The Sun Rises in the East

It does I promise.

But then Richard Dawkins told me not to be silly. And that I was believing in something puerile which has incited violence across the centuries and further more that the real scandal was that it promotes the value of sacrifice which is from the age of darkness.

It got worse. Some good Christian folk came and said how Dawkins was of the devil and how sun does literally rise in the east and after all who do you really believe in, godless scientists or God himself in His Word. (And they made it a point to capitalise ‘his’ which really riled Me.)

Maybe I should have told Dawkins and his followers and those Christians to speak English, since they had a poor command of language.

Anyway Dr. Wright and I went to the pub and we had a cola and a tea and on Sunday we had wine during the church service. Nice.

That verse

There is a verse in the bible that’s almost verbatim quoted in the Pentateuch, the Gospels and the Epistles. I feel that this verse is a bit ignored.

“That is why (for this reason) a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

This verse appears in Gen 2:24, Matthew 19:5, Mark 10:7,8 and Ephesians 5:31.

Paul again quotes a portion of the verse in 1 Cor 6:16 “The two will become one flesh”.

Bizarrely enough we’ve heard much about this small portion of the original verse rather than the whole of the verse.

In most cultures of the world for most of history this verse has been rarely followed. The man rarely leaves his father and mother in fact in most traditions including Christian ones the woman joins up to the be the junior member in the man’s family’s household. Even in the modern West when there’s a kind of traditional wedding it is the bride that’s given away.

(I’m not fully sure how it works in matrilineal societies and from my brief, lazy Wikipedia read I can’t make out how it works.)

Paul seems to say that this verse is a mystery but it feels as though he is referring to the “one flesh” bit. And that does definitely seem to be a mystery but what’s so mysterious about a man leaving his father and mother? And why doesn’t it happen?

It could be argued that in modern urban centres it does happen but it has to be said that leaving father and mother doesn’t happen in order to be united with one’s wife. It happens because of study or career considerations. And in many cases in urban India the wife does move in with the husband in his parents’ home.

What makes this striking is that the Israelites themselves didn’t follow it.

So I come away with many questions from this verse.

What does it mean for the man to leave his father and mother in order to get married?

Has the so called “decadent”, “no family values” West actually got something right?

Does this point to our deep and dark acceptance of patriarchy? And our acceptance of traditional roles for male and female?

I love the bible for leading me to think. I don’t love it so much for leading me to act.



I think I’m now for affirmative action.

I can see the tired look on people’s faces. ‘Do we keep having to give people who don’t deserve it, money, chances and encouragement?’

Well as difficult as it is I think we do.

There are lengthy arguments about why dalits shouldn’t have reservation in India or that african americans have been given enough of a chance.

These arguments seem to be based on the fact that there are no legal barriers now for those who used to be discriminated against. Therefore they should step up and do it (if they can but deep down we don’t believe they are able).

Imagine an experiment. (Is that a thought experiment?)

Two hamsters. Cute. Tim and Jim. Could be brothers but more likely lazy naming by scienti… um author. They have their own little pen and they have to climb a tube and at the end of the tube there’s food. Tim is given a small electric shock every time he climbs up.To be extra cruel the food at the end is a currant. I would guess that Tim wouldn’t eat too much and Jim is really up on the currant events.

Now put Tim and Jim in the same pen. No electric shocks. Legal barriers removed. What would happen? Jim will happily scurry up the tube with Tim being a bit worried. So now we worry about Tim because he doesn’t seem strong enough. And frankly Jim is getting on and doing his job. He’s fairly neutral towards Tim and if Tim does get into the tube Jim might get annoyed and fight or might not.

Within this spurious experiment we see that Tim’s conditioning doesn’t allow him to progress despite barriers being removed. The Stanford prison experiment also suggests that the roles we inhabit significantly influence our behaviour. And so if a Dalit has grown up doing the dirty work that the oppressive castes have burdened her with, then she will behave in such a manner.

