Monday, November 14, 2016

The Wrath of God

“In the beginning God created man in His own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since.” This explains how some who claim the name "Christian" have used the idea of the Wrath of God to excuse their own inexcusable wrathful behaviour and use the threat of God's Wrath as a means of evangelism.

So for example, the capture of Jerusalem by the Crusaders in 1099 is excused by God's Wrath. An eyewitness account tells the history:

Now that our men had possession of the walls and towers, we saw some wonderful sights. Some of our men — actually the more merciful ones — cut off the heads of their enemies. Others shot them with arrows, so that they fell from the towers. Others tortured them longer by casting them into the flames. Piles of heads, hands, and feet were to be seen in the streets of the city. One had to pick one’s way over the bodies of men and horses. But these were small matters compared to what happened at the Temple of Solomon. You would not believe it if I told you. Suffice to say that in the Temple and porch of Solomon men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins. Indeed, it was a just and splendid judgment of God that this place should be filled with the blood of the unbelievers, since it had suffered so long from their blasphemies. The city was filled with corpses and blood.

Jerusalem - the City of God's Peace! The Jews of Jerusalem fought with the Muslims and were killed alongside them. Indeed,  the rank and file of the invading Crusaders did not differentiate between Muslim and Jew. The Crusaders attitude was this. "They had killed Jesus Christ, so they  deserved everything they got!"

No understanding of a Christlike God is evident in the Crusader camp. Crusaders were predominately from the West, giving allegiance to the Pope. By this time Eastern Christianity had split from Rome and their approach was quite different. They had lived in harmony with their Muslim neighbours before the Crusades and did so for centuries afterwards. The Muslim leader Saladin, who recaptured Jerusalem, had Christians among his high ranking officials. It was not until the image of the unjust Crusader was used in anti-imperialist propaganda in the 19th and 20th centuries that relationships soured. 

Thankfully, there was at least one person from the West who was embarrassed by the Crusaders' behaviour. St.Francis travelled to the camp of the Caliph during the Fifth Crusade with the intention of preaching the Gospel. He was concerned that they might have heard the good news of the Gospel. The Caliph listened, declined to convert, and sent Francis on his way unharmed. Francis was clearly a man of peace.

Another example of the way in which God's Wrath excuses one's own is the antisemitism. It has been encouraged and indulged in by many  who claimed the name Christian. As a person who calls himself a Christian,  I burn with shame for what has been done in Christ's name.  I  stand in solidarity with Francis and the Eastern Christians and rejoice in my friendship with people of other faiths.

It was a crude attempt to convert those who had gathered to mark the passing of a neighbour that raised the subject for me. The pitch was simply "Turn or Burn" and it was I think sincerely meant. Both the deceased and his minister seem to understand God as God of Wrath. OK if you submit but otherwise..... "And see we are giving you another chance." I observe that their brand of Christianity is strong on post-mortem judgement, something the C of E (wrongly in my view) tends to back peddle on, but it seems to me, they have a twisted notion of the Holy Trinity.  They appear to believe in a  Holy Trinity, in which God the Father does punishment and God the Son takes your punishment but only if you sign up for membership of their club.

That is not good news.  I don't like it when people try and manipulate me with threats. I certainly would not have such a person as a friend. I feel the same way about gods. Contrary to their understanding, I believe Jesus shows us what God is like. He is not wrathful, neither is he punishing. Rather he shows kindness in action and offers friendship if you want to travel the way he is going.

Where then does judgement come into the equation? It is simply this, if God is the source of life (love, truth, beauty, justice, peace etc..) then being cut off from him/her,  is being cut off from all those things. They  all  have an eternal dimension and one could have no existence in  eternity without being rooted in eternal things.  It follows, no life after death if you have no investment in them and  a poor quality of life in the here and now too.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

An arguement with Jesus.......

