Something Bigger

“Why would someone do that?”

The question was posed more than once as we stood there in the morning light, sourced somewhere between incredulity and admiration.

The Crazy Horse memorial is a short drive from the better known U.S. presidential heads carved out of Mt Rushmore in South Dakota. Much larger and more ambitious, the head of Crazy Horse is now freed from its granite mountain after 70 years of constant work. A monument to the culture and history of Native Americans, the project is privately funded, and unlikely to be completed in the lifetime of anyone viewing it today. Reportedly the children and grandchildren of the original sculptor continue to work there.

“Why would someone do that.”

A whole career spent blasting, quarrying and shaping a granite monolith, with no hope of living to see the finished product. The question seemed reasonable enough, and I began to wonder. Why would a person tie themselves to such an intergenerational project?

Does it make any more sense to spend a whole career selling real estate? Would years spent in a classroom, or behind a shop counter, in customer service, on building sites, in an office somewhere, driving a bus, running a small business, playing music or writing poetry be better spent?

Isn’t that what most of us end up doing? Expending our lives without awareness of where our contribution fits, or of our worth?

“How are you going to spend your life, daughter/son?”

“Spend it on a project larger than yourself? Something that has a deep meaning for your people and their history?”

“No, I’ll just bum around, and see what turns up”.

(Prairie Dog pondering his options)

How many of us live life as a spectator? How many live life as a consumer? How many as a victim? How many of us just scratch their heads and wonder what happened? How many of us see ourselves as part of a larger story? How many of us know that our lives have made a difference?

It occurs to me there’s nothing wrong with being a spectator, or a consumer, or selling real estate, or whatever, as long as we don’t become preoccupied, and permit our lives to slip away unnoticed. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get to the end of my life, scratching my head wondering what happened.

Maybe those workers on the Crazy Horse project are on to something after all. There are answers for each one of us in the great narrative. It’s just that some of us never get around to asking the questions.

Finally, an image that kind of, sort of, contributes to my line of thought. Its beauty is a bonus.

(Somewhere in Wyoming. Taken from a bus window)


Truth Tellers and Boundary Crossers

(My photo Caucusus Mountains, Georgia, 2015)

What use are truth tellers?

In a culture that says life is without meaning?

Where the ‘I’ is more important than the ‘we’?

Where we distract ourselves, chasing possessions, fun and excitement while our lives ebb away?

Where the unborn have value only if they are convenient?

Where we tell the old and those with chronic pain they are a burden?

Where politicians are led by opinion polls and the media?

Where 51% of us reshape laws to confirm our truth at the expense of the rest?

Where church leaders destroy their credibility, choosing reputation over morality?

Where violence is an acceptable tool for those who think they own the truth?

Where its ok to deplatform those with unacceptable ideas?

Where we need safe places to protect us from such ideas?

(My photo taken in Armenia 2015)

First a little about truth.

People who speak the truth are generally nuisances. Their message is inconvenient, sometimes embarassing, always unwelcome. Our culture does not run on truth. The group we identify with determines our truth. What matters is whether we belong, or are an outsider. We are pushed to conform with the zeitgeist, by laws and through social pressure. Those who would control and manipulate us have learned this well. It is comfortable to fit in and be accepted; to have the right opinions. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of a social media pile on will no doubt agree.

Could it be that our opinions are shaped by fear? Fear of not fitting in? Of not belonging?

I don’t agree that truth is whatever we want it to be. If you and I part company on that point, so be it. I understand that different people have sincerely held opinions different from mine on a range of topics. We could each be partly correct or we could all be wrong. What we cannot be, if we make incompatible truth claims, is all simultaneously correct.

Also I don’t believe I alone own the truth. There; I’ve said it. But I don’t fall in either with the view that one person’s truth is as valid as anyone else’s. Apart from giving us a warm inner glow, that just leads us nowhere, except in ever decreasing circles.

If there is such a thing as truth, and I believe there is, then even if unpopular or unfashionable, it is worth discovering. How sad it would be if we lived our whole lives in a comfortable delusion, and then we died.

