P.S.

Welcome to p.s., an email and web discussion forum from Contemporary Christianity.

We issue p.s. every every month. In line with our aims, it seeks to "provide informed, credible and practical comment and analysis, rooted in biblical reflection and theological thought" on contemporary matters of broad public concern in Ireland.

We are aiming to engage Christian minds with issues in the public square, to inject new perspectives and provoke discussion.

 
Please note that the statements and views expressed in this articles are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Contemporary Christianity.

Click on any of the issues raised, think about what is said and leave any comments you wish.

A CHRISTIAN WHO VOTED REMAIN WRITES…

 

On 23rd June 2016 I celebrated my 28th birthday. On the same day I also voted to Remain in the EU. My wife and I celebrated another year of life with a good old fashioned Northern Irish chippy, followed by French cheese, Spanish wine and Italian bread, and I went to bed really hoping I would get the birthday present I voted for. Alas, it was not to be and the contentment of an evening of good food and company soon passed away to be replaced by a feeling of unease. Continue reading

PS: THE EU REFERENDUM – ONE YEAR LATER

Next week will see the first anniversary of the UK Referendum and our collective national decision to leave the EU. The vote was finely balanced with Leave edging Remain by a margin of just 52 to 48. Brexit remains a source of formidable passion on both sides of its divide and will dominate political life in the UK for many years to come. Continue reading

Clouds – maligned and ignored!

I admit to not appreciating clouds – we simply have too many of them in this corner of the globe – although we had a welcome cloud-free few weeks in May this year.  Sunlight is usually in short supply; plant and crop growth are hugely dependent on it.  It’s a very different story in most other parts of the world where the sun shines relentlessly, where plant growth is instead limited by lack of water and urban communities either do not have water at all or else it’s in short or interrupted supply.

But I’ve been prompted to re-think my attitude to clouds when recently a Bible teacher said that ‘clouds signified God’s power’.  So I went in search of clouds in the Bible….

As well as being a visible sign of God’s presence to the Israelites as they wandered in the desert for 40 years (Ex. 13:21), clouds – black, dark, dense – appear in the poetry of the OT authors as they strive to portray God’s otherness (Deut. 4:11; 2 Sam. 22:11; Ps. 18:9 & 11; Ps.97:2; Nahum 1:13, etc.).  And it wasn’t just clouds but also darkness that was associated with God – ‘deep darkness’ (Deut. 4:11), ‘thick darkness’ (Ps 97:2).  I wonder how much of our emphasis on God as being light comes from our living in a relatively cloudy and dull part of the world.  We really don’t see much that’s positive about clouds at all.

In dry regions clouds promise rain – think of Elijah scanning the horizon after telling Ahab that God was sending rain.  Where rainfall is low, clouds are noticed when they appear.  They’re rare and they’re conspicuous.  Clouds also provide shade and even create their own breezes, so providing a welcome relief from the brightness and the heat of the sun. 

So what, we might say, in the context of our cloudy skies?  In the clear blue skies that are normal in the Sinai and in Israel, any cloud appearing would be remarkable and dramatic.  They might even make the occasion memorable. 

Realising this helped me read some Biblical stories with fresh eyes:  the cloud covering the Tent of the meeting (Ex. 40:34-38; Numbers 9:15-23); the Transfiguration; Jesus’ ascension being hidden by a cloud (Acts 1:9); Jesus’ return in a cloud (Matt. 24:30 & 26:64; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27; Rev. 1:7).  It’s intriguing how clouds are a significant part of these accounts where the Three-in-one is present to and with us on this planet.

I’m reminded of Joni Mitchell’s song:

I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It's cloud's illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all

Might my awe at who God is be increased if I understood clouds better?  Joni Mitchell went on to look at love and life in this song, having been inspired to write it by watching clouds from above in an airplane.  May we be stretched in our knowledge of God and be inspired to worship Him more deeply through being willing to look at familiar objects, etc. in fresh ways.

Ethel White.

Ethel White is a research scientist in agriculture.

The right to free speech

In 2012 a furore erupted across South Africa following the public exhibition of a painting by a ‘white’ South African artist, Brett Murray. Expressing a strand of public perception relating to the numerous scandals surrounding Jacob Zuma, the current President of South Africa, it depicts the President in a Lenin-like fashion with his genitals exposed. As well as the painting being vandalised shortly after it was displayed, some even called for the artist to be stoned to death for the way he had insulted the President.  A fascinating debate followed raising the question of why something one might have thought as an acceptable form of political commentary within the context of a democracy could provoke such an impassioned response. Continue reading

Living as a minority.

