Friday, April 22, 2005

A Response

The following entry was originally written as a response to someones comment on my "Star Trekkin" post while it was still over at MSN Spaces. I have included the comment ahead of my response to give some idea of the original context:
P.A was 'ere! OK the money could have been better used but at the end of the day u can't take away ppls rights to be ass-holes, by the same token the church could sell some of its buildings and lands and use that to wipe out some of the 3rd world debts i mean come on look at the cathedrals all in prime city centre sites, that land would be worth a fortune. The church is notorious for taking from the poorest of ppl and giving nothing back in return "pay now for your down payment in the afterlife, the more u give the more u'll be saved" also most of the cathedrals are in such a poor state of repair they are constantly paying millions just to keep them up, prime example is York minster where they have a door charge to enter the house of god! oh and a shop inside as well .... now i seem to remember from my catholic upbringing he scattered the traders from the temple once before, seems to me if he does return he'll feel right at home and have a great time turning over a few stalls set up at the back of many churches.
3-2-1 i'm gone P.A byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
You may be interested to know that I actually largely agree. Do you know how much I sometimes wish an asteroid would just fall out the sky and knock our own church into the ground?

In the middle ages people wanted to honour God by building magnificent places of worship. It's been said you can always tell what a culture values the most, by the size of it's buildings. Back then it was churches... today commercial towers dominate the skyline. Rather sadly.
Anyway back to your point. As time wears on, these places, though architecturally magnificent, become increasingly archaic and impractical to manage. So this is the big question... do we bulldoze something of value (in terms of cultural decadence), or do we keep. it. Personally I feel that churches should be practical places. that require a low economy to run/maintain. Don't get me wrong, I value artistry and architecture quite strongly, but I believe if something is being kept for artistic and cultural value, then it should be cultural and heritage institutions that fund their upkeep. The role of a church building is to be a place that attends to the spiritual needs of a person foremost; a place of worship, a place of prayer, a place of inspiration and reflection. Art does have value within the church, but not ars gratia artis (art for arts sake).
The Archbishop of Canterbury recently urged the Anglicans to think global, act local. Which is excellent in principal. However, when the CofE itself syphons of colossal amounts of your church's money so that IT can act global, not to mention fund rather large clergy pensions, it becomes rather a hypocritical thing to say.
Personally I'd be very happy to see my church secede from the Church of England. That way we could invest more money in spreading the Gospel, and also supporting the needs of the community. I'd also be OK if the church of England ceased being a state religion. Why? Well, if the CofE stopped messing around trying to please everybody, and started sticking to it's guns, people might respect it a little more.
The saying goes that you can't please everyone... so you shouldn't try if it compromises what you are. It's far better to be true to yourself and honest about what you believe, instead of mucking about here and there and pandering to everything.
The centre cannot hold anyway, one day the older churches are going to be impossible to maintain financially, and then we will have come full circle and be back in people's homes... which is awesome!.
I don't care for all the robes and finery. An archbishop looks just as stupid squatting on the loo as any of us do! they aren't any more important... the wise ones (like the retiring archbishop of York), know this.
I went to a confirmation last year, and I had to stop myself laughing. the bishop overseeing it must have thought he was Gandalf. Every time he blessed someone by the laying on of hands, he badly exaggerated his gestures. He reached as far as he could behind him and then brought his arms fully forward... as if he was conjuring something up. It looked like he was doing breast stroke! there is no need for this. The power of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit resides in the heart's of faithful men, and the covenant is between God and the recipient. If the bishop is anything, he's merely a vessel.
The things that upset me the most are places like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity. What I find most beautiful about those places, is the fact that they are so humble locations, that played host to the most powerful events in history... the humility is part of that power, and yet it is denied because men pile mountains of gold all over them.
It's like girls, I don't particularly find girls who pile on tons of make-up attractive... I'm attracted to natural beauty the most, and it's the same with churches. Symbolism I'm fine with, but when the symbols and the finery become more important than what is symbolised, it has to stop because otherwise it becomes idolatrous.
So I stand by my criticism of the Star Trek fan campaign to save Enterprise, all the more because I am prepared to stand with you in your criticism of where certain church establishments, are rich towards themselves, but poor towards God.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Tony Blair