What’s the use of truth tellers? Maybe because we all need to have our ideas challenged now and then. Whether or not they are telling the truth, or are just deluded, if truth tellers make us wrinkle our brows or prick our consciences, in a world where we are shaped by and conform to ideas outside ourselves, that’s not such a bad thing.

Boundary Crossers?

(One boundary I did not feel comfortable crossing across a deep gorge in Armenia 2015)

Our culture, and the whole world has a lot of boundaries. I don’t mean geographical borders. Boundaries separate people in more ways than that.

Think about:




Members/non members

Religious believers/non believers









It seems to me that quite a few of these boundaries are calling out for people to reach across them. Maybe a qualification would be useful: Some boundaries are there for our protection, but others keep us from being fully human. National borders and refugee policies are there to keep us safe. I know some disagree and would have free, uninhibited movement of people across borders.

In general, I don’t think it does us good to put up walls to keep out those who are different. However, when a lack of border control places public order in jeopardy, we need to remember why all countries try to control their borders.

The boundaries that need to be crossed are those that exclude and alienate us from each other. I don’t think we will see the boundaries themselves disappear any time soon. What we are seeing is individuals, like you and I, choosing to cross some of them.

It can be risky for an insider to reach across to an outsider. It can be threatening to stop and really listen to someone with whom we disagree politically. It can seem like a waste of time to give an unlovable person the time of day.

Boundary crossing is certainly not for the faint hearted. Nor is it for those who are wrapped up in their own concerns. Our culture encourages us to erect boundaries rather than to reach across them. I believe our culture has it wrong. Crossing boundaries just may be the only way for us to become fully human.

Think about that.

Truth tellers and boundary crossers. There are not nearly enough of them. Could you be one?

(Below: Feeding the homeless at a Sikh temple in New Delhi 2016)

Groupthink. Herdthink. Nothink.

Sheep somewhere in England. My photo)

I’ve been thinking, which sometimes can be dangerous.

Why do we and our opinions need to be ‘acceptable’?

Who decides what is acceptable? You? Me?

What if my acceptable isn’t your acceptable? Does that make you unacceptable, or me unacceptable?

Clearly some opinions are unacceptable. At least the weight of social media tells us so.

Is this a good thing?

Is it a necessary thing?

Why are we afraid of straying from the herd, in our opinions? Is it because it requires some courage to stand up to group pressure? Why are there costs to thinking differently? Who benefits? Do you? Do I?

Are you amazed how quickly some opinions are pounced on with the zeal and righteousness of a temperance crusader of an earlier time? How quickly the holder of such opinions loses their humanity and has all manner of evil motives attributed? How eagerly we line up to denounce their vileness, rend our garments, and establish our credentials as herd members.

Why do we demonise those with opinions different from ours? Do we feel threatened, or is it that our individuality is the price of a comfortable place in the herd?

This is not a new thing. Humans have done it forever. Without trying very hard I can list a few examples:

• Propaganda and demonisation of the ‘other’ in all wars everywhere and in all times;

• Denunciations of witches in the middle ages;

• Purges in Stalinist Russia;

• Deportation and murder of Jews in Europe;

• Denunciations of communist sympathisers in 1950s USA;

and more recently:

• Demonisation of refugees (everywhere);

• Ostracising of climate change ‘deniers’;

• Smears against Christian, Muslim and other religious believers;

• Demonisation of supporters of left wing, right wing, nationalist, environment or a host of other causes;

• Deplatforming holders of views deemed to be offensive;

• Accusations of racism, sexism, elitism, fascism against just about anybody who doesn’t quickly embrace the spirit of the times;

and so on, and so on.

Do you think there might be a better way to do business?

Life is short. It is precious. Why would we choose to spend it treating each other as if we are pieces of nonsentient slime?

Might there be a better way for you and for me?

Might it be . . . hold the thought . . . that we might lead more balanced, fulfilled lives by accepting outsiders? Might it be that the often vicious demonisation and dehumanisation of others we indulge in on social media and in the way we regard those who are different is what is really killing us all?

Radical idea. I know.

Two Poems

(Stream in Glen Coe, Scotland. My photograph)

Lost Opportunity

You tumbled into being

as you began to walk your life.

I walked sleeping, unaware,

as I became a father twice.

The boy/man, pretending.

His grief not understood,

tried to paper over

stuff his father never could.