Nepal’s new Constitution, adopted on 20th September 2015 established it as a secular state and provided freedom to profess and practice one’s own religion. The Constitution prohibited changing one’s religion and so any activities considered to be encouraging a person to convert from one religion to another can be deemed illegal. Religious behaviour disturbing public law and order and behaviour contrary to public health, decency and morality was banned. Minority religious leaders and human rights’ lawyers have expressed concern that the ban could make religious minorities vulnerable to persecution for preaching or public displays of faith[1].

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How to vote on Thursday

(Note: This PS was originally published on Steve Stockman's blog Soul Surmise and is used with permission.)
 
I am a roving voter who takes serious consideration of a range of issues before deciding who to vote for and in what order. Well, actually I vote for everyone. It is the order that is obviously crucial!
 
The first thing I have done over this campaign, and all those before it, is to neutralise the colours on the front of the manifesto leaflets and posters. I refuse to let our politicians insult my intelligence or use fear tactics in order to manipulate my vote. The UK/Irish border is NOT at stake in this election. If there is ever a Referendum on that issue we can surmise on it then. Not this Thursday!
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Inviting the black dog into the room

In recent years there has been an explosion in ministry specifically to men. Breakfasts, outings and weekends away for men are now commonplace on the menu of many churches. Alongside this phenomenon statistics show a growing mental health crisis amongst men in this region. Northern Ireland has repeatedly had the highest suicide rate in the UK and men make up over 75% of this statistic. In this age of uncertainty with a rise in global terrorism, economic instability and insatiable demands of the workplace, many men are under increased and sustained pressure, resulting in isolation, addiction and depression. The shadow of the Troubles also looms large with countless men in our communities living with the crippling symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Statutory mental health services are failing to supply the demand for their services. In November 2016 it was reported that not one of Northern Ireland's five health trusts met the waiting time targets for people experiencing severe mental health difficulties.
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The Multi-sided Public Square

Truth and mercy have met together. Justice and peace have kissed. (Psalm 85:10)

Christians frequently differ on important issues, and it is a mark of spiritual maturity if they handle those differences creatively rather than engage in damaging verbal warfare.”1 (Raymond Brown)

In rediscovering what it means to live for God and His glory alone, Contemporary Christianity seeks to support Christians and the church to serve their communities at critical points of: cultural contention; communal conflict; and social change. We aim to engage Christian minds with issues in the public square, to inject new perspectives and provoke discussion. Continue reading

Peace on earth?

For many months, and especially in the last few weeks, we have been seeing the war in the Middle East and its horrible effects being reported almost daily on our TV screens and in our newspapers. I can barely watch the news now. I feel helpless, angry and even guilty at times, since those images of acute suffering are followed so often and so easily by twenty minutes of politics and sport. And even as I write this piece in mid December, the Ministry of Defence is saying that 'RAF jet pilots are the busiest they have been for 25 years, dropping 11 times more bombs than at the height of the Afghanistan conflict'. It was therefore a huge privilege to be able to be offer a structured response to the evening lecture (sponsored by Contemporary Christianity) on the futility of war which was given by Alan and Elaine Storkey in memory of Sir Fred Catherwood towards the end of November. Their address is available on the Contemporary Christianity's website, and may I encourage you to listen and reflect carefully on their passionate plea for Christian people to be much more pacifist in our thinking and much more active in seeking to bring an end to war. They argued eloquently that Christ deconstructs the fear of those who can kill the body, which is the ultimate threat of the militarists, and on the cross faces that threat in reality. The Apostle Paul replaces the Roman armour, the military kit, with the Christian armour of spiritual attitudes and with our feet shod with the Gospel of Peace. Continue reading

Resisting without imposing

In the 1980s Lesslie Newbigin argued that the modern multicultural worldview simply did not have the resources to stand up against absolutist worldviews. Sadly the rise of radical Islam and the results of the EU referendum and US presidential election seem to be proving him right. As postmodern thinkers have often pointed out, worldviews come at a price. Because they are comprehensive in scope and because they depend on a particular narrative of the world they have a tendency to become absolutist ideologies. They tend to negate all other visions, describing them as deviant or disruptive. Continue reading