So I would say that equal opportunities aren’t enough. The disadvantaged should be given more. This brings up the tricky question of Jim and his part in Tim’s reconditioning. Which will need a different post.

Bassists I root for

In no particular order are bassists whom I admire and why.

1. Abraham Laboriel – Sheer joy, sheer presence, sheer groove, sheer simplicity. Heaven is a gracious smile, with the waggle of those hips and the chunky fingers doing their thing

2. Billy Sheehan – Bloody fast, lots of hair, bloody fast, part of mr. Big, did I say he was fast?

3. Geddy Lee – Bassist, keyboardist and singer all at once. Such modesty! And he plays with one finger!

4. John Paul Jones – The real genius of Zeppelin. Bassist and keyboardist. Hmmm. Could be a theme here.

5. Flea – A mad jumping groovy man who uses his instrument to cover the essentials

6. Jaco Pastorius – Well, every bassist has got to pay some homage to him. Bit like giving respect to Moses. The tablet guy.

7. Duff Mckagan – GnR was an important part of growing (not necessarily up) and he was one of the first bassists I really listened to.

8. Chris Squire – Well yes.

9. John Patitucci – I’m not so into him now but was a real fan at one point when I pretended I was into jazz. (Well I kind of still am. Into jazz I mean, not Paticucci)

10. Sting – Especially with Vinnie Colauita. They brought out the best in each other.

Well that dates me doesn’t it?


For a while now I’ve been thinking about sermons. Especially in how they seem to be the centre of evangelical worship. I know that preaching has power. I also know that there is a special experience in listening to someone speak and when what is being said starts hitting within ourselves it is an entirely unique experience. You can see this in the response that good orators get Obama being a great example.

In church however I think the sermon has been elevated far above it’s rightful place. The question is for what purpose? Why do powers that be insist on the status of the sermon to be so high? Is there any point in having a sermon at all?

I thought I would look at my life and the impact of sermons on me. I’ve not always been sceptical about sermons. I have tried my hardest to listen and engage and to refer and cross refer. The switching off has been a more recent phenomenon.

So I look back into my past and just to avoid bias look at the rosier time of my spiritual life and the time where I consistently heard good sermons. This was in bible college starting about 10 years ago. I can quite honestly say that after most sermons we students would generally be happy with it. After all we got our lecturers preaching and also a host well known speakers from around the country.

In my three years of being in Bible college I reckon I heard 90 sermons. Now amongst those 90 how many do I remember? A real deep dig of memory reckons about 10. But on discussing with Luiza I realised that I actually don’t remember what the sermon was about. Just some illustration or joke from the sermon. A deeper dig and the figure comes out. 2. I can remember 2 sermons out of 90. Out of 90 of the best I can remember 2.

I can remember 2.2% of sermons in the best case scenario.

I remember more songs though. And I remember more people. And the word of God is about people innit? and there’s a bunch of songs in there. So why this massively fraudulent personality development course when the word is supposed to be preached? Let me see Jesus. I don’t want to see what you did with your kids yesterday nor do I want a tired retelling of the prodigal return. I want to see Jesus.

So down with the sermon.

Great logic there.


The wordplay in the gospel of John is fascinating

In the beginning was the Word

……………………………the Word was with God

……………………..and the Word    was  God

…………………………………He was with God

in the beginning.

It brings all the more credence to the possibility that poets should be given a greater voice in the church and it’s local communities.

Death of Rock

Interesting conversations in the death of rock. There’s a lament about the lack of rock in the charts and there is an optimistic view to what could be a sleeping giant.

I don’t think rock is ever going to have the same impact that it did over the last few decades. It’s simply not cutting edge enough.

Disclaimer: Writer is a cynical sceptic who listens to very little music and yet considers himself an authority on this subject. My four readers are hereby warned!

It’s not cutting edge in it’s sound. Though Muse has come up with a really cool brand of progressive rock with electronica elements I think that they remain a brilliant oddity. From the 60s to the 90s there were always new boundaries of sound being pushed both in production and instrument wise. I could be just an old whining crone but I think a lot of contemporary rock isn’t pushing boundaries.