How badly I was drifting,

when I left you, thinking

you wouldn’t miss me.

Surprising stupidity.

Persuaded you were resilient,

I minimised and rationalised

my selfishness,

until I looked, and you were far away.

I would hug the child

in the photo in front of me.

But you’re not three now,

and never again will be.

(A valley in Glen Coe Scotland. My photograph)

Dysfunction Named

A problem unspoken

remains unbroken.

What mustn’t be uttered

tiptoes and flutters

behind closed shutters

Rules are changed,

deflecting blame.

Conspire together

waiting for someone else to name

the obscenity behind the game.

Collectively mindless,

and with selective blindness,

Sacrificing truth for a quiet life;

all hoping someone else

will step up and name it.

Wondering why,

they limp to paralysis,

papering veneer

and hiding the substance

behind euphemism and lie.

The truth though hard

must be uncovered,

owned and faced.

Elephants leave little space

when they occupy a room.

Freedom and Trust

It is likely there was a time for all of us, when we approached life as a small child does.

Excitement, joy, freedom, trust. They’re still there for me, but I have moved on from when I was a two year old. I no longer do cartwheels on a beach for the sheer joy of it.

Looking at this photo of one of my grandsons I began to wonder at the changes that happen to us while we live. I’m not talking about physical ageing so much as how our inner self is morphed by experience. Some call it the gaining of wisdom. I’m not so sure.

Freedom; that’s an interesting concept. It’s not always what we think it is when we are just starting out. If we see it simply as the absence of restrictions we’ve got the wrong end of the stick. We’re operating as a child or adolescent would do. This ‘freedom’ is dependent on the indulgence and sacrifice of parents and other adults. When an adult understands freedom as the absence of restrictions, pain and tears are never far away.

We may recoil from this type of ‘freedom’, and organise our lives around routine, enclosing them with habit; constructing comfortable cages for ourselves. Might I suggest this is a mistake?

Depending on how we look at it, we’re as free as we choose to be. As long as we are prepared for the consequences, we can choose to do just about anything. So many of us, I think, construct our own cages; paint and wallpaper them; renovate and add to them over the years, all the while telling ourselves we have fewer choices than we actually do. I’m not necessarily talking about houses or apartments here. It could be our superannuation, our reputation, needless anxieties about security, or listening to people around us who communicate their expectations of us in all sorts of ways. Older people, for example, are expected to be stable, predictable and stay out of the way.

When we step outside of the expectations others place on us, there are always consequences, but often they are not as drastic as we might think. Take my experience of the prison of expectations. Gentlemen over sixty should do certain things and not others. They do not, apparently, begin guitar lessons. That is something children and young adults do. The music teaching industry is not designed for older people to enter as students. You find yourself gently patronised. What you don’t find, unless you are lucky, is a teacher who recognises your passion and understands your need to play the best you can. They may welcome you as a source of extra income, but secretly scratch their head wondering why you are bothering at your age.

Neither do older gentlemen volunteer as a receptionist at a hospice. The first two years were the worst, until staff members finally got used to seeing an old guy sitting at the reception desk.

Neither do they learn a second language or write a blog. Thankfully the consequences for doing these things are usually no more than that family and friends remain a little off balance and wonder what you will get up to next. By now, I think, most have given up expecting me to grow out of it.

There is much more freedom in life than we are prepared to risk. The cages of our own and others’ expectations are flimsier than we might think. Now that is wisdom. You can take it or leave it.

Which leaves us with trust.

A two year old trusts instinctively and in most cases, that trust is honoured. Sooner of later though, trust becomes an issue for us. Some of us learn to trust nobody and nothing. Others continue to trust people and things long after that trust is abused.

When our trust is betrayed, the inner damage is profound. It is one of life’s worst experiences, especially when we had invested ourselves deeply in somebody or something. How many of us have not felt the pain of betrayal? Along the way, how many of us have not betrayed someone else’s trust? Speaking for myself, the consequences in either case can last a life time.

We learn, through experience, that trust is built up over time and can be destroyed in a second.

So trusting too widely is foolish, but trusting too little is sad. To trust is to allow ourselves to be as vulnerable as a little child. A person who cannot allow themselves to be vulnerable cannot know trust.