Again he lies. Should we really be surprised? He keeps shifting the goalposts about when he'll step down. Originally he said two terms was enough. About a month before the election announcement he then said he'd probably step down in September to give his successor a proper run in. Then that changed to mid-term. Now he's gone on the record as saying he'll serve a full third term.
I would have tolerated "New" Labour getting in if I knew Blair would be gone soon after, and Gordon Brown would be at the helm. But now Mr "I'm Tory Plan B" (yes that is an anagram of PM Tony Blair) has scuppered that.
By the way type the word "liar" into Google and see what comes up as the 1st result!
Enough of my negative rant now!
Update as of 23rd April:
While visiting my sister in hospital today, I found out that Blair had recently visited the Alexandra while campaigning for the election. Now here is something you need to know, because it says a lot about the man... none of the people who he was seen talking to were actual patients. All of the people that were approached in the hospital refused to be even pictured with him, so the Labour PR machine hired ACTORS! So he's not just prepared to mislead the nation over WMD's, but also healthcare.
Truly, you were born to lie Mr Blair.
If it were me, I would have played nice and pretended to be excited, and then when the cameras were rolling... then I'd let fly with what I REALLY thought. That's how you beat slick PR machine's... feed them what you think they want, then with their defences down, fire a salvo across your target's bows.
I suppose I should have added this under 23rd April, but to be honest I don't want to waste any more space on the parasitic little powermonger.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Good Shepherd

On Sunday, the scripture we were reading from was John 10:1-16, and the sermon was focused on "The Good Shepherd". Here's a copy of the passage:
The Shepherd and His Flock
"“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.
Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me– just as the Father knows me and I know the Father–and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. ""

One thing I find amusing, is that sometimes I totally switch off from the sermon the preacher is giving and hear a different one instead. This is exactly what happened on Sunday, no disrespect to Rev Boddington, who is an excellent charismatic vicar! He was explaining some of the symbolism of the sheep and the shepherd in Christianity to the congregation. Mr Tangent here meanwhile was thinking about the depth of Christ's love, as the Good Shepherd. You see, you can have all the Spirit filled leaders in the world, but ultimately it's the voice of Jesus we need to listen to. Our leaders are like hired hands, yes they love us, but they cannot be there for us 24/7. In our darkest hour, it is Christ who is there for us when others do not understand and shun us. Yes he works through his servants, but they are NOT the Shepherd. They are not the author of our salvation, they are fallible, and when everything else goes pear shaped they cannot guarantee 100% attention all of the day and all of the night.
Jesus CAN!
It's really paramount to explore the depths of a relationship with God on a personal level, otherwise everything you believe is just smoke and mirrors and founded on nothing. If God is not at the centre of your faith, it will not stand when the rains come down and the floods come up!

I want everybody to be able to grasp the enormity of God's love. In fact, as Paul the apostle did nearly 2,000 of your Earth years ago, I pray it:

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. "
May you know the closeness of the Shepherd. May his Spirit remain within you... for that will be better for you than any praise offering, more substantial than any preacher.
Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, lean not on your own understanding.

Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI

When I first saw the newly elected pope emerging on the balcony, he freaked me out a little. He seemed to look a little vampiric. However, trying not to be one who judges on outward appearance, I have decided to look into what the Roman Catholic denomination, the wider family of the Church, and the world in general can expect from this man.

