Couldn't have said it better myself...



"We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are."

Anais Nin




Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The End of the World?


Is this, in the immortal words of REM, "The end of the world as we know it?"

As I was heading to bed last night news was trickling through of the U.S. House of Representatives rejection of the US Treasury inspired White House plan for the bail-out of the US banking sector. It was rejected by 228 to 205 votes, despite supposed bi-partisan support for it, and in the aftermath of the vote there seems to have been a "what have we done?" moment.

The rest of the world quickly worked out what they had done... and rapidly began dumping banking stocks all across global markets. This meant that banks already under threat because of the sub-prime crisis, the overall credit crunch and the recent spate of opportunistic short selling came under even greater pressure. yesterday probably saw the single greatest reorganisation of the banking system in history with many banks being nationalised or taken over. Wachovia, the fourth-largest US bank, was bought by larger rival Citigroup in a rescue deal backed by US authorities. Benelux banking giant Fortis was partially nationalised by the Dutch, Belgian and Luxembourg governments to ensure its survival. The UK government announced it was nationalising the Bradford & Bingley bank. The Franco-Belgian Bank Dexia had to be partially nationalised because of its massive losses in the US. (However the French banking system seems more robust than elsewhere at present because of it's inherent caution and their tendency to see houses as homes rather than financial investments... although over recent years President Sarkozy and his ilk having been advocating greater allignment of France with the US system and a Thatcherite "home-owning" democracy). Even little Iceland has felt the effects with the country's third-largest bank, Glitnir, being taken over by their government after the company faced short-term funding problems (I'm amazed they have 3 banks!)

But because of increasing instability some of the recent bail-out deals may now be unsustainable. Lloyds TSB and Barclays who had previously agreed to buy HBOS and Leamans both made huge losses yesterday and today, exacerbated by the news that Gordon Brown's proposed bail-out of the British Banking system would not insulate them from their first £15 billion in losses.

It was a lack of such assurances within the US proposal that apparently led to some representatives taking cold feet over the "Pawson Plan." That and good-old American two-party electoral politics. Facing re-election in November, many of the representatives couldn't see how they could sell this enormous tax-funded bail out to ordinary voters, it being seen as a bail out of rich bankers to poorer voters and a rejection of free-market economics to ideological republicans. In a society where every public servant, from dog-warden to President is elected, the last thing that you want to tell your electorate a month before the election is that everything you have ever told them is wrong and/or that you want to take billions of dollars off them to cushion the redundancy of profligate chief executives.

In the wake of the collapse of Eastern European Communism Francis Fukuyama wrote about
the end of history, refering to the historical progression that led towards secular, free-market, democracy, which had proved triumphant over Marxism and all other socio-political worldviews... The hubris of that has been proved with the rise of radical Islamism and the attack on the twin towers 7 years ago. But the events of recent days may be the final nail in its coffin as the twin towers of the banking system and US democracy fail to deliver. Is this then the end of the end of history? What new world will we wake up to tomorrow? Probably not, as some conservative Christian commentators have suggested, the post rapture, premillenial chaos that is the final run-in to the new heaven and new earth... But the lessons of the book from which those images are so carelessly ripped, are that whatever power is at work in the world, there is a higher power, and our ultimate loyalty is to that King and that Kingdom.

The Kingdom of God is not a liberal, free-market democracy... it is not dependent upon the stock market, no matter how much church authorities or individual Christians may have bet their shirts on it... nor is it guided by what is either popular or expedient... rather by God's eternal measures of righteousness and justice... and on that scale, liberal, free-market democracy has, certainly in recent days, shown itself to be somewhat deficient. But then all forms of human socio-political organisation will be, and for the church to advocate one as exclusively "Christian" is arrogant if not idolatrous. Rather we should argue for what is right within whichever system we find ourselves to be operating... and seeking to make up for its deficiencies.

But just when I think that the world has irrevocably changed and that both the markets and politics have gone mad, I can always rely on Northern Ireland to bring me back down to earth.

I went to bed hearing of one democratic rejection, and woke up to another. This time that Limavady Council had rejected moves to give David Armstrong freedom of the Borough. Mr. Armstrong was a former Presbyterian minister who was hounded out of his pulpit and the town because, among other things, he offered a hand of friendship at Christmas to his Roman Catholic neighbour Father Kevin Mullen. When, two weeks ago I heard that this was being proposed I thought that it was a sign that things were changing in this particular corner of the world. But last night Unionist politicians refused to cooperate with the proposal, resulting in a vote of 8-6 in favour, falling short of the two thirds majority needed.