There are great risks we all must take, I think. Without risk, life loses excitement, joy, freedom and trust. We don’t need to do cartwheels on a beach to experience these things, although if I were a two year old I would. I get my excitement, joy and freedom these days with stepping outside the cages of expectation and taking a few risks here and there.

Trust, on the other hand, can be a little trickier and riskier. Worth it though. It is the greatest gift, apart from love, you can give anyone.

When we allow ourselves to experience freedom and trust, excitement and joy are the bonus.

My Wooden Heart

Time for a change of blog topics, if only a temporary one.

I’ve been turning wood on a lathe for just six months but already I’ve discovered a love of shaping and working with wood. It was always latent within me, but now it has free reign. I’m beginning feel comfortable with the tools and not to be terrified of working with fine tolerances on rapidly spinning pieces of wood. It’s not so much great fun, although I enjoy it. It’s more the deep sense of satisfaction that comes with the creation of something unique.

Three of my favourites so far: A lidded box and two incense holders.

You can approach woodturning with the mind and attitude of a technician, or, like me, you can be a little more free and easy with dimensions and shapes. You can also explain flaws and irregularities as planned artistic features. Some people may even believe you.

It’s not all success. Sometimes you can go too far, like with this monstrosity that I had planned to be an unusual bowl, but the wood was so hard I gave up trying to gouge out a cavity. I’m not sure what it is now. An ‘objet’ of sorts perhaps?

Some more lidded boxes, all with flaws thrown in.

Three shallow bowls (largest is 30 cm diameter) that I’m not allowed to call platters because they do not have the exact relative dimensions a platter should have (according to the rules of my woodturning club). As you may have guessed, I’m not a rules kind of guy.

The two on the right are Silky Oak. I have a soft spot for the ugly duckling on the left fashioned from Dogwood. The large fissure across it and the flaw in its rim give it a sort of beauty the other two can’t aspire to, but maybe that’s just me.

The only downside so far is that it is very difficult to sell anything you make on a lathe for anything approaching what it costs you to make. Consequently I prefer to give the bowls, boxes and insence holders away to friends and relatives. Win win I guess?

Looking for Love in all the Non Places

(My photo: A ‘non place’ in Barcelona)

Poetry, photography and travel posts have been a bit thin on the ground recently. I’ll get back to them soon, but I have an itch to scratch here first.

I’ve written again on the theme of meaning in a world that distracts attention from it. In particular, I’m interested in the idea of ‘non places’ mentioned a book by Mark Sayers.

“Strange Days: Life in the Spirit in a Time of Upheaval”. Mark Sayers (Kindle ebook).

We’re getting it so wrong it seems. We are looking for love (a.k.a. meaning and belonging) in the wrong places, which actually are ‘non places’.

‘Places’ are where we are involved with others, feel part of the whole and experience community. These could be homes, sports clubs, churches, worksheds, community drop in centres, family reunions, a street party, the clean up after a natural disaster, maybe schools and maybe workplaces (depending on how humane and humanizing they are).

‘Non places’, conversely, are where we are self contained, just passing through, without meaningful interpersonal contact. Examples are shopping malls, CBDs, airport terminals, coffee shops and bars; anywhere anonymous, sterile, faux neighbourly, but empty of any genuine care. And while we’re on the topic: would that include anywhere and everywhere we sit glued to social media?

‘Places’ nurture us and augment our humanity. ‘Non places’ alienate us and stunt it. It’s not really about the actual place is it? It’s what happens there and how we respond. Get the idea? Maybe we should be talking of ‘dehumanizing contexts’ rather than ‘non places’?

Non places offer illusions of freedom, choice and absence of responsibility. We can, and do, use them as an escape where we soar free from everyday reality. Offering freedom, they deliver instead disengagement and passivity. Enticing us to indulge the self, they close us off from others and, in the process, make us less human.

Wandering through a shopping mall (some people enjoy this, I’ve been told) we can dream of purchases that will make us whole. Skipping around the internet we have infinite choice and minimal engagement. Sitting alone in a cafe, people watching, we bathe in our own invisibility while passers by may as well be holograms. What we do not experience generally, is anything much that nourishes the soul, or reinforces who we are, or binds us more closely to our fellow human beings.

