of this film is bleak. You’ll be pleased to know one man doesn’t get eaten by wolves. No, he freezes to death.
To summarise: The film is about death, people being ripped to shreds, and more death.
And I loved it.
The Grey is magnificent.
It would be easy to read my above words and come away thinking this is some kind of Alaskan Final Destination 54 (or whatever number they are up to now). But nothing could be further from the truth.
We’re barely 20 minutes into the film, and death number one is upon us. Yet enough character development appears to have taken place to make the scene where a man’s life ebbs away, genuinely emotional. It’s a powerful piece of cinema, full of maturity and reality.
The Grey doesn’t shy away from discussing the important things in life. God, the afterlife and both the beauty and cruelty of this world are discussed, and the latter demonstrated, in some detail.
If anyone comes out as describing this film as “anti-Christian”, let me know so I can give them a good kicking! Sure, the lead character doesn’t use the nicest language to describe the God he doesn’t believe in, (isn’t it strange how atheists pray?) but at least God got a mention!
These days us Christians tend to be left with a) mindless, senseless, emotionless tripe which is about as interested in the deeper things in life as I am in Twilight. b) A dreadful “Christian film” where everyone lives happily ever after because they believe in Jesus. I think I despise b) more than a).
The writers of The Grey have done a superb job in raising some of the most profound and important questions human beings face. The Grey offers no answers. It merely presents life in all its grittyness, adds in a couple of opinions and leaves us to mull over possible answers.
Sometimes it can be difficult to connect with the characters on screen. I have nothing in common with the characters in The Grey, other than I’m a man and I want to survive! I know it’s ridiculous – the film is total fiction – yet I had the deepest respect for each of the characters. There’s no glitz and glam. Just real men, struggling on and fighting for a vital yet doomed cause. Liam Neeson’s character is particularly convincing. I’ve never seen him act so well.
It’s been a long time since I saw a film as down to earth, gritty and real as this. Suicide, panic, hallucinations, being eaten alive. It doesn’t sound like the best film, does it? But for those of us who are fed up with “Harry met Sally, they fell in love had 2.5 kids and lived happily ever after”, will see this film for what it truly is. A breath of fresh air. It’s strange how men being hunted by a pack of wolves can make you appreciate the best things in life. No word I type will be able to fully explain that. So I guess it’s best if you just go watch the film…
Welcome to the third annual holymansam.wordpress.com Music Awards!
First up is Best Album
The nominations are:
Mylo Xyloto – Coldplay – The band have furthered their reputation as a group of musicians incapable of making a bad album. The barely pronounceable Mylo Xyloto was a great success, but you knew that already. The highlight was undoubtedly the band’s first single “Paradise”. Other notable elements include a collaboration with Rhianna and their stunning opener “Hurts Like Heaven”.
Wasting Light – Foo Fighters – This is a strong contender for Foo Fighter’s best ever album. It’s everything you’d expect from the band and more. Pure and simple rock music at its best.
Hands All Over – Maroon 5 – There was no need to write a song as terrible as “Moves Like Jagger”. Neither was it necessary to choose such an overly sexualised album cover. But neither of those two points take away the fact Maroon 5 have released an outstanding and massively underrated album. It’s always controversial to compare anyone to the legendary Michael Jackson but I’m going to be cheeky and dare to claim that the vocal ability, songwriting skill and all-round funkiness of this band is comparable (though not equal) to MJ’s.
Odd Soul – Mutemath – This is Mutemath’s most mainstream sounding album to date. As well as producing some of the best alternative rock music I’ve heard all year, they put together this outstanding music video for Blood Pressure.
Vice Verses – Switchfoot - The band proved they are in a league of their own with this excellent release. It’s everything we’ve come to expect from the band and more. Those of you in the UK may not be familiar with them as they aren’t big here, but now you’ve read this, you cannot claim ignorance. Check them out! [Read my full review here]
Aaaand the winner is….
The next award is for the Worst Song of the Year.
Rebecca Black – Friday The hate surrounding this song is probably more disgusting than the music itself. Nevertheless, it hasn’t been popular and all in all it’s easy to see why!
Maroon 5 Feat. Christina Aguilera- Moves Like Jagger The fact that this song is “catchy” is no defense. It’s not a redeeming feature when there’s lyrics like “take me by the tongue”. You can keep it Christina, no one wants it.
Justin Bieber- Never Say Never Ahh Bieber, why are you so unpopular? Part of me wants to say he makes people happy, leave the poor kid alone! As much as I dislike his music, I can’t help but feel sorry for the boy. I’m sorry Justin, but this isn’t a personality competition. And for that reason, Never Say Never gets its nomination.
and the winner is…
Best Song Of The Year (click the song title to hear it)
Furious – Jeremy Riddle. This is the best worship song that has been released all year. So powerful.
Dark Horses – Switchfoot. With their amps turned up higher than the “Meant To Live” recording, this is Switchfoot’s greatest single to date.
Black & White – Royal Tailor. Funky goodness from a band that appeared out of nowhere. The whole album was a most pleasant surprise.
Blood Pressure – Mutemath. They deserve an award of their own just for the video to be honest…
Slumber - Needtobreathe. This is the kind of song that almost anyone would love. Simple acoustic songwriting at it’s best.
And the winner is….[CLICK HERE]
Finally the last 3 award winners are…
Independent Release Of The Year – We Began by Chasing Owls
Worship Album Of The Year – Spirit Break Out by Worship Central
Band/Artist Of The Year – Owl City for Adam Young’s achievement of following up what could have been a “one hit wonder” with another fantastic album, that pushes the boundaries without re-inventing the wheel (mixed metaphor fail).
That’s it for this year folks! Thanks for stopping by. Please go ahead and share your best and worst of 2011 with me in the comments below.