Quote of the day

“We tend to believe our worldview is based on evidence, but I think it’s more accurate to say a worldview is a set of non-negotiable moral or intellectual intuitions that we have come to accept as facts.”

From a post by Kevin Miller on Hellbound blog

“An “awakening from above” may change nature, but it does not, in and of itself, change human nature. In it, no human effort has been expended. Those to whom it happens are passive. While it lasts, it is overwhelming; but only while it lasts. Thereafter, people revert to what they were. An “awakening from below”, by contrast, leaves a permanent mark”.
Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Two Types of Religious Encounters

Love overcomes violence

“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

We live in a world marred by violence. Last week as I read through our local newspapers I noticed that there is a great degree of violence in our community. People of all ages and from all backgrounds are victims of violence: husbands and partners abusing their spouses, parents abusing their children, brother punching sister, people being attacked on the streets. Last Wednesday’s daily local paper reported no less than six separate grave incidents of violence in our local area. Despite what appears to be an increase in acts of violence I don’t think that we can say that our society today is more violent than in the past. Human propensity, or predisposition, to violence is something that is inherent in our nature. Biologists tell us that these aggressive tendencies are part and parcel of our natural instincts for survival which enabled humans to survive and evolve. But they also tell us that evolution has not just shaped humans to be violent but also to develop societies and morals that are based on cooperation and peaceful coexistence.

Walter Wink, an American theologian who died last autumn and is best known for his advocacy of nonviolent resistance, argued that violence permeates and is persistent throughout our culture because we perpetuate knowingly or unknowingly the belief that violence ultimately is just and necessary and is the final answer.  He calls this belief the ‘myth of redemptive violence’ where the victory of order over chaos is achieved through the means of violence. This myth is constructed on the belief that human beings are incapable of living naturally in a peaceful coexistence, therefore order has to be imposed from above, men over women, masters over slaves, and so on. Unquestioned obedience is required and order is imposed by force if necessary. We see this method played again and again in our public and political affairs.

The myth of redemptive violence is reinforced through our cultural media too – the most popular characters and the heroes on our TV screens and blockbusters are often those individuals who are victorious through violence. Some of us who read this column will remember that our favourite cartoon characters such as Tom and Jerry, Popeye, Superman, all prevailed over their arch enemies through violence.

The Christian message though is that God is love and that violence is not God’s way of bringing order out of disorder and it is not the way of life. Starting with the first chapter of Genesis, we see the myth of redemptive violence – that was the core story of the ancient religions – being opposed and replaced with a new story, of a God that creates out of love. In the old Babylonian myth (and also Greek mythology) creation happens through violence, the gods fight among themselves and evil precedes good. In the biblical story God creates a good world, and good precedes evil. Neither evil nor violence is part of the creation, but enter later as a result of free decisions and choices made by the creatures.

Throughout the bible we find this myth of redemptive violence being challenged and replaced by a new reality – the way of love. The prophet Isaiah prophesies and dreams of a world where peace will prevail, weapons will be turned into ploughs and people will live in harmony. But the myth of redemptive violence was defeated once and for all in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In the sermon on the mountain Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile” (Matthew 5: 38-41).

In Jesus death on the cross God took upon himself the violence of all humanity and through Jesus’ resurrection He has declared the myth of violence, the myth that order which is imposed by force and violence is the order of the day, is defeated. In Jesus’ resurrection a new age has dawned where the power of love triumphs over the power of violence, a new humanity has emerged that is moved by the power of love and sacrifice, which are life giving and life affirming.

Last Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent, when traditionally Christians are invited to prepare for Easter through prayer and fasting. Let us this Lent seek to resist and challenge the myth of redemptive violence that is so prevalent in our cultures, and sometime even in our churches, by seeking to live out the alternative way of Christ in love and self-sacrifice, which is life giving and life affirming. Only then our community will become less violent and more life affirming.

Published in Arbroath Herlad on 15Feb 2013 edition

“People who have a spiritual understanding of life in the absence of a religious framework are vulnerable to mental disorder”.

Religion, spirituality and mental health: results from a national study of English household By Michael King, Louise Marston, Sally McManus, Terry Brugha, Howard Meltzer and Paul Bebbington in British Journal of Psychiatry, November 22, 2012.