Newsnight was very interesting, notably for the comments of a member of the RC clergy who was involved in a debate with a woman about this very subject. The woman was arguing strongly that the cardinals had let the world down by electing an ultra-conservative pope. The priest came back with a very valid comment. He argued that the duty of a pope isn't to be liberal or conservative, that shouldn't even come into the equation when choosing a new pope. A pope should be chosen because he is faithful to God.
Isn't that the truth for all of us as Christians? We don't have a duty to any political leaning within church ideology, we only have ONE duty... to be faithful to God.
John 6:28,29 "Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”"
Our actions and beliefs should be directed by the one God sent... Jesus Christ. We need to be sensitive to God's Word and the presence of the Holy Spirit if we are to do that. Our ideologies should be shaped by our beliefs, not the other way round.
The new pope has suggested that his primary goal will be to unite all Christians, and while this is noble... the simple fact is, true Christians are already united through the Holy Spirit and the grace of God, oh yes we may differ on the odd doctrine here and there, and we may worship in different denominations... but those of us who have genuine faith are not divided against those we recognise as brothers.
I watch with interest to see how his interpretation of what he said, is acted out. It could be good or bad.
I was looking at the Beeb website today. the new pope strongly disagrees with the philosophy of relativism, and I have to say in principle I'm in agreement with him. However I'm not a rigid absolutist by any means. I believe there most truths are absolutely certain as a Christian, but I also believe God allows for flexibility on certain issues.
I see the Law and life like a skeleton. Structured enough to keep everything together as should be, but flexible enough not to be completely isolationist.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Star Trekking

I was watching Enterprise the other day (I have to say I think the souped up version of the theme sounds really naff and US sitcom or Aussie soap-like). There were a couple of points I wanted to make about it.
The first thing is with regard to what has become a running joke with the T4 presenters at the end of each episode. The Enterprise fan's campaign to save the show at a cost of $30,000,000!
The fans of Enterprise have lost the plot a bit if you ask me. Although I'm not a humanist, I recognise that some of the Star Trek's ideology has value in the real world... namely: not being materialistic and working together as a race to overcome common problems. What could be more hypocritical than a group of people who like are inspired by a TV programme that preaches those values, clubbing together to raise money for a television programme? Think of the amount of good causes that money could be invested in... think of how such a sum could contribute to tackling some of the world's major problems! They should stop being so materialistic and let the programme die. there have been dozens of programme's I have liked, but when they've gone the way of the dodo, I've accepted it and moved on.
Having said that. I also wanted to make a point about the episode on Sunday. In it, one of the major character's falls in to a coma, and the Captain and Dr make a tough decision with regards to saving him. They take his DNA and inject it into a larvae that will take on the person's DNA and grow from infancy into a carbon copy of the character (in an accelerated life-span of 15 days). However it also acquires the personality and memories of him, as he reaches the approximate age of those memories.
The problem is, that the clone has been bred for one reason and one reason alone... to save the life of the genuine character. As he reaches a level of consciousness and awareness, he develops his own dreams, memories and attachments... he wants to live his life out himself irrespective of the consequences for the original character.
However, in the end he knows what the right thing to do is, and he does it. By losing his own life, he saves the life of a man who could not be saved by any other means.
This really came across to me as a parable of the story of Christ. He too, was born for a single purpose... he could have rejected that purpose and been whoever he wanted. Thank God, he didn't!

Saturday, April 16, 2005


Ever since the publication of the Da Vinci Code, people have been going round with the assumption that it's true. Newsflash... it's cobblers! Anyone who saw the Tony Robinson documentary on it will have seen that nearly all of the major issues raised by the book were deconstructed and debunked thoroughly.

The Priory of Sion does not exist. It was invented in the 60's by a small band of French eccentrics, one of whom fantasised about having claims to the French throne. When a previous scandal mongering book came out that made similar claims to the Da Vinci Code, the hoaxers came forward and admitted what they had done. They in no way wished to be associated with the idea that they may be thought of as descendants of Jesus.

The Knight's Templar were not trying to protect descendants of Jesus when they fled the besieged French Templar stronghold. They were trying to protect gnostic teaching. The Catholic church was going after them for two reasons 1) To seize their lands and fortunes and 2) To eradicate heretical teaching.

