Monthly Archives: January 2012

Music is life, sacred and beyond all that can be bought and sold!


My grandfather Wies Pichal, the late father of my mother who died of cancer some years ago, was a much more inspiring man than I realized when he was still alive. One could say he was a man like they don’t make ‘em any more, a good catholic man with old-fashioned values that we could probably learn a lot from now that Belgium is a post-catholic country of which the roots have been dissolved. And at the other hand just himself, a man who knew what he stood for, and a very good grandfather for me when I was a kid. He came from a time when people could be honest working people, and he embodied the best of the old-fashioned Flemish catholic folks, in a way that probably cannot exist any more… But I miss it, and I miss him…

One of the things that I learned from him was his approach of music. He was a very musical person, something I probably have inherited from him, but he lived it in an universal way that does not exist any more in late modernity and postmodernity. He was a man of natural music, music sung and played by everyone, and for everyone. He liked simple tunes that could be hummed and played with a few chords on the piano. He also liked music as something to do together, or at least with each other. To sing together (he was part of the parish choir as long as he could) or to play music for someone. Music as interaction between humans. Something very powerful, and might I add, sacred even!

These things are very different now. Music is not something we think about as something played live, since most music we hear is recorded, an a lot of these recordings weren’t even played by musicians on instruments; I’m not saying I am against sample-collage music or electronics, but there is something in unmediated music that is just being played and sung together, even without audience, that is completely lost in most of our contemporary approaches of music. And if you’ve never experienced the ‘organic and together’ version of music, you don’t know what you miss. But I’m happy for church house groups, semi-acoustic band practices and hippie campfires. CD’s, mp3’s and whatever means of playing recorded through boxes or earphones alone are not enough to really experience the dept of what music can be, and even the best live show, good as it is, leaves you incomplete if you don’t have the music inside and know how to let it out, together with others…

Music is big business now, and something that is being sold t us in our capitalist system. Something for professionals only. Singing together is something for churches or maybe sport happenings, but not something most people engage in very often in real life. Music is property of the radio, the record companies and the Cd-stores and i-tunes website. But please let’s not forget that music first and foremost is something inside of us, something of us humans together. Stealing music from humanity and make people pay for it is one of the most devaluating thing that could happen to it. Music should not be a consumer commodity that can be bought, but it should be be part of our lives and beings, and be inside of us, not something we have to buy or get from a machine. That means a disconnect to one of the core parts of our mere humanity. We should as humans be able to sing and play, and be music to each other! Everyone should be singing, regardless how their voice sounds. Music is too sacred to be left to professionals, and too important to give out of our hands!

I was reminded of all of this when I read a blogpost called ‘the song of God’ by Father Stephen, an Orthodox Priest, whom starts with a quote from Gregory of Nyssa, one of the Cappadocian fathers, about man being the song of God:

Man is a musical composition, a wonderfully written hymn to powerful creative activity.
– St. Gregory of Nyssa (PG 44, 441 B)

In Father Stephens words:

In St. Gregory’s thought,  man is not only a singer, but a song. We are not only song, but the song of God. Indeed within one theme of the fathers, all of creation is the song of God, spoken (or sung) into existence. “Let there be light,” is more than the voice of command: it is the uttering of a phrase that sets the universe as fugue. God sings. All of creation sings. The song of praise that arises from creation is offered to God, the Author of all things. It is also the sound of the creation itself, a revelation of the truth of its being. Music is not entertainment: rightly sung, it is the very heart of creation.

You should read the rest at Father Stephen’s blog (it’s not long), but I will give you the last paragraph to wrestle with.

I would never predict a disappearance of music – for human beings are a song and the song will not disappear. But to live in a manner that is alienated from ourselves as the song of God is to live with an existential emptiness. If man is a singer, then he must sing – and he must sing to God.

What do you people think? And what does it mean for our musical ‘worship’ in church? And for the rest of our lives?

Let us be the songs, together and when we’re alone.

Never let the music die, or be property of anyone, it sould flow from our hearts to the world!

Shalom

Bram

biblical manhood or the fruits of the Spirit?


There’s a certain kind of rhetoric in some corners of contemporary Christianity (mostly in the US I think) about how the church is effeminate and men need to save the church by taking the lead again and being more manly and violent and dangerous and all that jazz…

The story, which has been sold in many books and preached by good solid manly preachers, goes a bit like this: Men are created to be men and should therefore be,-unlike women who want safety and security-, wild and dangerous and violent and take risks and wrestle and strangle adult dragons with their bare hands and other everyday stuff like that… And it also seems like the biggest enemy here is men becoming like women. And oh, sometimes it’s also very important that God is a man. (Really?)