See an article in the Guardian and a piece on CNN website. Image

…. “If I come away from the bible feeling that the problem with the world is that there aren’t enough people like me in it, this is a good cue to keep reading, and to keep asking how God is calling me to conversion. And no, saying that God wants me to stand up more loudly and firmly against everybody else’s sin doesn’t count.”

From a sermon by ‘Dylan’ at http://www.sarahlaughed.net/lectionary/2005/07/proper_10_year_.html Image

This is a meditation that was published in last week edition of Arbroath Herald 14 October 2011. I took Dave’s advice and made it more down to earth!

“Kindness is the parent of kindness.”

–– Adam Smith

Last summer we planned to go on our first caravan holiday. Since we had not been to London on  holiday before with the children and at the same time we had the opportunity to meet with friends is family from the States who were visiting London, we decided to head south for part of our holiday.

Camping in London

London Holiday

We were all looking forward to see the Big Ben, the London Bridge and explore the Tate Gallery. On our way down we telephoned and booked a space at campsite in Welwyn Garden City – a good distance from the centre of London itself. Next day we were all up early and the children were very excited as we were getting ready to go into the capital. We found out that the best, and cheapest way, to the city was to take the train, but we had a short bus ride to the station. We arrived at the bus stop and as the bus pulled up we negotiated our way onto the bus with all our belongings. I was left to pay the bus fare which was just under five pounds for all of us. My wife and I are belonging to those people that use cards to pay for most of the things and do not usually carry cash around, so we found out that we were 30 pence short. I got out a twenty pound banknote to hand it to the driver. When the driver noticed that it was a Scottish note he informed us that he was not able to take it as the electronic reading machines took only English banknotes. We were now stuck as we were 30 pence short and our excitement and anticipation were starting to turn into frustration and disappointment. We were in the same country and not able to use our money.

As we were now panicking a gentleman who looked in his early thirties, took his headset off, slipped his right hand into his coat pocket and took out his wallet, opened it and with a very generous smile offered us thirty pence. Both my wife and I were very moved by this gentleman’s kindness and thanked him for his generosity. It was an unexpected and wonderful gesture of kindness, it was not very much but it meant so much to our family.

Last weekend the Young Foundation published the results of a research on the state of civility, or the way people treat each other in the UK. The report concluded that there is no evidence of decline in the level of civility in the UK, but that in some areas there is even an improvement in the way people treat each other (i.e. falling level of racism in the UK). The authors claim that “in general Britain remains a well-mannered and courteous country”.

For a society to prosper and flourish it needs to be built on and cherish the principles of civility which according to the authors of the report “involves mindfully adapting our own behaviour in the light of others’ needs”; a behaviour then that is governed by generosity, kindness, respect and support for one another.

For us as family the kindness the stranger on the bus in Welwyn Garden City showed us saved our day. It was a small gesture which brightened our day. We could recount many more such acts of kindness. We in our turn hope to show other people in need the same kindness, not only because we experienced them but because we experience the ultimate act of kindness of God in Jesus.

At the heart of the Gospel message that Christians are called to live and proclaim is the command of Jesus to love your neighbour as yourself. This is the heart and the apogees of civility. But for us Christians the command of Jesus goes even further, to love even those that consider us enemies.

Living a life of love

Here is a piece I wrote for our local paper Arbroath Herald on 26 August 2011 edition.

The call to live a life of love

“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence”. Erich Fromm

The last issue of Philosophy Now, a highly regarded publication in the field of philosophy, and which has as one of its main aims to make philosophy accessible to the masses, was dedicated entirely to the subject of Love. The subtitle of this issue is ‘What is love’. In a number of articles the authors seek to explore this very important issue for our human existence. The authors seek to address the nature of love from both nonreligious but also from a religious perspective. The general consensus of the authors is that love is the ingredient that we humans can’t live without.

In one of the articles, Is Love and Art, Kathleen O’Dwyer explores the questions of what we mean by love and how we humans should express it. Her attempt to define “mature and perfect love” leads her to describe love in very similar terms as Christians understand the love of God for humanity. In her words “real love is motivated by the urge to give and to share rather than by the desire to fulfil one’s own needs or to compensate for one’s inadequacies”. This is a self-giving love which does not expect reciprocity, a love that respects the other for what he/she is. This love is based not on desire to control but on the desire to care for the other with respect and humility. This kind of love makes one vulnerable and risks self-exposure.