Non places are ‘self’ places. The problem is, turning in on ourselves, we become less able to notice others.

Why does it matter? Why should we care about this? Well, it’s kind of relevant if we are interested in becoming fully human.

Are we looking for love (meaning and belonging) in all the wrong places? Are we looking inwards to ourselves to find what can only be found in positive relationships with others?

Who would have thought?

Non places are everywhere and anywhere. One person’s place can easily be another’s non place. It depends on how a person experiences and responds to his or her surrounds there. Perhaps wherever you are, if you are in a cocoon, without emotional connection to passers by, it’s likely a non place for you.

The whole of Sydney was, for me recently, a non place when I had two days to kill while my wife attended a conference there. Lovely scenery and lots to do, granted. However as I walked around, I felt removed and alone. I forget who said it: “One is never as alone as when one is alone in a crowd”. Of course that could have changed in an instant for me for a whole host of reasons. A medical emergency or a lost child would have dissolved the membrane and had me dealing personally and humanely with some who shared the space. Instead, they remained alien souls floating past in a video collage.

I was so happy each afternoon to get back to the hotel (another non place) when my wife had finished her conference session. We would go out for dinner to what could have easily have been yet another non place, except that we enjoyed it together.

Might I deduce that being fully human is all about relationships rather than the self? I’ll qualify that. Relationships that nurture and affirm our humanity. There are far too many of the other sort.

Maybe what Sayers has said about ‘non places’ could apply to ‘non relationships’?

Could it be that our relationships are the key to our becoming fully human?

Maybe I should change the title to “Looking for Love in all the wrong relationships”?

That’s a thought.

The Collapse of Meaning

How our Western culture short changes us as human beings.

It’s a difficult ask to condense the huge volume of material written on this topic, and do justice to its breadth and depth. Certainly impossible in a thousand words or less. In these circumstances all that is possible is a conversation starter, which is what this post is intended to be. Whether that conversation is with me, or in the reader’s own mind, is not important.

I’ve drawn on a book by Mark Sayers: “Disappearing Church” (Kindle). It’s an interesting and thought provoking read, but I’ve just picked up a few ideas and expanded on them. The book itself covers far more ideas than are discussed here. I recommend it to you.

Quotes are from the book are indicated in the usual way. Page numbers are not given due to the digital format of the book.

(Gold Coast Australia. My photo. An icon of secular consumerism)

Sayers’ book observes and critiques the culture that enfolds and forms us in the west. That culture considers itself sophisticated and highly evolved; superior in most ways from cultures that preceded it, and those that continue to flourish in non western societies. It is a culture full of contradictions: Fiercely secular, yet soaked in early religious traditions of gnosticism, animism and paganism; Indifferent or hostile to traditional Christianity, yet celebrating diversity of other traditional world religions; Devoted to the power of the individual, yet gathering itself into tribes where conformity of opinion is demanded; and desperately searching for transcendence and enlightenment, yet generating alienation and despair at the purposelessness of life lived according to its values.

Sayers delves deeply into the controlling beliefs driving our western secular culture, and pinpoints where the innate contradictions of our lives reveal themselves. These beliefs, principles, doctrines are regarded within the culture as self evident and beyond challenge. Those bold enough to challenge them can expected to be silenced and ostracised by the weight of social pressure, and/or legal sanctions.

The controlling beliefs of our western zeitgeist are seductive, powerful and ultimately deceptive. They promise happiness but bring us emptiness; preach self actualization but dehumanise us; offer freedom, but enslave us.

“So distracted by the phony war between left and right, conservatives and liberals, we have failed to notice that a new power had seized control of both our imaginations and the halls of power.

This new power swirls around a small yet widely held set of beliefs**:

1. The highest good is individual freedom, happiness, and self-expression.

2. Traditions, religions, received wisdom, regulations, and social ties that restrict individual freedom and self expression must be reshaped, deconstructed, or destroyed.

3. The world will inevitably improve as the scope of individual freedom grows. Technology—in particular the Internet—will motor this progression toward utopia.

4. The primary social ethic is tolerance of everyone’s self-defined quest for individual freedom and self-expression. Any deviation from this ethic of tolerance is dangerous and must not be tolerated.