If you don’t know what I’m speaking about, just ignore me and consider yourself lucky… You’re not missing anything and reading me getting defensive about something that isn’t a problem in your world might be counterproductive, so you better read something else then. I recommend this NT Wright interview done by Frank Viola for example, or this transcript of an interview with a man who learnt a lot from Mother Theresa

I’m an alien?
So what’s the problem? The problem for me is when people tell me what a man is, and they paint a picture that excludes me. Like those books about Mars and Venus, where I felt like I was from Jupiter, or maybe Nibiru. But it’s even more irritating when it’s Christians who use the bible, through the lens of their own culture and with a lot of conclusions that I’d never find in the verses they quote, to say that a man is created to be something that might be some (sub)cultural idea of manhood, but that will never be remotely me.

I’m sorry, I might be a straight white married male, I don’t care about fancy cars, or about machines that make noise, I don’t care about competitive sports, I don’t even care about porn, or things all men should struggle with (I have other struggles though) and I think killing things or people is just a sign of evil, not of manhood. I like beer, but not to get drunk, and we just have good tasty beers brewed by monks in Belgium… I like wine and self-made elderflower lemonade too anyway, or gunpowder tea… Playing brave-heart (like a famous evangelical writer wrote about in a book about manliness that I won’t name but which I’ve written about earlier) doesn’t look manly to me, just childish and immature….

I’m sorry, I’m 100% man, and I suppose the puppy-smashing, binge-drinking, porn-watching machos are men too, just as the book reading, coffee-slurping intellectuals… There are different kinds of people, different kinds of personalities, who all have their strong and weak sides, and their struggles and gifts. But to elevate one certain type of man above the others (mostly by people who either are or otherwise want to be that kind of man) is not constructive. And in this case it can be quite misandric in a bullying kind of way, excluding all who don’t reach your holy standard of manliness. And if this kind of thing happens with bible-verses to back it up harm may be done to the body of Christ. (Others have said enough about how the roles that are pushed unto women, or even the word effeminate itself are quite misogynist, so I won’t go into that now)

I don’t care if you are a man and like to lead, but don’t make it a rule. I don’t care if your wife likes you to lead, fine, but not every woman is like that. Me and my wife both are mutualist/democratic people, who get irritated by both having to serve as a slave or to lead alone… Hierarchy is impossible in our marriage. And I’m not a person who likes to be leading everything, the responsibility gets heavy when I contemplate it, and I like to share it with other people…  I hate to be counted on to be ‘in control’ in most situations and I want to be together with people when things are hard… All people are different, but there are other lines to be drawn than between men and women…

not just men, but people are alienated
But, some say, the church is effeminate, and we need to man up. We need to be dangerous and violent and whatever otherwise we are not like God created man, look at **insert person from the bible killing bears or insulting kings or doing whatever kind of crazy things** Look, I don’t care what kind of examples you find in the bible. If they inspire you and you want to be like them. Fine, except when they lead you astray from the teachings of Christ and the fruits of the Spirit (we’ll get to that later) but there are also examples of men who liked to stay at home with their mother in the kitchen, like Jacob… And there are strong women, like Deborah who lead whole nations. Gender does not say much, in both genders there are a lot of different people, and 2 men can be more different in character than a man and a woman sometimes. (I’m much more like my wife in character than I am like people like Mark Driscoll… It’s just a difference, not a judgement of value…)

The rhetoric would say that we men have been tamed, and need to be wild again and take risks and stop being safe and blah blah blah. Now, I completely agree that we are alienated of our nature in this modern safe society in which we are like canaries in a golden cage. We are trapped in jobs that make no sense at all to make sure we can provide for our families. We have to follow a lot of petty rules and conform to a lot of nonsense.