Jesus,   I paid particular attention to your remarks about the "fowls of the air" ( Matthew 6.26). Taking you seriously I belong to Norfolk Wildlife Trust and the RSPB both organisations encourage proper stewardship of the created order as set out in Genesis 1.28. But reflecting on the Jay I find that they do store up food - see http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/ask-an-expert/previous/acorns.aspx. So although I agree, they do not sow or reap,  they do gather.
What's more they are forgetful and some of the acorns they stash away for the winter are in effect sown. That is one way that oaks are naturally propagated.


So what ? I guess not being omniscient is all part of being human.............

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside 3

Trevaunace Cove is my number one surfing beach. For at least one week in the year this is where you'll find me hanging with the other surf dudes.



Mine is not a shiny fibre-glass board,  I am strictly retro and still use an old, wooden belly-board that I have had since the 60s. 

As a nod to modern developments I now wear a wet-suit!


( Wooden body-boards are making a come back.Check out the World Belly Body Board Championship Facebook Page

Surfing and Spirituality? I like Peter Kreeft on this  find it here

See also,   I do like to be beside the seaside.............. (2)



Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside (2)

I have a favourite walk part of the South West Coastal Path, on the north Cornish coast  from. Trevaunce Cove, St. Agnes to Perranporth .



Much has changed since I first walked the path over 60 years ago. I have changed, but the ever changing sea and the rocky coast seem untouched by time. Toiling up steep hills and making my way down over rocky paths, I make slow progress through a heritage landscape that still bears the scars of a tin mining past.








As I stop to  look back - at the cove and my life - different vistas open and I see things in a different lights and from different perspectives.













Time has not left the landscape, nor me, unchanged. Back in the day,  the Trevellas Valley was a noisy, busy place. Steam from coal fired boilers drove massive, thumping, pumps in engine houses. Water driven stamp mills crushed the ore.  Horses and traction engines and all manner of mining folk competed with each other on the narrow lanes. Now all has fallen silent -  save for the gulls cry, the pew pew call of buzzards and the chaj chaj of jackdaws.


Heather and gorse are reclaiming the slag heaps. There is a strange beauty about the place. As I turn my gaze inward, I note that a similar process is happening to me. Childhood's wounds, which gave me such trouble in the past, have become an established part of my nature. Without the scars, I would hardly be the person I am. My wounded-ness makes me sensitive to others wounds. I am, I suppose, not so much a wounded healer, but a beggar who can tell others where they can find bread.


The landscape has a long history. Tin has been mined since the early Bronze Age 2000 years before Christ. Legend has it that  Joseph of Aramathea came this way to trade tin. He brought with him the young Jesus of Nazareth .   "And didst those feet in ancient time, walk upon England's mountains green...." sings the poet William Blake (and I find myself singing along with him!).  Disbelieving though one may be, there is some truth to the legend. There was a long established trade between the tin mining West County and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Psalmist teaches us sing,  "The days of our life are three score years and ten and if we have strength, four score." At 73 years of age, I cannot guess how my strength will hold out. Maybe this is the last time I will manage the steep  and the precipitous paths. This thought sharpens my awareness,  and I observe my attention switching between past, present and future, outward and inward and two further dimensions.

Beyond the land, the sea stretching beyond the horizon. Since I was a toddler,  the sea has held a deep mystical attraction to me. Sometimes at high tide, spray would come over the garden wall and I would watch American DUKW going down Abersoch's slipway to load ammunition ships in the bay. The fascination grew with me and has never left me in spite of 10 year spent at sea as a merchant seaman.

Underpinning all is the sense of God, the ground of my/our being,  I can't remember when the sense of God first became so certain. Once again the Psalmist helps. "Those that go down to the sea in ships and do business in great waters, these see the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep". Even when it seemed that one could not survive the ferocity of the wind and the roaring of the sea, the fascination was still there. And on velvet dark tropical nights when stars shone as bright as jewels in the sky. "O lord, our Governor, how excellent is you name in all the world...  when I consider the heavens the moon and the stars you have set in their courses, what is man  that you should be mindful of him"

Turning my eyes once more to the Eastern Mediterranean, for the 7th/8th century John of Damascus,  the ever changing, always constant, limitless ocean was a  simile for the limitlessness of the divine.