5. Humans are inherently good.

6. Large-scale structures and institutions are suspicious at best and evil at worst.

7. Forms of external authority are rejected and personal authenticity is lauded.

So, recognize any of them? Maybe you can add more. Maybe also, you don’t fully endorse each and every one of them and would like to qualify here and there. Fair enough. I’m not here to defend the list, but to claim that, like it or not, be aware of it or not, our culture does shape us. It corrals us into certain ways of thinking, it limits our dreams, and in some ways diminishes our human potential. I don’t have the space (or perhaps the ability) to present a knock down argument for what I just wrote.

I think that its possible to live in the midst of a culture like ours, and be unaware of the beliefs that drive it.

How often have you heard or seen written, “Be true to yourself” or “It’s all about You”, or “You’re worth it”? The words change, but the principle behind it is a powerful one in our culture, shaping millions of lives every day. Of course, it’s not necessarily all bad to believe and follow that principle, but as an overarching principle for life it seems more than a little deceptive and shaky to me. What does it tell us is important about our relations with, and responsibilities toward, others?

The worship of tolerance is another phenomenon in our culture, except that we’re not really tolerant at all, are we? Well, as long as people share our beliefs, which, if they happen to be the socially responsible, earth friendly, diversity celebrating beliefs embraced by the elite, then all is rosy. Except I have never been able to understand how elevating tolerance above all else can not lead to anything but a clear example of intolerance.

If individual freedom and self expression are the highest good, and the self is the reference point for what is good, then what does that say about who we are as human beings? Are we then our own gods? The problem arises, and it always does, when the god in me and the god in you disagree on what “good” means.

We are encouraged in a host of ways, subtle and overt, to see ourselves as sophisticated and enlightened when we reject the notion of a transcendent creator God. If we continue to believe in such ‘fairy tales’, as the message goes, we ought to have the decency to keep that belief to ourselves. Our secular cousins can have free range for their beliefs, but ours are to remain hidden and private. Seems fair, or does it?

If there were any evidence at all that the rise in the number of people who reject faith in God is accompanied by a rise in general happiness, mental health and peaceful coexistence in society I would stop and take a good look at it. Alas the opposite is true. As we throw our faith away in the west and install ourselves as gods, we enjoy all the meaninglessness and ultimate hopelessness that attends that. Our lives are pointless, apart from the goals we set ourselves: wealth, power, self actualization and so on and so on. None of these things brings a sense of meaning, of connection, of being fully human.

“This is a culture in which we (are encouraged to*) believe that ultimately, life is meaningless, but we are insulated from the full horror of such a belief by the distracting and anesthetizing qualities of our public culture. Our existential angst is drowned out by cooking shows, discount airfares, smartphones, and celebrity gossip.” (Sayers quote)

“Without God, humans attempt to create a beautiful world, filled with fine foods, craftsmanship, fulfilling work, elegant forms, and creativity. Yet this beautiful world becomes a prison as humans are possessed by the things that they create. We are unable to understand or even see the world correctly as a gift from God, to be enjoyed, but not owned.” (Sayers quote)

Our western culture is leading us (or are we leading ourselves) into a place we do not want to be. I believe we were not made to be gods. We were not meant to live stunted alienated, meaningless lives. We were made to be fully human. That is one thing that many of us in the west today can not be sure we are any more.

* My insertion.

** I have edited some of the principles from the book, mostly to simplify them.

Transformative People

(Fresco on the wall of an Armenian Church taken by me in 2015. Bullet holes courtesy of occupying Soviet soldiers)

I don’t know how many people, like me, want to make a difference, to work for good, but find themselves thwarted again and again by stuff. More than a few I suspect.

In my case, the obstacles along the way seem to multiply the harder I try to overcome them. Sometimes its a bit like walking through quicksand. The temptation to give up and climb onto the easier path is a strong one. Fighting injustice, caring for the poor, loving my neighbour and all that sort of thing is all very well and good. It’s just that it’s hard to keep going when the odds seem stacked against you.