But there’s no need at all to make this a gendered thing. All human beings in our current societies are alienated and cut off from their roots, and robbed of their connection with their selves, with nature, and with people in a community. And playing brave-heart, of having fantasies about being a biblical man who kills a lot of philistines, insults a dangerous king or slays wild animals with his bare hands is not at all helpful. Nor is it manly… It’s more immature, and the whole ‘be a biblical caveman’ approach is just an adventure in missing the point, a distraction. We see that there is a problem, but we come with a solution that isn’t relevant at all. Being more violent, making more noise, and watching fight club with a cheap beer will not bring you closer to God, nor will it make you more man…

The problem runs deeper, and is connected to the core problem of humanity, which is not at all gendered, even though different personalities (and men and women often have different personalities) might experience it differently. We are separated from God, from ourselves, from each other. And modern society has even alienated us even more from creation, which is part of the problem. We are all tamed by our own systems, which are in the end leading to suicide (as Jacques Ellul writes somewhere) and out of which we are called to live a new life, a new story… This is what the gospel is all about, and the gospel should not be watered-down with self-help ‘be a good American male’ therapy’!

Jesus said ‘follow me’, and gave us an example. He, who was God incarnate, followed the path of love until its final consequence at the cross, where the powers of the world killed Him. But those powers could not hold Him, and He defeated death, sin, bondage, evil and Satan in the resurrection! And we can share in that new life, the Way, which shatters the suicidal powers of the world, which brings life and renewal, and is a foreshadowing of the New earth and Heaven, when all evil will be erased, and we will be exactly what we were created to be, in everlasting union with the tri-une God and each other without any trace of darkness… This is what we men and women who feel caged are yearning for. And trying to fill that void with playing William Wallace the killer is just irrelevant as best, and harmful to the gospel at worst…

the spirit of the flesh…
I once almost threw a book across the room (if it would’ve been mine I would’ve really done it!) by the guy whom I already paraphrased who seemed to thing William Wallace from the brave-heart movie the best example of biblical manhood. The reason was that (after writing a lot of stuff about ‘biblical’ manhood according to him, which to me looked liked baptised American machismo and which quite bored me) he made a condescending remark about men who had learned to be nice and take mother Theresa as an example. And then it was enough… You can do what you want, but some things are going to far, like being so ignorant about Mother Theresa….

I don’t see why men, and women could not learn a lot from Mommy T (like Shane Claiborne calls her) She is one of the best examples there is of an untamed soul. She was an example of a person changed by the Way of Christ, and someone who exhibits the fruits of the Spirit. No, she wasn’t noisy, and not even drawing attention to herself, but that’s the whole point… Giving up yourself in love for others is more manly in the Kingdom than all warriors with shiny swords of all the videogames and movies together…

Let’s go to Galations 5, where the fruits of the Spirit are summed up:

5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 5:23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 5:24 Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 5:25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit.

This is the character of a Christian, and living in these characteristics as the Spirit enables them to grow in us will make us do things that go against the grain, things that are wild and untamed. But in a very different way than the ‘men are violent’ proponent preach. Violence and being rude and cultivating our ego aren’t fruits of the Spirit, but fruits of the flesh, and thinking that they’ll solve anything in our problems as Christians is misguided. As misguided as some other stereotypes that are pushed upon women too… If we live in the Spirit, the fruits will grow, and where the Spirit is, there is freedom, or liberation as Kurt just tweeted might be a better translation. Freedom from worldly expectations, cultural standards of manhood and womanhood, and liberation from the suicidal tendencies of the World and the Flesh…

Let’s not push ourselves and each other under a new slave-yoke

Let’s change our ways, for the Kingdom is here.

Let’s follow the Way, the Truth and the Light, into Life eternal,

Let’s shine a light so people might see who God is

let’s bring liberation in this dark world,

and let’s shine light where darkness reigns

Veni, Spiritus!

shalom

Bram

The most popular posts here in 2011


 Since I didn’t post this before being busy with other stuff, I’ll do it now when the year is still young: a list of the most viewed posts in 2011. I’m quite surprised by some of these, but it seems that the theological discussions are dominating the list. What’s also notorious is that certain names of known people just tend attract  lot of readers, much more readers than my own ideas. Which is not a good thing actually… (I supose Jeff ‘I hate religion’ Bethke will be in my top-10 of 2012 if this trend continues)

 1. C.S. Lewis on the resurrection as true mythology (January 29, 2011)
I’m not so proud having this as my most viewed post of 2011, consisting of just a C.S. Lewis quote about the ‘resurrection as true mythology’. Pity that it’s just a big name that attracts, and not my own writings, but he indeed was a better thinker and writer than myself I guess…

2. Why I wanted to marry an ugly girl as a teenager… (February 22, 2011)
I love this post, but I wonder what people where looking for in a search engine when they stumbled into this one, and if they found anything remotely connected to their original search intent…

3. Love your enemies, bless those who persecute you.. (October 14, 2010)
Some good solid biblical content, and a post from 2010, on the third spot, and I’m actually quite happy with that! This is important stuff that should not be overlooked, so the more people search for these verses the better!

