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

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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Christmas fragment 3

Christmas celebrates a this worldly God. This is a problem. Some find the fleshliness difficult. Others find God difficult. A this worldly God on close reflection is a constant challenge to our ideas of world and god.

After I wrote that sentence I realised that I did the classic act of reducing world and god to ideas. So I add: A this worldly God on close reflection is a constant challenge to our ideas and experiences of world and god.

A this worldly god is inevitably messy intricately weaving himself into our experience, our biases and our appropriations.

A this worldly god seems infinitely interpretable; he is part of each ones experience through all time, but a this worldly god is also frighteningly particular and singular for as a human creature he is limited to his body.

A this worldly God is a problem.

Christmas Fragment 2

Christians worship a refugee.

At a time when politically stable societies celebrate Christmas with family it’s worth remembering that Mary and Joseph suddenly had to move from Nazareth to Bethlehem and then a little while later flee to Egypt.

The Christmas story is inherently filled with instability and danger. From this place of confusion it looks outwards and says ‘Peace to all’.

Christmas Fragment 1

Christmas is messily materialistic. The Word became flesh. Blood, bodily fluids, wordless crying are at the heart of Christmas story. It is icky, joyful and fills the senses.

This is why with so many objects criss crossing the planet it fulfils part of the spirit of Christmas. The handling of the card, the wrapping of the gift, the prising of the plastic, the eating of food, the drinking of wine affirms our bodily humanity; for God affirms bodily humanity in its messy state by taking on a breathing, weeing, gurgling body.

A parable of talents

Once in the land of Naad three young people were sent away from their home, each to a different land. They were to learn of that land and come back with new skills and knowledge.

Three years passed; they came back and there was a feast to welcome them. At this joyous time the priests and the elders summoned the young ones to ask them of their journey. All became quiet as the first one spoke.

“I learnt of how things work. How to put together things. How to harness energy, how to make lights flash and how to programme machines so that they do our bidding.”

“Welcome!” cried the elders and priests, “enter into our community, use your gifts here, make money here, be part of the greatness of our people.”

The second one stood forward. “I learnt about the body and its diseases. I learnt of many cures, how to fix a broken nose and how to get nicer skin. I even learnt the strange art of ‘fitness regime’ so that we might never be ill again.”

“Welcome!” cried the elders and priests, (especially the ones who had a stinking cold), “enter into our community, use your gifts here, make money here, be part of the greatness of our people.”

The third one stood forward, eyes bright, countenance joyful. “I learnt of God. Who reaches out to us. I learnt about us. Who reach out to God. I learnt of many great things; of how to transform our lives, of new ways of doing our festivals, of ways to fight for justice as God would love us to do.”

There was a great silence. Then a small cough. A shuffle of feet.

One of the priests then cried out. “Diane!…Diane!”

Diane stepped out from the crowd.

“Diane, can you put this bright young thing on your ROTA?”

Incarnation 3

The Incarnation asks questions of our privileging of the mind  and its activities, over the body. The young discipline of embodied cognition does a lot of research in how we seem to use our bodies in much deeper ways than we’ve been led to believe. The problems that AI and robotics face is from this over privileging of the mind over the body. Moravec’s paradox indicates that reasoning and thinking need far less computational resources than simple motor tasks of the body. Therefore there is something about the human body which is more than just simple mechanics. It could be argued that is how contemporary society over a variety of cultures views our body. A mechanical motor home for a disembodied ‘I’. The Incarnation seems to indicate otherwise.

Does the sun rise in the east?

Recently there was this debate,… well two people talking anyway. Bill Nye and Ken Ham talked about the question ‘Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era?’

Reams and reams of 1’s and 0’s are going on about it. So here are a few of my own dregs.

I didn’t fully realise the seriousness of this issue in the US until I found out about the pressure in some parts of the country to teach creationism as science. I fully admire Bill Nye’s passion and vision in trying to counter this. As a Christian I don’t want my daughters to look at the Bible that way and I don’t want them to shut themselves off from all that science has to offer. (Whether they do or not is a different matter.) I think I would like them to explore and experience and come to decisions themselves. My job as a parent is to give them tools and as they grow they can either use them or find better ones.

In one way the ‘debate’ (I don’t know why I find it hard, but I just can’t take the word seriously) was about truth. Ken Ham and the creationists seem to think that if 7-day creation didn’t happen then the bible isn’t true. So since the bible is true then the 7-day creation did happen! Or so goes my caricature of the creationist thought.

For many, creationists and atheists alike, science is truth. So you have creationists pile driving science into texts and using texts to prove science doing violence to both. Then you have the certain atheist who can only accept evidence. For both science is the only truth.

Hence the title of my post. Does the sun rise in the east? Scientifically no. The sun doesn’t rise at all. The earth spins and this causes day and night. But is the question valid and a yes answer correct? This is where our contexts come into play. The question of the sun rising in the east can be useful in a geography lesson where maps are involved. In a physics or astronomy lesson it becomes a completely different question.

Similarly if my daughter says, ‘look daddy, a rainbow in the sky!’ I’m not going to turn around and say ‘no you unscientific beautiful thing, it’s just a visual phenomena of a dispersal of light due to refractive properties of water.’ And not because I don’t want to disappoint her, but because as humans we see rainbows in the sky and refer to ‘rainbows’ and ‘skies’ as objects even though neither of them exist as physical entities.

Again a discussion of rainbows and skies will vastly differ if you’re in a literature or physics class. Literature and physics do different things. But they both have access to truth. What Ken Ham does is drive physics into literature and spectacularly ruins both. I think this is a problem that runs through many societies. We don’t give science and art their proper dues and we come off much worse as individuals and communities. Hopefully we’ll evolve soon. 🙂