Yes, I am feeling a little discouraged, but these things ebb and flow. It’s not all those people out there who don’t share my beliefs who get to me. What discourages me and presses my buttons most are the attitudes of some of my fellow ‘Christians’. I have met some of the most inspiring people in Christian circles, but unfortunately, the opposite is also true.

Some congregations are more like social clubs than anything else. The most animated part of the church experience for them is the coffee and chat afterwards; enthusiasm and engagement rarely rising above the comatose while they sit through the worship. The big interest items in these congregations are social functions, usually fund raisers, and the congregational meetings, at which weighty matters like budgets are discussed. Sitting through experiences like these I amuse myself by imagining one of the early Christian apostles wandering in and being confused by what they see. Seat warmers, hymn singers, response mutterers, but no evidence of people being nourished and equipped to go out into the world and make a difference.

Congregations like this, and there are many of them, are dying, and they deserve to. They have forgotten, if they ever knew, what their purpose is. Making strategic plans that are never followed? Getting the balance of music right? Or being Christ’s followers sent into the world to bring hope, love and acceptance where there is little of any of these?

Anglican theologian, N. T. Wright, is more sanguine than I am when he writes: “No matter what your worldview, your beliefs, or your culture, you will find Jesus haunting, disturbing, and attractive”. Well, you wouldn’t come across such a Jesus at some of the congregations I know.

The great majority of people don’t find Jesus ‘haunting, disturbing and attractive’ because that is nothing like the Jesus they have been introduced to. By and large, if they think of Jesus at all, they envision a caricature easily dismissed for the nonsense it is. It is a great pity that many people have rejected a Jesus who never existed, and has no relationship to the Jesus of the Bible, when the real deal is indeed haunting, disturbing and attractive.

So what of the great mass of people today who wouldn’t walk into a church ever, if they could avoid it? I sometimes find it easy to agree with them.

Wright continues:

“THE WORD God is a heavy, clunky little syllable. It drops like a lead weight into otherwise cheerful conversations.

the popular image of God as a bully in the sky who makes odd demands and becomes dangerously petulant if people ignore him.”

Wright congratulates people who have rejected such a God:

“They are right. That God—the dull, distant, and dangerous one—does not exist.

Is that old bearded figure, waiting on a cloud to receive the recently dead, even remotely like the God of the Bible?” The answer of course, is no.”

Not surprisingly, very many people reject such a misconstrued God. He is filed away, with other childhood tales. Many peoples’ understanding of God is based on childish misconceptions which have never been replaced by grown-up ones. They have never been replaced by grown-up ones because church goers have become comfortable sitting in their Christian ghettos, while the world goes its own way. They have forgotten who they are. No risk taking, imprisonment or crucifixions for them. Ignoring their local community, they hold endless discussions about ‘mission’, always done by someone else, somewhere else.

There ends the rant. If you are still with me, it’s not all bad. There is hope.

Two more Wright quotes follow that contain a vision for what can and should be. I will read them again. Afterwards I will remember who I am, and what I need to be working towards. No time then for discouragement or disillusionment.

“We know what the power of the world looks like. When push comes to shove, as it often does, it is the power of violence, using the threat of pain and death. It is, yes, the power of tanks and bombs, and also of guns and knives and whips and prisons and barbed wire and bulldozers. Weapons to destroy people’s lives; machines to destroy their homes. Cruelty in the home or at work. Malice and manipulation where there should be gentleness, kindness, and wisdom. Jesus’s power is of a totally different sort, as he explained to the Roman governor a few minutes before the governor sent him to his death—thereby proving the point. The kingdoms of the world run on violence. The kingdom of God, Jesus declared, runs on love. That is the good news.”

“the power behind the cosmos is not blind chance, nor yet brute force, but love. It is a delighted love that celebrates the goodness and specialness of every part of creation and of the extraordinary, brilliant, pulsating entirety of it. A love that cares for and cares about the smallest creature and the farthest star. A love that made one creature in particular, humans, to share uniquely in the capacity to receive and to give love, and so to share uniquely in the vocation to work with the grain of the Creator’s intention, to bring his work to its wonderful intended fulfillment. There are many things in the world as it now is that conspire to make us forget this great truth. The good news of Jesus is there not only to remind us of it but to transform us with it so that we in turn may become transformative people.”

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