Ireland is in the midst of her second Coronavirus lockdown, where the restrictions include an order that “church services move online”. The government’s goal is to limit physical interaction wherever possible, while still keeping prioritised institutions open—primarily schools and crèches, and also certain elite sports and greyhound racing (?). Church gatherings are considered to be an unnecessary risk, and have been banned not only in the current Level 5 restrictions, but also in the lower Levels 3-4 as well. While churches do (mostly) have the ability to broadcast aspects of their services, the blunt requirement to “move online” displays a misunderstanding of what the church is, how it works, and the role it plays in society.Continue reading The Church Is Not A TV Show
William Wilberforce was a British white man who was born into wealth, and quickly attained significant political power. He was elected as a Member of Parliament at the age of 21, while still a student. From such a position of privilege, what could Wilberforce ever legitimately say about racism? He had no personal experience of slavery. And yet, it was Wilberforce who spent most of his life and strength spearheading the effort to end the slave trade in the British Empire.Continue reading Two British White Men And The Foundations Of Racial Equality
This is the most unusual Easter weekend any of us have ever seen, and hopefully ever will. The sun is blazing where I live, but we can’t go out and we can’t even have church services to mark the most important day in the Christian calendar. This Easter Sunday will be different, to say the least. But I can’t stop thinking about Easter Saturday.
It’s the day we normally set aside for egg hunts and preparation for Sunday’s celebrations. It’s the day that even the gospels skim over, the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The day between death and resurrection. The day when Jesus’ disciples were heartbroken and hopeless, even though they were only one day away from seeing the greatest victory the world has ever known.Continue reading Don’t Skip Easter Saturday
Last week, I spent 28 hours in Bible College lectures on the gospels. We covered a lot of ground, which really means we scratched a lot of surface. The more I learn about the Bible, the more glimpses I see of depths I have yet to explore. With more time, we could have studied the original Greek and picked apart the sentence structure, studied related historical documents and the lives of the writers and the political movements of the Roman Empire and it’s all helpful.
Knowing the historical details of the relationship between Jews and Samaritans in the first century, and the context of God’s command to “love your neighbour as yourself” in Leviticus, certainly does enhance my understanding of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. But I don’t have to know all those things to the get the point of the story. In fact, if I really want to know what Jesus was talking about, there’s a better way to find out:Continue reading Obedience Is Better Than Greek
My son was just a few years old, and he’d probably seen more rainy days than sunny ones in his short life. That’s what happens when you grow up in Ireland. I found him looking at his wet toys through the glass doors:
“Daddy, can you turn off the rain?”
It wasn’t a question, as much as a request. He wasn’t asking about whether I was capable of such a thing. He fully believed that I was. He just wanted to know if I would.Continue reading “Daddy, Can You Turn Off The Rain?”
The longer I live on this planet, the more I’ve been forced to learn the art of dealing with death. There were no classes on this in school, but I have a teacher who refuses to be ignored: Experience. Attendance is mandatory. One after another, with increasing regularity, the funerals come. During the service, those of us who remain remind each other of God’s promises, eternal life and resurrection, Heaven and perfect rest and happiness for all eternity. The crowd pauses to make time for prayers and Scripture while death is in the room, before life moves on. But life does move on, and then many of the same people who spoke of the promises go back to ignoring death. Along with him, many also ignore the God who made the promises.Continue reading If God Can Be Trusted With Death, He Can Be Trusted With Life
Away in a manger
The little Lord cried:
Perfection’s not proven
By unfeeling eyes
In 1851 an Englishman by the name of John Henry Newman founded the Catholic University in Dublin, the precursor of today’s University College Dublin. Last month, he was canonised by Pope Francis along with four others at a ceremony in Rome. A Catholic convert from Anglicanism, Newman was a strong promoter of education and wrote an influential work called “The Idea Of A University”. When he was alive, he was recognised as a Cardinal. Now he’s also a Saint.
In his own time it was suggested that he led a saintly life, but he was quick to downplay the connection: “I have nothing of the saint about me as everyone knows and it is a severe and salutary mortification to be thought next door to one.”
Now that Rome has disagreed with the man himself, it raises the question: what is it that makes someone a saint?Continue reading Who Could Ever Be A Saint?
Jeffery Epstein is dead. By suicide they say, although the details seem odd and the list of powerful people who could have been damaged by his trial is long. Either way, he’s gone. And the only reason anyone seems sorry about that fact is that it means his horrible crimes won’t come to trial, his many victims won’t get their public vindication, and his powerful accomplices will remain free. Epstein set up a large network for trafficking underage girls, and the long list of his crimes is dark and disturbing. I suppose there is some satisfaction for his victims in knowing that he was finally caught and is now dead, but those facts do nothing to pay them back for what was done to them, or restore the years and innocence that was stolen. The life of Epstein is a classic example of wealth and influence subverting justice. He should have been stopped in 2005 when charges first came to light. He should have been stopped in 2007 when the FBI prepared a 53-page indictment against him, yet somehow he got a deal and 18 months in prison, of which he only served 13. After that he lived in freedom, continuing all the same crimes, until just recently. And the many powerful men who participated with him remain free still.
In other words, justice failed.
Seems to me it must be hard to live in this beautiful world and remain entirely confident that it is only accidental, that our lives are only accidental, and that our meaning and love and passions and sense of right and wrong are only the accidental output of material machinery marching to the orders of accidental DNA. Pure materialism doesn’t fit well with our actual experience of life on Earth. Even many who are not religious recognise this, and acknowledge the probable existence of a “higher power”.
Allowing for a higher power solves a lot of problems. It gives an explanation for love beyond chemical imbalances, hope beyond physical death, and value beyond usefulness. Religious or not, most people still want these things to be true, and still see (rightly) that they cannot be derived from pure materialism. Yet for all the problems it solves, the idea of a higher power raises more questions than it answers. What exactly is a “higher power”? One thing is for sure: it’s high.
A higher power is, by definition, higher than we are. Continue reading What If The Higher Power Really Is Higher?