The walk ends at Perranport, where legend tells of the evangelist St. Piran,  surfing into the beach on his (variously ) gravestone or tombstone, to bring Christian good news to the Cornish. I take refreshment in the Tywarnhale Inn and catch a bus back to St.Agnes.

More of this later......



Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"Oh I do like to be beside the seaside.. (1) ...."



From Norfolk to the Channel Islands





Dorset and Cornwall





 Most of my  holiday snaps are taken by the
seaside.













Walks by the waterside are a particular joy for me. They have become an essential spiritual exercise. What is that all about?


Monday, August 08, 2016

An Open Letter to John Dominic Crossan

Dear Dom,

Today is the Feast of St. Dominic and I wondered if you celebrate it as your name day. I woke up this morning thanking God for both you and the saint. Who would you be, without your formation as a Dominican? 

I am a bear of small brain and it feels as if I am almost untouched by scholarship. What a joy, that within the Body of Christ, I have brother who not only has scholarship and a wonderfully analytical mind but ears to hear and and a lucid, easy to follow writing style.

In  Jesus and the Violence of Scripture you have set out clearly, argued convincingly and further than I have ever attempted, what I mean by saying,"I am a Christ-ian and I understand what that means by being a follower of Jesus." Thanks for that!

I was particularly taken with your account of discovering your third metaphor the Biblical Iconic Focus in the Benedictine Basilica at Formis where Christ in Triumph in the apse is the focus of all the other biblical icons. Iconography, or not and the remaining evidence of Reformation  arguments are to be found in  many of our heritage churches in Norfolk  - e.g. http://www.hungate.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/hungate-trail-6fw.pdf. 

I love it that  the faces of the saints on the Belaugh rood screen were scratched out by a godly trooper from Hautbois in the Civil War. Perhaps icons/not icons is also the beating of a heart'
Although the roods, the Christ on the cross most often attended by Mary and John, were taken down by order of HenryVIII, the screens remained. But in the place of the Cross of Christ was placed the Royal Coat of Arms. The non-violent suffering servant replaced by the violence of the state. At St. Catherine's Ludham they dealt with the change of monarchy, and permitted iconography, by quickly producing a painted rood in the reign of Mary and then painting  Elizabeth's Royal Coat of Arms on the opposite side for her accession. Rescued from obscurity in Victorian times both sides of the panel are now visible - the rood from the nave  and the royal coat of arms from the chancel.

One wonders if there would ever have been a British Empire and a Pax Britannica (Peace through Victory)  if the roods had been left where they had been placed at the chancel arch. The theology was clear and true, the faithful  enter the mystery  of communion with God through the sacrifice, example and teaching of Jesus and the saints.

The Oxford Movement did lead to some of the roods being replaced but often it was a Christus Rex that was put in place. I think that allows for Peace through violent Victory. I suppose the icon/no icon is a false dichotomy. It is really, "Which icon?"  -The Reformation in England first gave us ,  the Crucified Christ or My Lord the King. Later,  as the Reformation gathered speed, statues and paintings may have disappeared but the icon was the Bible.  In reconquest Spain, at the extremes were Christ the Moor Slayer and  John of the Cross's  Beloved in the Song of Songs where the Paradise Garden was familiar idea to converting Muslims.

In the end, thank God for Francis as well as Dominic. He, more than any, championed the cause of the Peace Donkey!

With prayers and best wishes,

Richard



Friday, August 05, 2016

A Conversation with the Coot Club

It came as no surprise to pass "Death and Glory" as we made our way back up the Bure from a short cruise on Cygnet. I had been having an internal dialogue with the Coot Club ever since we came through Horning.