The second reason was valid, but not worth killing over. Gnosticism is heretical because it claims the physical world is an evil lie created by an evil god. It claims that Jesus was sent by the true spirit god and resurrected only in spirit and that salvation is not by grace through faith but through "special knowledge" (gnosis is a greek word meaning "to know"). Gnosticism survives today in institutions such as Freemasonry (but that is only one of the evils that Freemasonry plays host to).

Gnostic heresy is evil because it in effect claims Satan made the earth, and everything physical is evil. A cute baby, a beautiful woman, the awe inspiring stars, the tender texture of a flower, the sweet sensation of fresh water running through your fingers... gnostics would say all these are evil, because of their physicality. It also suggests that Jesus was in part evil because he had physical form. It also denies the physical resurrection of Christ, whereas the Gospel tells us Jesus was raised in body because he ate and touched after he returned to us. Gnosticism is a complete pile of crud!

OK now to the issue of Mary Magdalene. The only proof we have of a physical relationship with Jesus is the gospel of Philip which is... yep you guessed it a GNOSTIC gospel. It is at odds with apostolic teaching in regards to salvation and it's authorship is severely questioned... THAT is the reason it's omitted from the Bible. Even if this were not so, the "gospel" attributed to Philip only mentions that Jesus kissed her once, and the disciples got jealous. OK, now if I come and kiss you lot... does that mean your my wives and the bearers of my progeny? I don't think so! Mind you, if you are my future wife and the bearer of my progeny, please do step forward and introduce yourself LOL!

Brown in his book uses French folk stories of middle eastern women (some called Mary) fleeing the War of the Jews, to back up his idea that Mary Magdalene was fleeing persecution with a child. However, there were plenty of people called Mary in 1st century Israel. Heck there were plenty of people called Jesus too! there still are today... is your name Joshua? Congratulations you're name is Jesus (Joshua is the nearest modern Hebrew version of Jesus name... Jesus being the Greek)!

In short, Dan Brown knitted together a series of conspiratorial fictions to make a mountain of cash for himself. Of course, he acknowledges and stresses his work is fiction. I think I heard he had an unhappy Roman Catholic upbringing... so it wouldn't surprise me if he was secretly pleased that his fiction is giving the established church a headache, it is probably repression kicking in. We could just ignore him, if he hadn't tried to pass of his "work" as historic fact. SECULAR historians (not Christians) have big problems with authors like Dan Brown because they sensationalise history and deliberately take things out of context for artistic licence.

So, why do people want to buy his books? It's about the darker side of human nature I suspect. We live in a culture that thrives on scandal and we have an obsession with conspiracy. The media feeds us the rise and fall of celebrity. People by OK and Hello, to watch the big names take a big fall... and oh how people love to read about it happening. Inside we have a dark desire to believe the worst in everything. Everybody will fail, everybody will fall, every major event and or. So when a book comes along saying that the Church is built on lies, it's no different. It fills the need of that dark corner of the soul.

Keep on reading gossip and scandal and you feed your soul poison though! I could quote reams of scripture on the subject of slander and all kinds of behaviour... but a children's song sums it up quite eloquently:

Oh, be careful little ears, what you hear (repeat)
For the Father Up above,
Is looking down in love,
So be careful little ears what you hear.

Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see, (repeat)
For the Father up above,
Is looking down in love,
So be careful little eyes what you see.

Oh, be careful little mouth, what you say, (repeat),
For the Father up above,
Is looking down in love,
So be careful little mouth what you say.

Oh, be careful little hands, what you do (repeat),
For the Father up above,
Is looking down in love,
So be careful little hands what you do

Oh, be careful little feet where you go (repeat)
For the Father up above,
Is looking down in love,
So be careful little feet,where you go.

Oh, be careful little mind what you think (repeat)
For the Father up above,
Is looking down in love,
So be careful little mind, what you think.

Oh, be careful little heart what you love (repeat)
For the Father up above,
Is looking down in love,
So be careful little heart, what you love.

Whatever you believe... just please BE CAREFUL!
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