It’s not cutting edge in what it’s about. Rock used to be at the forefront of political discourse and at the core of existential angst. Now it seems to be a shadowy anarchist commune filled with limericked rhetoric. Rock seems more about nostalgia than about having resonance with where culture is at and reverberating back out into the world where we all feel that we belong in our rage against institutions and our despair at our wormy little selfs.

It’s not at the cutting edge of attitude. Most rockers seem…. ahem…. quite nice. There aren’t any real bad boys. The nasty stuff is happening in hip hop and pop. Without that ‘badness’ how’re the teens gonna rebel?

Is rock dead? Obviously not. And neither does it rule the world in a commercial way that it did till recently. And in that way as Paul Gambaccini said it probably will go the way of jazz. Which is no bad thing. Other than it’s effect on the price of listening to it live.

Whadya think?

the pain and the puzzle

Prayer; a lot’s been said about it. Some of it rich and deep. Most of it well meant. Frankly at the moment none of it seems to help.

In my ruminations about prayer I’m at the stage where I believe that prayer works through love. Now by prayer I’m more in the region of the asking kind rather than the adoring kind. And I think that the asking and answering works through love because I think God works in the world through love. So where love happens God is happening in someway.

What do I mean by love? Well God defines what love is. God is love. What does it look like? From God’s actions in Jesus and the trinitarian reflections on who God is I draw out three features of love.

  • Acceptance of the other
  • Reaching out to the other
  • Giving oneself to the other

When this happens God happens. So Jesus says when two or three are gathered he is there. And the church is known to be Jesus’ disciples when they love each other.

So God is most present when love in some form is happening. And this is probably how prayer ‘works’. So the love that we have for others will be the engine through which the Holy Spirit moves.

A lady in church said about her husband getting a job within a week of being laid off. She said that God was good and in control. We’ve heard countless stories of healings, how God has provided the money and even how God without even us asking prevented our loved ones from getting on that ill-fated train. And here comes the pain and the puzzle. Why does God answer particular prayers?

We assume that God is all loving. So why are only some prayers answered? There are loads of people still sick, the rich and the powerful defecate on the poor. One has to assume that the vast majority of prayer requests go unanswered. Various answers have been given for this.

One is that God’s scheme is different to ours. On one level this is cheap rationalisation but yet on another this is profound. On the cheap rationalisation level this God’s scheme or God’s ways being different has been used in insensitive and oppressive ways.

Eg. ‘Why are those people so poor and looked down upon?’;  ‘Oh it’s God’s mysterious ways.’

Why does he have polio? yadayadayada

When people started actually exploring and experimenting they found that they could actually fight against injustice and disease. God’s mysterious ways now was interpreted as human evil and natural disaster.

I can accept that God works differently but to glibly answer a problem someone has with – ‘God’s mysterious ways’ is I feel, an insult to God and to that person.

Another reason given is God’s timing. Again possible but it doesn’t really help the kidnapped little girl who got murdered.

Various other reasons are bandied about all in an effort to protect God’s reputation and more importantly the Christian’s spirtual reasoning reputation.

My problem is not with unanswered prayer. The world is what it is and God’s kingdom is slowly but surely taking root in it. My confusion is with answered prayer. Most answered prayers seem to be pleasant surprises or oddly coincident but good experiences or a satisfactory resolution to a difficult situation. Are these answers to prayer?

The sceptic of course rationalises towards the obvious sense based explanation while the believer rationalises towards the mighty hand of God explanation. The concept of God’s immanence kind of marries the two explanations by showing God working through the processes of creation but if that is the case then it seems fairly hit and miss and random.

So there you have it. I don’t get prayer. I still do pray though. But increasingly I listen to my hollow words with a sinking feeling as words dribble out of my thoughts and lips floating down to join the dust in carpet.