Now, just as representatives in the US had complex reasons for rejecting the Pawson plan, and that it wasn't raw party political electioneering, I am sure that Unionists in Limavady had complex reasons for voting against this proposal. Of course it wasn't raw party-political sectarianism. However, it is a salutory reminder to us all that in Northern Ireland at least, the world as we know it is alive and well... And I don't feel fine...

ps. Glenn Jordan has just posted two brief, but typically insightful blogs on recent economic developments over on Crookedshore, while Jim Wallis gives an interesting American-eyed view on the God'spolitics blog.



Monday, September 29, 2008

Handle with Care


As a quick ps to my last post on how we should, and should not communicate Biblical truths to children, a salutory lesson in the difficulties of this comes in the person of a certain 7 year old called Ciaran Thomas Campton.

From he was no age he has struck terror into his mum and I when visiting speakers talk to the children in the church service, because he has never had any compulsion about speaking back. On one famous Sunday he had a stand up row with me in front of the whole congregation about what does and does not constitute a church! And his take on the Sunday school lesson is always quite interesting to listen to over Sunday lunch... Although it can lead to you choking on a hastily swallowed carrot!

Over the past few weeks the Sunday School, Bible Class and church have just started into a new common "curriculum" and we've been looking at some of Jesus' healing miracles... Last week he wasn't too impressed that Jesus used spit to heal a deaf mute... "Yeughh! He said, imagine putting slabbers in someone's ears and on their tongue!" And this week he suggested that in order to heal the woman who had been bent over for 18 years Jesus should have used a crow bar!

His most entertaining moment, however, was probably after last year's youth service, when the speaker had told the children that the Bible was dynamite. Three hours later we found him sitting in the corner of his room, chuckling to himself. When we asked him what was so funny he said "The Bible is dynamite!" Before putting his hands together then opening them like a book and shouting "KABOOM!!!"

I fully agree with that speaker... the Bible is dynamite... and certainly, as far as children are concerned we have to handle it with care...

But for other kids'-eye views of the Bible, check out "Give up Your Aul Sins" a short animated film based around Dublin schoolchildren's accounts of Bible stories. You can get a taster of the title sequence on YouTube.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Teach What to Your Children?


Had a very interesting evening last night with a few old friends, one of whom is just back from New Zealand for a short time. It was probably all the more interesting after 2 hours listening to a briefing on church finance reports in the light of the new charities laws.

But during the conversation someone mentioned a former teacher and leader in Scripture Union who was involved in a low level "scandal". This triggered an explosive response from one of my friend's, who claimed that this just goes to show that everything that this man, and his fellow SU leaders, had taught us, was rubbish (he used stronger language), and that to influence young people with a black and white view of religion/spirituality in schools in wrong. It must be said that this particular teacher, whilst being very affable, had portrayed a particularly black and white picture of Christian faith that I, even in my tender teenage years, was uneasy with, and I suppose it is that which makes his "fall from grace" seem that more stark... But whilst I was at first taken aback by the vitriol of my friends outburst there are some very real issues to be wrestled with here.

In school (and Sunday Schools too) we are dealing with children and young people at a critical and vulnerable period of their lives. As Christians we, following the Judaic tradition are encouraged to "teach these things" (the Law of Moses) to our children (see Deuteronomy 4: 9,10; 6: 7; 11: 19), but what about other people's children? And how can we teach what are timeless truths without telling them that everything we say is the truth, the whole truth and the only truth there is? I have appreciated the role of Scripture Union in my life, and am currently involved in trying to resurrect one within a local school. But I would be wary if it was perceived, as my friend now sees it, as a means of brain-washing children, or establishing a culture among young people that the way to "get on" was to join the God-squad (which was another of his, probably justifiable, accusations about our old school)

But for me this whole thing is cast into stark relief by a documentary that is due to be broadcast later in the week. "The Virgin Daughters" in Channel 4's Cutting Edge series, is looking at another dimension of the growing "sexual purity" movement in the USA (first we had the"silver ring thing" now it is "Purity Balls"). Now it wouldn't be Channel 4 if it didn't sensationalise things, particularly if there is a religious dimension in the story, but some of the coverage of this documentary and the movement it is about, is frankly, disturbing... The stills of young girls in diaphanous white dresses carrying in a large woodens cross to a candle-lit room and making vows of chastity before it, are like something out of a cheap and nasty 1970s Hammer horror movie. And the idea of making girls as young as 6 participate in such rites is worrying. How can they possibly know what they are saying?

Many of them, apparently promise not even to kiss a boy until they are married... Saving that first kiss for when they are pronounced man and wife in the marriage service. Now according to one of the friends I was with last night, according to the new sexual offences act it will actually be an offence for two fifteen year olds to kiss one another, then perhaps this pledge isn't all bad!

But no... I jest... I do understand the desire for parents to protect their children, particularly their daughters from the dangers of this over-sexualized culture... But this is not the way... I equally want fathers to play a full role in the lives of their children, but the role that fathers have in the lives of their young daughters in this movement is slightly unnerving.