4. The cultural problem of Mark Driscolls effeminate worship leaders… (July 9, 2011)
Mark Driscoll, mega-church calvinist, hypermasculinist and anti-feminist has made enough statements that shocked people, even last week something about him was going round, and then I don’t even mention his book.. (be sure to read Dan Brennan’s reviews here and here) A bit of a pity that his name should turn up in my top-10 posts though…

5.evangelical universalism? (and Rob Bell) (February 27, 2011 )
Maybe another discussion I shouldn’t have gotten myself into. Still haven’t read the book…

6. Is this the good news of the gospel? (April 14, 2011 )
A video that explains the gospel, or maybe not, made me write this… This one got 28 comments some of which were probably more interesting than my post…

7. Judgement day on may 21, ’11 or wacko theologies (July 13, 2010)
Harold Camping prophesied the end of the world at october, 21th, 2011, and the rapture for earlier that year on may 21th but nothing did happen except for a lot of traffic on my old blog post from 2010 about it…

8.Substitutionary atonement and Christus victor (April 9, 2011)
And now for some theological discussion… I still think this is an important discussion, so I’m glad with this post in the top-10…

9. a truly orthodox view on salvation… (March 3, 2011 )
Truly orthodox as in eastern orthodox that is, in the same vein of the atonement and gospel discussions of #6 and #8, but with a video of a bearded priest, which is quite cool!

10.Harry Potter & Hermione on St-Paul and the defeat of death (January 29, 2011)
Yes, that’s a post about bible interpretations in Harry Potter. I’m glad that this one made the list, and it might be one of my more original writings of last year….

My favorite post from 2011 that didn’t make the list was teenage flashback: I’m not flirting, but I might need a hug…, and maybe this one: Do you love your wife or a picture in your head? So love, sex, relationships and gender roles seem to be recurring themes on this blog. Don’t ask me why…

I want to thank all of you for reading, commenting, enduring, and not burning me on a stake!

Shalom

Bram

The Word of God


This very interesting discussion at Rachel Held Evans’ blog about Christians as ‘people of the book’ (as the Quran calls us) reminded me of this quote, that might upset some fellow evangelicals:

It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true Word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers will bring us to Him. When it becomes really necessary (i.e. for our spiritual life, not for controversy or curiosity) to know whether a particular passage is rightly translated or is Myth (but of course Myth specially chosen by God from among countless Myths to carry a spiritual truth) or history, we shall no doubt be guided to the right answer. But we must not use the Bible (our ancestors too often did) as a sort of Encyclopedia out of which texts (isolated from their context and read without attention to the whole nature and purport of the books in which they occur) can be taken for use as weapons. – C.S. Lewis

And some Ellul:

“We are not to make the Torah into God Himself, nor the Bible into a “paper pope.” The Bible is only the result of the Word of God. We can experience the return of the Word of God in the here and now, the perpetual return of the actual, living, indisputable Word of God that makes possible the act of witnessing, but we should never think of the Bible as any sort of talisman or oracle constantly at our disposal that we need only open and read to be in relation to the Word of God and God Himself.” – Jacques Ellul

so what do you people think?

shalom

Bram

It may or may not be a religion, depending on your definition (pt II)


For those who missed part 1, this is part 2 of my reaction to the viral ‘hating religion but loving Jesus’-video that everybody even remotely christian and even their atheist bulldog seem to be posting on facebook nowadays. Part one, in which I elaborated on definitions of the word ‘religion’ is here, and should probably be read before this one…

After the semantics it’s time to go to a problem that’s way more serious, and dig deeper in the message itself: It seems like Jeff Bethke makes his way of being a christian, and thus the gospel, antithetic to everything he denounces as ‘religion’ (which seems to be all that can go wrong with Christianity, and all he dislikes about some other christian groups) which makes the word ‘religion’ useless.

So let’s look at some of Bethke’s statements:

Now back to the topic, one thing I think is vital to mention,
How Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrums,
One is the work of God one is a man made invention,
One is the cure and one is the infection.
Because Religion says do, Jesus says done.
Religion says slave, Jesus says son,
Religion puts you in shackles but Jesus sets you free.
Religion makes you blind, but Jesus lets you see.