Back in the golden day, when I was a lad, before the old the Ferry Inn had burned down and the wherry Albion was still trading, there was nowhere near the river traffic there is today. It seems to my inner dyspeptic, grumpy old git that nothing will ever be the same. "Take a grip!" The positive. open, hopeful self replies. "Its change. All things change and yet nothing changes." The Coot club reminded me that although the Hullabaloos have taken over the pub, they tend to congregate in  certain places and the Broads are still a magic breathing space. More than ever  guardians of the Broads are called fight to protect, nurture and celebrate this unique environment.



You are right boys and the good news is there are lots of us at it. Horsey, where we had moored for two nights is in the care of the National Trust, Hickling and Barton broads in the care of Norfolk Wildlife Trust. We'd seen Hathor of the Wherry Yacht Charter ( http://www.wherryyachtcharter.org/index.php) out on Barton Broad and moored at How Hill.  Hunter's Yard Fleet boats (http://www.huntersyard.co.uk/)  were in evidence everywhere, as were the Martham Ferry Boiatyard fleet (http://www.marthamferryboatyard.co.uk/)




There are new developments in hand, the is nearly complete Three Rivers Way,  and a bike routes network that is expanding (https://norfolkbroadscycling.co.uk/).

Before long a riverside path from Ludham Bridge to St.Benet's will be open and there are plans afoot to improve and improve the  access to Hoveton Great Broad http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/environment/2m_of_lottery_cash_awarded_for_work_on_private_broad_1_4147300)

Even now Hoveton Great Broad (access from the river or by ferry from Salhouse Broad http://www.salhousebroad.org.uk/ferry.html) provides a haven of calm away from one of the most congested part of the Broads river network. What do you expect?  Its August!  Out on the river a 45 foot hire boat, skippered by a child and encouraged by adults is powering past a day boat at 7 knots, or more,  creating a prodigious bow wave! Hallabaloos ! Unimpressed Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies feed quietly on Hemp Agrimony.

On Wednesday night the White Horse, Neatishead there were morris dancers - Kemp's Men and an appreciative audience. Beer and dancing, cakes and ale - what could be more English?

And the built heritage was being maintained too - work on the Horsey Wind pump, St. Benet's ruins freshly restored, church towers raising eyes heavenward and windpumps, soon to benefit from the Water, Mills and Marshes project (http://www.broads-authority.gov.uk/looking-afte
r/projects/water,-mills-and-marshes)
I


















There are places where the Broads river network is over crowded. The increase in the size of hire boats over the years has reduced the number of boats that can fit on moorings.

The increase in air draught limits where the biggest boats can now go.
And so at some spots like the Bure by Salhouse Broad, with Hullaballoos racing to the next congested pub mooring, the river is pretty busy. In other places, the southern rivers and above Wroxham and Potter Heigham bridges there is less pressure.

In fact, the 6 foot air draft of Potter bridge acts as a Hullabaloo filter. There was plenty of room on the morrings - all very Swallows and Amazons (to stay with Arthur Ransom but to leave the Coot Club behind) ! A walk across the meadows to the beach revealed few humans bathing and sunbathing.


Seals were something else!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Churches and Tourism - Progress


Sometimes I'm so focused on the task in hand, I forget to sit up and take my bearings.

For 7 years I've been pushing on, hoping that the Church would get serious about tourism and Tourism serious about the church. And, Yes! There has been some progress:

  • I am chuffed to see the remit of, the soon to be appointed, Archdeacon of Norwich, will  include tourism. 
  • I am delighted that the Diocese of Norwich will be launching an Open Churches map (free for third party users to re-frame and embed in their own web sites) in the summer, and that
  • Premier Inns, King's Lynn recognise the warm welcome provided by St. Margaret's for hundreds of years.
Lets hope that those who are responsible for our heritage churches, step up to the plate and find effective ways of communicating our ancient Faith to new visitors.