When we talk about practising this love Erich Fromm, a French philosopher, argued that love is not primarily about a relationship to a specific person but, love should be an attitude, a way of living, “an orientation of character” which should determine all our relationships, our relatedness.

It was so fitting for a publication like Philosophy Now to focus on the subject of love at this time, as today more than ever the issue of love is so relevant and urgent to our world. Our lives and our society seem more and more removed from forms of relatedness that are governed by love.

In the recent past we as a society have experienced a number of crisis that have shaken the foundations of our social order, and let us just remember a few: crisis in our political system when our politicians were exposed for fiddling their expenses, leading to loss of credibility in the system; The economic and financial systems have been discredited by the greed and intemperance of many and as a result we are still living in a turmoil which by all means does not seem to be ending soon; The recent telephone hacking scandal has also brought a cloud of suspicion over our press and even the police. The massacre that happened in Norway, coupled with the terrorist threats, show the extent of hate towards “the different other” and desire for harm the other, which exists in our society.

God has shown us his perfect love in action, as he came to us in Jesus. We see in Jesus’ life and death the manifestation of God’s love in action. Therefore we are challenged and called to be transformed by that love and as a result live by it and build our relationships by it. It is an urgent call for all of us to rediscover and live out that love, no matter in which institutions (religious or otherwise) we are, in whatever stations of life (young or old) we find ourselves, and with whichever system of belief. Only when we seek to live by this principle of love, only then we would be able to live balanced personal lives and build a fair and happy society.

“For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation” Rainer Maria Rilke.

Political Jesus

I saw this on facebook and I think is so powerful. Hope my American friends will see it not mainly a political statement but a challenge to rediscover Jesus.


I came across an interview with Rupert Sheldrake on Enlighten Next Magazine website. This guy seems quite remarkable – does a lot of work on consciousness. Among other things he comes with a refreshing perspective on ‘God’ that challenges the mechanistic view of the Enlightenment. He also suggests (with some justification, I may say) that science is based “on all sorts of assumptions about nature that are essentially theological or metaphysical”

I share here a fragment in which he argues for the necessity of evil in a non-static (or should I say evolving or creative) universe. Not a new formulation but I like the way he puts is. In another part of the interview he blasts Dawkins and his clan of ‘deterministic’ materialists. You can read the full interview here

“Well, I think if there’s a universe of diversity and of becoming, which is what our universe is, then all things are mortal. Nothing lasts forever in a universe of becoming. If we lived in a frozen, crystalline universe where nothing ever changed, I daresay there’d be no claws and no blood. But the nature of existence, as we see it in the universe, is that all things come to an end and are recycled. Even the most long-lasting things we know of, like stars, come to an end. The forms in which things come into being have a limited life span, so all organisms are going to die sooner or later. And it’s the very nature of animal life that animals make their living by eating plants or other animals. So, if you are going to have animals that by their very nature have to eat other organisms, you’re going to have red claws and teeth somewhere or other. Decay, disease, death, and suffering are built into the very nature of an evolutionary universe of this kind. So, if we have an evolutionary universe in which change and development are built-in, in which there is a constant becoming of forms and dissolution of forms, these are inevitable features. The God of such a universe, the consciousness of such a universe, has to encompass these kinds of processes. You could, perhaps, have a different kind of universe, as I said, where everything is frozen in crystalline unity forever. But that would be a different sort of universe, a universe without becoming, without development, and also without creativity. It seems to be an inevitable consequence of the kind of universe we have that there’s going to be red teeth and claws around, and suffering, decay, disease, and death”.

Quote of the day

“It could be said that the clue to the whole history of the social sciences, and to their unpopularity, is that they have demanded continual unlearning. To understand an alien culture we must give up a great many assumptions which not only are difficult to recognise and to part with, but which also have been very firmly instilled into us by our own society, and are regarded by it as being highly important”.
Don Cupitt, Only Human, SCM Press, 1985, p. 144.