But what is the difference between this attempt to influence children for a percieved good and the role of Scripture Unions in schools, or of Sunday Schools? Where does the line lie? What do we tell our children? And who should do it? Where? When? Answers on a virtual postcard please...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Crunch Time



Well this week the credit crunch caused some of the biggest beasts in banking to crack, with the result that the Republican administration of George Bush, champion of the free-market, was forced to intervene to nationalise AIG and prop up the US banking system.
But although that caused stock markets across the world to bounce back to a certain extent, the problem hasn’t gone away… Many financial institutions are still at risk of collapse… Investments have a long way to go to regain their lost values. There will be political ramifications… both in the US Presidential campaign and perhaps even with regard to the leadership of Gordon Brown here… But ultimately the biggest losers are those at the bottom of the pile. Taxpayers who cannot afford the accountants who will help them avoid (if not evade) taxation, those whose mortgages have been foreclosed and employees who have been laid off without million dollar golden goodbyes.
This has all led to a flurry of articles looking at who is to blame… with fingers pointed in all directions… At Sub-Primer Lenders irresponsibly lending money to poorer people, with no real prospect of repayment… At Investment Banks who built an industry around repackaging these loans and playing pass the parcel with them… At Short-Sellers who capitalised on uncertainty and drove down the prices of bad and good companies alike for the sake of personal profit… At Financial Services regulators who have done next to nothing… And at Governments who have been variously accused of doing too little and too much… Of bailing out rich investors while ignoring the needs of the poor.
As usual the truth is very complex… and there are many people to blame… But a system that is essentially based upon predatory selfishness is, almost bound to result in periodic episodes of blood-letting… With the poor and the powerless paying the price.
It does raise the question as to whether the world of the stock market can in any way be endorsed by the church. My own denomination holds a very firm line on gambling, which prevents us taking money from the lottery and holding any games of chance on Methodist trust property, yet it says very little on the morality (or immorality) of our capitalist economic system which is essentially up-market gambling, with huge stakes. This week, the world lost its shirt on a series of long-odds bets!
But whilst the church says little, this week has proved again the wisdom of its founder, a humble carpenter from Nazareth. Despite the fact that he lived long before the development of the arcane system of modern stock markets, he told those who would listen:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


Had he lived on earth today he may have said something about sun-prime mortgages and short-sellers but the advice is essentially both timeless and timely.


And the key question is, where is your heart and soul invested?




This post was originally written as review of the week's news on Downtown Radio's Dawn Reflections.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Singing the Faith


Methodism was born in song... Or so we are informed in the oft quoted introduction to the 1933 Methodist hymnbook... And although the dreadful publication entitled Hymns and Psalms published in 1983 might potentially have contributed to the death of Methodism, we have survived it and are now staggering into the process by which a newer anthology will be compiled. Whether many churches will opt for a paper copy of this or abandon hymnbooks entirely in favour of projecting words onto screens I don't know... Although in my own church we largely project the words, I do hope we never fully abandon hymnbooks, because whilst I am not certain that Methodism was born in song, it was certainly nourished by its sacred songs as it grew. We sing our theology... It is the hymns of Charles Wesley that should be noted as a statement of normative Methodist belief rather than John Wesley's 44 Sermons... When was the last time you heard someone whistling a sermon? The only thing that worries me is that many of the hymns and songs of recent years are theologically illiterate... Marginally better than the twee rubbish that came out in the 1960s and 70s and was included in Hymns and Psalms, but still illiterate.

Anyway, I didn't actually begin this post intending to rant, but sadly that seems my default, Victor-Medrewesque setting these days. What I was going to do was point those interested in the direction of a really useful resource. Whilst looking for information on this new adventure in Methodist hymnody because I'm going to have to draft someone from a committee I convene to sit on the panel preparing this hymnal, I discovered a really interesting site on the British Methodist Church website, offering brand new hymns dealing with contemporary issues. Some of them are banal, but most of them are genuine attempts to wrestle theologically with real, everyday events. There's even one about the Large Hadron Collider... So if (when it is switched back on after a bit of a repair) it does manage to create a black hole that will suck us all to oblivion, then we have something appropriate so that Methodism (and everything else) might also die in song!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Lord, How Many Times…?



Peter: Eh... Jesus...?

Jesus: Yes, Peter?

Peter: How many times did you say I should forgive my brother?

Jesus: Have you and Andrew been fighting again, Peter?

Peter: Oh, you know what he’s like... I know you want us to forgive each other, but I really am ready to deck him... And I can’t remember, are we supposed to forgive others 77 times or is it 70 times 7?

Jesus: Who’s counting?

