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.

Seasons of life

Although for much of our lives we may prefer to ignore it, there are times when we are reminded, sometimes forcibly, of William Shakespeare’s definition of the seven ages of mankind: “All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages”. Watching David Cameron handing over to Theresa May last month has reminded me of the inevitability, and unpredictability of when and how the seasons of life change. Continue reading

Remembering to do better

This article was broadcast as a Thought for the Day on BBC Radio Ulster on Wednesday 27thJuly 2016 and is adapted and used with permission. On Tuesday in Rouen in France the community gathered to remember an 84-year-old priest murdered earlier that day in an atrocious act of murder carried out it seems because he was a Christian. The Rouen community is one in a long list of communities who have gathered to remember over these last months – Nice, Munich, Orlando, Kabul to name but a few. A couple of weeks ago I was privileged to attend an event remembering what happened in Srebrenica in 1995. It was a sober remembering. During the Balkans War Srebrenica was declared a United Nations Safe Area. In July 1995 General Ratko Mladic and his armed forces disregarded the declaration of safety, invaded the town and systematically killed 8000 men and boys who were then buried in mass graves. Thousands of women, young and old, were forcibly deported and many of them raped. All because they were Muslim. Continue reading

EU: In or Out?

In or out; stay or leave; in favour of Brexit - or not?  The complexities and the unknowns of the forthcoming referendum on EU membership will, unhappily, be boiled down to simple a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ vote on this question: Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union? We are not used to voting on such a momentous and complex issue.  Nor are we even sure what the key issues really are for those of us with a Christian conscience.   And we will struggle to hear what the scriptures might be saying.  Yet we must try, if we are to vote wisely. Continue reading

Can There Be a Distinctively Christian Contribution to Northern Ireland Politics?

The following reflections are inspired by Steve Stockman’s “An Open Letter to Northern Ireland’s Political Leaders” (PS September 2015) and Esmond Birnie’s response.

The central issue raised by Stockman and Birnie, is whether there is a distinctively Christian input on issues debated in the public arena. Birnie, seems to disagree with Stockman’s conclusion that all polticians are prone to selfish and partisan behaviour irrespective of the kind of political framework and institutions in which they have to operate. He implies that Northern Ireland politics has been prone to “periodic crisis”, in contrast with politics, say, in “London, Dublin, Washington or Berlin”, because of the political institutions as set up by the 1998 peace-process, with slight modifications in 2007.

Birnie argues further that one main reason why politics in Northern Ireland have been in continual crisis of one kind or another is because “we have pursued a 'peace at all costs' so called peace process”, resulting in “moral compromises in order to keep everyone talking, to keep all parties at the table and the room.” This preoccupation with “peace at all costs”, he contends, has forced Northern Ireland politicians to ignore the fundamental issues on which they legitimately disagree. He cites as an example the disagreement about “austerity” fiscal policies by the Government since 2010 and seems to castigate Irish Church leaders for their anti-austerity stance in a statement made last year. Continue reading

Different God – Different People

tio logoGod is different from us. His thoughts, His ways, His perspectives are different from ours. In fact, He is so different that He cannot be known by us unless He chooses to be known. Everything we know about God is because God has chosen to reveal it to us.  What He does reveal is how different He is and that how, by coming to know Him personally, we too become different.  Indeed, we become so different from those without a personal relationship with God that we stand out and often find ourselves in conflict with a secular worldview. What the Church has to offer the world is found in its difference from the world. The world needs the Church but what happens when this difference is eroded by the delusion of sameness?  Simply, the Church then has little or nothing to offer the world that the world does not already have.  Sooner or later, it becomes impotent and irrelevant. Yet, by not fearing its own difference and by having confidence in the difference released through the gospel and the Spirit, the Church can offer wisdom unattainable by any other means or agency to wider society. My passion is that the Church would discover and share its wisdom about people with intellectual disabilities; people who bring the gift of difference. The Church needs to sing a new song. First it needs to learn it. Yet, in reality, the power of people with intellectual disabilities often stuns and/or scares the Church. Practice (finding solutions) is sought without theology (forming a spiritual foundation) and ecclesiology (facing up to what/who Church is for). Do we simply need to re-discover how revolutionary we are?  Perhaps my young daughter Amy (who has Down syndrome) can help? Continue reading

True Colours Shining Through …

Colouring in – I had resisted for several years. My gift is writing, not colouring in. It’s childish. Pointless. But I decided it wasn’t any less pointless than social media or surfing the internet. So I gave in, purchased twenty-four triangular colouring pencils and a tiny book to play with. A few weeks later I am finding pleasure in occasional play. Side by side, colours nurture and challenge each other. But I’m also learning to dare to colour over what I had already done, to blend tones and contrasts, depth and shading… I’m now feeling less constrained by the lines. They serve to give structure and shape, to create challenges and forms on the page, but they are there to encourage juxtaposing of contrasts and complements rather than to define and limit each individual block. Continue reading

Cultural attitudes to women – theirs or ours?

Cultural attitudes towards women amongst some refugee groups in other countries have been in the news in recent weeks. But such negative cultural attitudes to women are to be found much closer to home. Last October Contemporary Christianity partnered with BMS  for a day conference about domestic violence and it was in the news again last month because Christmas sees an annual rise in the reporting of acts of physical violence committed by men and boys against women and girls. Continue reading

Check your luggage

This article was broadcast as a Thought for the Day on BBC Radio Ulster on Friday 1st January 2016 and is  adapted and used with permission. While we slept last night and without any assistance from us the earth rotated and a new day is about to dawn and who knows where we might travel, what may happen to us or where we might end up before the year is out. We might consider what we are taking on the journey and what we are leaving behind. Is it not interesting how some of our traditional practices have changed over time? One of the most obvious ones is how we now travel with much less luggage. Continue reading