Community 2

Continuing my ramblings on community.

Today’s complexity of being part of a community is that, it is less likely in an urban setting to belong exclusively to a single community. We are part of several networks. I have a family network, a church network, a friends network and so on. There might be overlaps but each network is different with its own sets of patterns and rituals.

Belonging to different communities simultaneously allows for great individual growth. No community can be too oppressive and the different communities engage the self in different ways. The banter and the humour of my Indian friends enrichens and fulfils me in a way that a church service can’t. But yet again, I am veering towards talking about the individual or rather framing this as the individual. Possibly the true way to talk of this is through conversation as the frame of engagement will be fundamentally different. Possibly this is why podcasts are so popular. Perhaps yet another one is in order.

So does this simultaneous belonging weaken and atrophy the communities we belong to? Or is there a sense where the different networks in some sense feed each other and keep things in a balance? How does the ‘us’ balance with the ‘I’? Or rather are the many ‘us-es’ somehow constituting the ‘I’? I blather on, but my fundamental question is how a community is meant to function in a way that is beneficial to those within, to itself and to those outside? I think this is an important question regarding church.

A model of agreed principles isn’t enough. And yet my framing of the question is possibly asking for precisely that. So if the question is problematic what has brought the question about? I think it’s the sense that there is a lack in our understanding and practice of community. The inability to fully name this lack coupled with a sense that there is something we can do to address this lack is what prompts these questions. So I shall ramble on. Or maybe start a conversation. Or a podcast

Being with… Being together… Being

15 years ago, I walked up an aisle.
Then somebody else did.
We’ve been being together since.

Being in love.
Being angry.
Being silent.
Laughing with our whole being.

Spouting puns into being.
Sprouting many plans into being.
Moving continents, cultures,
causing chaos to our being.

Learning about each other
Leaning on one another
Being each other’s rock
sounding board and comfort blanket.

And two more beings be
from our being.
their madness of laughter
and of tears consume our being

15 years of being
for this we thank the One
who spread his being
on all things
so that we too might be
being, together each
her own being yet wholly


It’s an often used word. It’s bandied about in conversation. For me it’s a fundamental puzzle. A puzzle not to be solved but to be lived. The puzzle is two-fold: understanding what it is and more importantly getting to live as community.

Growing up I saw community as a stultifying rule bound presence. It wasn’t just a rebellious nature that made me see that. It was the cultural dislocation of having moved from England as a four year old. Our family could see our community in ways that others couldn’t. My school principal was another consistent critic of community. This made me yearn for individuality, for a sense of me. Conversely I yearned for something that in some sense is opposite yet feels natural and wholesome.

Belonging. This yearning for belonging made me behave in various ways. Individuality pulled me in other ways. As I write it is all too obvious that the frame of this writing is in itself skewed. It is fundamentally skewed towards and grounded in the assumption of individuality.

That’s probably because today, the individual, the conscious I, is percieved as the seat of being. Everything is geared around the individual. My daughters’ learning is measured in individual terms. The assumptions around society, politics and economics have the individual at the centre.

In itself this is no bad thing. I see these notions of individuality as the product of the reformation and enlightenment. Surely it has allowed us to frame justice and equity in ways unheard of in ancient times. If everyone is an ‘I’ as Adrian Plass said, then we are in some sense equal. We can’t think in other ways now. And there comes the problem.

For deep in us is the fundamental need to belong. In needing to belong we disrupt our individuality and in many cases act against others to preserve that belonging. There are obviously needs for power and other needs but for now I’d like to look at this conflict: the need for individuality and the need to belong.

But I’ve already gone too far. So I need to go back and ask is community just a collection of belonging individuals? Or does it become something else? I think it is something else. It is not the sum of the individuals. I base this on the scatterings of readings I’ve done over time.

Vinoth Ramachandra in his book Gods that Fail considers that the German people were simply not capable of the evil that manifested itself in Nazism. I’m probably misrepresenting here but I’ve read his argument to mean that the synergy between the people produced something demonic. So the relationships between various people produced something extra, something that wasn’t themselves, either as individuals or as the sum of themselves.

John V. Taylor in his brilliant Go-between-God considers that the Holy Spirit as the presence, the person that is between not just people and God but between all creation and God. This reflects who the Holy Spirit in some Trinitarian theology. According to Augustine he is the love between the Father and Son. Gunton critiquing this considers that the Holy Spirit opens God’s love to the world.

So in theology God’s relationship itself is a person. So it can be asked whether all relationships in some way constitute a presence beyond the sum of the individuals present. Could this account for the special experiences that people have when at concerts or at protest marches. Could this also account for mob violence? Does the relationship, the presence take a life on its own sometimes beyond the control of its participants?

To be continued… maybe…

Nastase doesn’t understand the nasty

Quite sad that Nastase said what he did. Kind of admired him as a tennis player. Great maverick. But what he said about Serena Williams is horrible. It was a comment based on race (clue is in the word chocolate) and creating a further crudity by mixing it with “milk”.

And for Nadia Comaneci to say that “people make mistakes” and that it doesn’t matter to Romanians underlines how blind and deaf, racist language can be.

Atonement in Scripture: Why Trump and Cruz Are the Direct, Logical Result of American Evangelical Theology

Some people might say oh this is American, however American Christianity is hugely influential around the world, so this must be looked at and engaged with. This is a reblogged post from elsewhere. Not mine.

The Anástasis Center for Christian Education & Ministry

Donald Trump Delivers Convocation At Liberty University LYNCHBURG, VA – JANUARY 18: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers the convocation at the Vines Center on the campus of Liberty University January 18, 2016 in Lynchburg, Virginia. A billionaire real estate mogul and reality television personality, Trump addressed students and guests at the non-profit, private Christian university that was founded in 1971 by evangelical Southern Baptist televangelist Jerry Falwell. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Thirst for Retribution

‘How could this happen?’ bemoan some conservative evangelicals.  Titles abound, such as:  The Inexplicable Evangelical Support for Donald Trump.[1]  But the reality is far from inexplicable.  Noam Chomsky weighed in with an argument about economic inequality and working class whites, which I think has lots of validity.[2]  But the argument from economic inequality doesn’t explain everything – after all, why did Southern states refuse Obamacare?  Why don’t more Southerners vote for Bernie Sanders?  We are becoming…

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The one and the many

It’s an ancient conundrum. What do we strive for? The common good or the betterment of the individual? From the ancients till now we’ve been struggling with it.

However what is clear is that today in Britain the individual is the centre of discourse, politics and theology. The common good is quietly being dismantled, evidenced by the shackling of the BBC and the tearing down of the NHS.

I see Socialism as the formalisation of the common good, denigrating the individual.

I see Capitalism as the formalisation of the individual, denigrating the common good.

Both are inherently dehumanising from a Christian perspective. It’s easy to say that God, the Trinity should give us the right balance. Yet, there is much resistance in church to think through stuff. Better an easy answer rather than an embodied struggle to listen to and practice the life, Father, Son and Holy Spirit gives us. Lord, have mercy

A current creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
who sits seemingly silent while men shout in his name.

I believe in Jesus Christ, supposedly his Father’s true representative but seemingly so different,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the teenager Mary,
suffered under Pontius, the man who represents all earthly and churchly power,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
and he is not here, his absence is painful
and he will hopefully come to make everything good
and he is supposed to be present with the suffering
but I don’t know.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the utter rubbishness of the Church,
the broken communion of saints,
the mending of all brokenness,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. A wisp of hope.