I still do not know what Bethke’s definition is of religion, but it seems like his ‘religion’ is something really really bad nonetheless, and actually a very good scapegoat to dump all the problems of Christianity and the rest of the world on, sometimes leaping into ridiculous exaggerations. The above part is a good example.

I disagree completely with some of his statements… Religion is not the infection. Or doesn’t he agree that God himself instituted the religion of the Jews? Which would be very strange for a bible-believing evangelical, like he seems to be. Okay, religion did get infected with a lot of bad things (just like the Christian religion) but the problem was not ‘religion’ but the things infecting it. It’s a very weird deduction actually… Will you get rid of your child when it has a disease?

But it goes a lot further:

This is what makes religion and Jesus two different clans,
Religion is man searching for God, but Christianity is God searching for man.
Which is why salvation is freely mine, forgiveness is my own,
Not based on my efforts, but Christ’s obedience alone.
Because he took the crown of thorns, and blood that dripped down his face
He took what we all deserved, that’s why we call it grace.
While being murdered he yelled “father forgive them, they know not what they do”,
Because when he was dangling on that cross, he was thinking of you
He paid for all your sin, and then buried it in the tomb,
Which is why im kneeling at the cross now saying come on there’s room
So know I hate religion, in fact I literally resent it,
Because when Jesus cried It is finished, I believe He meant it.

I know the “Religion is man searching for God, Christianity is God searching for man” theme, and there’s something to that, but still I don’t completely agree. It’s easy to say, but in the end the Jewish religion was also instituted by God when He, and not some evil people or delusional demons, but God Himself gave the laws to Moses! So I don’t see his logic why he can renounce and literally resent religion as a whole here, or proclaim Jesus and religion two different clans. And Jesus never abolished the laws, he fulfilled them, transcended them. But He surely never went denouncing them as evil. And religion-bashing is not the way to further the gospel.

It almost looks like the problem of the new atheists. They see a problem with fundamentalist religion and so keep the fundamentalism and ditch the religion. The anti-religion rhetoric does put all the blame on whatever ‘religion’ is supposed to be and then declared Jesus something completely different.

But there is something more that’s troubling in his approach. Now look at the above presentation of the gospel? What’s missing?

Firstly, like more evangelicals tend to do, the resurrection is completely ignored for some weird reasons, as if a ‘good Friday only gospel’ will ever be complete. But let’s not go into that, and also skip the idea that ‘Jesus thought of me’ while on the cross for now… And how he sees the ‘it’ that has been finished at the cross as ‘religion’ is beyond me.

But now we come to probably the weak point of common ‘born-again theology’. We are born-again because our sins (or the punishment for it) have been taken away by Jesus on the cross and now it’s all finished…. But that’s just the beginning. We have a whole life of growth before us. Being a spiritual baby alone is not enough. It’s even quite risky, babies are vulnerable beings that cannot survive without aid from others, and that are meant to grow into adulthood. (so they can make babies themselves, spiritually I mean) We are saved, and we are being saved, the bible used both, and they must be in tension. Salvation is not one moment, but an ongoing process that will never be perfected in this life, and something we have to bring to the world around us.

Sin is not just a problem that needs to be forgiven, Jesus destroyed the Power of sin, the infection that the fall brought has been recapitulated when He overcame the powers of evil, sin and death which were not strong enough to take him. Sin is something much more serious than just an offence to God, it’s a destructive force that pervades the whole universe…

Jesus didn’t finish all things at the cross, he started them. The resurrection was the beginning of the New heaven and earth. We are not just reconciled to God, but called out to proclaim the Kingdom of God ourselves. We gain a whole new life in Him, we are called to follow Him and further that Life in this fallen world. Which means action and a changed life, and the word ‘relationship’ implies that too.

And this is the last big problem with the ‘relationship with Jesus’ idea, which is actually quite troubling if you think about it. Sarah Moon has pointed to it in her excellent blog post. The view on relationships one would derive from this theology would be a very defunct one. Firstly nothing at all is said about what the relationship with Christ means in the poem, so we have to read between the lines if we want to know what he means. The hints in the beginning where he describes what religion is not are not that bad, but there’s no connection at all to the main dish, which is the atonement theory in the end, that seems to trump all, and doesn’t even try to say what our part is. 

There seems to be not that much about how to maintain the relationship in this view. Don’t we need to do certain things to keep a relationship healthy. Just accepting something from someone will never makes us lovers as far as I know… And being ‘in love’ with Jesus all the time is not a relationship. A relationship requires effort, interaction, and sometimes blood, sweat and tears…

In the words of Sarah who expressed it more eloquently:

Relationships are about action, not just desire. That action will look different in every relationship, just as different people approach religion in different ways. But if I “love me some Jesus,” then I’m going to do things for Jesus. I’m going to love the people that Jesus loves. I’m going to help him accomplish his task of redeeming a hurting, broken world. I’m going to embrace rituals and ceremonies and organizations that bring me closer to him and that provide an outlet for me to love his people.

This “love for Jesus” that so many evangelical churches support seems like the immature love of a 13-year-old girl scribbling  on a bathroom wall a heart and the name of her crush.

I’m tired of settling for that shallow, intangible, romantic emotion of being in love with Jesus.

Let’s get off our asses and love.

What do you all think?

Shalom

Bram

It may or may not be a religion, depending on your definition (pt I)


If you recognize the quote in the title you are a die-hard fan of my music. (If you don’t, it’s the opening lines from ‘NT Wright is a sound theologian‘ on my almost finished album ‘cyberluddism‘ that can still be listened and downloaded on bandcamp)

Now to the point, There is a a video that has been going round on facebook lately that is so viral that it seems everyone remotely Christian (from die-hard evangelicals to vaguely Jesus-inspired hippies) has been sharing it. It actually reminded me that the word ‘viral’ is derived from ‘virus’, like in a computer virus or a flu virus… It’s called “Why I hate religion, but love Jesus” by some Jeff Bethke guy who does some spoken word poetry with music behind it. And by now I’ve had it with everyone and even their goldfish sharing the bleeping video on facebook. Please, I’ve seen it pass like 20 times today… Have mercy…

Now there’s a lot of things that I like in the video, Jeff Bethke does makes some good points. (read the words of the poem here) And the production quality is great and the speaker is very articulate. That’s not my issue. But there are some things I find quite shallow, not to say cliché, and the ‘a relationship, not a religion’ rhetoric is getting a bit irritating sometimes….

Some interesting remarks about the problems with this video are written by the American Jesus, Sarah Moon, Elisabeth Esther, Jake Belder and Patrol Mag and by this girl on youtube. I’m not going to repeat everything those people say, so they might be interesting to read too…

So what’s my problem with this video and the ideas behind it? Actually there are several and maybe they indicate my theological disagreement with some articulations of popular evangelical theology. The first disagreement is a question of semantics. The definition of religion used is completely shallow, it seems like that word is used to describe all that those people don’t like. Which is kinda stupid, since everybody knows that Christianity IS a religion for most people.

Now I do know where the ‘it’s not a religion’ thing comes from… The simplest version I’ve heard is that religion in man’s way to get to God (or to get salvation), something which will never work, but that Christianity is God coming to man and we just need to accept that to be saved. That’s more or less the core of charismatic and post-evangelical idea behind ‘I am not religious’, like I’ve heard it for years and years…

But there is more to the word religion. Religion is something that innate in humans the way God created them, and the solution to wrong religion is not to abolish all religion, but to find good religion. Religion is something broad and is very hard to pin down, and the word has too much behind it to dismiss it all with an evangelical cliché… I find the seven dimensions of religion by Ninian Smart very interesting. (thanks to Matt Stone @glocal christianity)

Ninian Smart suggested that, whatever else a religion may be, it usually contains certain recognizable elements:

Ritual: Forms and orders of ceremonies (often regarded as revealed).

Narrative and Mythic: stories (often regarded as revealed) that work on several levels. Sometimes narratives fit together into a fairly complete and systematic interpretation of the universe and human’s place in it.

Experiential and emotional: dread, guilt, awe, mystery, devotion, liberation, ecstasy, inner peace, bliss.

Social and Institutional: belief system is shared and attitudes practiced by a group. Often rules for identifying community membership and participation.

Ethical and legal: Rules about human behaviour (often regarded as revealed).

Doctrinal and philosophical: systematic formulation of religious teachings in an intellectually coherent form.

Material: ordinary objects or places that symbolize or manifest the sacred or supernatural.

I think most of these are in one form or another present in almost every form of Christianity, (yes, the sacraments of bread and wine and baptism are clearly rituals!) except maybe the material aspect in protestantism. There might be discussion about this… And I do know there could be much more definitions of religion. But just re-defining religion so you can denounce it, like the evangelical tradition seems to do, is a bit weird. But they’re in good company. Bonhoeffer already did it. And people like Greg Boyd (a thinker I generally like and respect, like I do with Bonhoeffer) are doing the same.

But I would say let’s quit it please. It creates a sense of superiority in some christians who feel high above those poor ‘religious folks’. And it complicated conversation with a lot of people who just see religion as a word for believing in God or gods. Or have academic definitions like Ninian Smart.

Oh, and if we’re biblical christians, maybe we should look to the bible, where the book of James defines for us what good religion is supposed to be:

James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Or is that a liberal social gospel and being saved by works? Nah, it’s the bible!

Shalom

Bram

(stay tuned for pt II about the gospel like it’s presented in the video!)

To hell with the European Union…


This image can be bought on a T-shirt here!

For those wondering; the  triple-dot punctuation mark in the title indicates that I primarily meant to use a second meaning of the expression: The European union is taking people to hell. And I must confess that I fought using a lot of harsher words while writing, but what good would they do?

I’ll just say this plainly: This nonsense that’s happening nowadays should end. I say that as a Christian, I say that as a human about humans beings created in the Imago dei, the image of God! I say that as someone who because of these 2 believes in a form of ‘basic humanism’ that looks at every human being as of infinite worth. Much more worth and value than big ideas, ideologies, and money.

So why am I suddenly taking this role as an indignado, and indignant one here on the blog? I wasn’t even planning on blogging about politics. (Neither did I plan yesterdays post on christianity, economics and neoliberalism btw, it just happened) The last straw for me to openly join the indignant ones, and the only appropriate reaction I see, was this story: According to BBC  news (Trigger Warning, heartbreaking article for anyone who is still remotely human, grotesque inhumanity), “Greece’s financial crisis has made some families so desperate they are giving up the most precious thing of all – their children”.

you read that right:

In the last two months Father Antonios, a young Orthodox priest who runs a youth centre for the city’s poor, has found four children on his doorstep – including a baby just days old.

Another charity was approached by a couple whose twin babies were in hospital being treated for malnutrition, because the mother herself was malnourished and unable to breastfeed.

Cases like this are shocking a country where family ties are strong, and failure to look after children is socially unacceptable – they feel to Greeks like stories from the Third World, rather than their own capital city.

And further in the article:

The Smile of a Child’s Sofia Kouhi says the biggest tragedy, in her eyes, is that those parents who ask for their kids to be taken into care may be the ones who love their children the most.

“It is very sad to see the pain in their heart that they will leave their children, but they know it is for the best, at least for this period,” she says.

If this is the outcome, then I just repeat it, now in the conventional meaning: To hell with bigger ideas like ‘the European Union’, ‘the Euro’ or even ‘the economy’ if this is what they bring us. Or just let them burn up and be annihilated if you prefer, I don’t mind, as long as they’re somewhere they can’t hurt any human being. Those ‘bigger ideas’ should be at the benefit of all of the people and otherwise we should get rid of them.

Whatever big theories are used to justify systems that lead to this, they are God-damned nonsense and poisonous bullshit. If we judge the tree by it’s fruit and not by what some otherworldly so-called ‘expert’ in a lab coat tells us we’ll see that it’s pure poison. Please let us just dump every ideology that is capable of creating this. I don’t even care what the theories behind this are. Just get rid of the junk.

We cannot just walk away from this Omelas. Especially now the child sacrificed to suffer hell for all to prosper is a whole country, and who know how many more will follow to not even give the others anything remotely like an ‘utopia’, but also most probable in the end a worse life for all common Europeans. But even one child would be utterly unacceptable!

Except for maybe some bankers and politicians who are living the dumb illusions that their loads of money could ever bring happiness. Or for those who aren’t in any danger, who live in the abstract world of their ideology and all their theories.  We must feel sorry for them, for they are to pity too… Their souls must be quite damaged too if they don’t even see the problem, and their very humanity as at stake…

Let us pray if we’re able, resist where we’re, and be there for those who need it if we encounter them. Let our lives be filled with grace and generosity.

Kýrie, eléison
Χριστέ, ἐλέησον
Kýrie, eléison

shalom, which means peace with God and people and a life of ‘enough’ to you all, especially those trampled under by the systems of Babylon!

Bram