Peter: I am… Remember… I asked you how many times should I forgive him and you told me 77, or 70 times 7 before telling us that story of the servant who was forgiven a huge debt but then got banged up for throttling his friend over thrupence. Well, I’ve already forgiven Andrew 76 times so I’m wondering if the next time is his last?

Jesus: How do you know there will be a next time?

Peter: Oh, Don’t you worry… There’ll be a next time… If I haven’t drowned him or brained him first…

Jesus: That’s hardly the right attitude… I didn’t mean that you only had to forgive someone a certain number of times before hitting them with a baseball bat…

Peter: A what?

Jesus: Never mind…

Peter: So, come on, if it’s not 77, or 70 times 7, how many times is it then? 77 times 7?

Jesus: No… Think of a number…

Peter: What?

Jesus: Just think of a number…

Peter: OK.

Jesus: Double it.

Peter: Right.

Jesus: Square it.

Peter: Yes.

Jesus: Multiply it by 3 million, raise it to the power of 10 and then add the number you first thought of.

Peter: I’m sorry Jesus… I never was very good at maths…

Jesus: But you’re still good at keeping score of the number of times someone has wronged you.

Peter: So you are saying I should just forgive and forget.

Jesus: The words never crossed my lips.

Peter: You can’t just keep letting people off... Pretending that what they have done doesn’t matter.

Jesus: I didn’t say you should… Forgiveness isn’t about saying that when others do something wrong it’s OK... It’s about saying that what they have done is not OK but you will forgive them anyway.

Peter: But how many times?

Jesus: As many times as you need to...

Peter: But knowing Andrew that could be forever!

Jesus: And…

Peter: Well there have to be limits Lord…

Jesus: Do there?

Peter: Yes… Otherwise people can take advantage of you…

Jesus: OK then Peter… How many times do you want to be forgiven?

Peter: What?

Jesus: How many times do you want to be forgiven?

Peter: But this isn’t about me?

Jesus: Is it not?

Peter: No… It’s about Andrew…

Jesus: Well do you remember that prayer I taught you?

Peter: Our Father and all that stuff…

Jesus: Yes…

Peter: What about it?

Jesus: Well how do we ask God to forgive us in that prayer?

Peter: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us?” And…?.

Jesus: What about that?

Peter: But this is nothing to do with trespassing…

Jesus: Don’t try to wriggle out of it… You know what it means…

Peter: OK… I know… But what's that got to do with when I have to stop forgiving Andrew or anyone else…

Jesus: Its simple…

Peter: When?

Jesus: Stop forgiving others when you want God to stop forgiving you…
© David A. Campton 2008
Shalom

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What Kind of Story Is This?


Today was almost over before I realised it. 9-11 in my diary today meant a 9-11 am session in the hospital, followed by a series of meetings... And at nowhere today, even in meeting with one American citizen were the events of 7 years ago today even mentioned. Is it because we have seen so much horror inflicted in retribution for that day that the cruel murder of the people in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the 4 planes that went down that day no longer has any emotional power over us? Or is it because we have simply moved on? More concerned about the credit crunch and the fuel price hike rather than the loss of so many innocent lives.
For me, one of the best responses to the tragedy came in the form of a poem by Godfrey Rust released one year after it. I tried to find it on the net (or even any reference to it) but couldn't... so I rustled around my files and found a paper copy. So here it is:


Where was God
on September the 11th? He was begging
in old clothes in the subway
beneath the World Trade Center.
He was homeless in Gaza,
imprisoned in Afghanistan,
running the gauntlet to her school in the Ardoyne,
starving in Somalia,
dying of AIDS in an Angolan slum,
suffering everywhere in this fast-shrinking world;
and boarding a plane unwittingly in Boston,
heading for an appointment on the 100th floor.

When the time came he stretched out his arms once more to take
the dreadful impact that would pierce his side.
His last message on his fading cell phone
once more to ask forgiveness for them all, before
his body fell under the weight of so much evil.
Godfrey Rust © 2002
Please Note Godfrey Rust's own comment on this piece below, where he corrects a number of items in my original post, not least of which is the title, the year of authorship and the fact that this is only part of a much longer poem (and reading the longer poem the "title" attributed to the abbreviated version suddenly makes more sense!). As I fawningly state in my reply to his comment I have been inspired by Godfrey's material for years... Indeed some of my own work owes its origins to ideas gleaned from his... check him out online and on paper... You still can't beat a book of good poetry you can dip into anywhere anytime...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Move over Maggie

Regular followers of this blog over the summer (what's wrong with you... have you nothing better to do with your time!) will know of my long summer love affair with a dusky voiced American lady called Maggie. Magellan Maestro, the GPS that was kindly lend to us by Ed and Lorrie Bawden for our time in Grand Rapids.

Well, she impressed me so much that on coming home I was on the look out for a similar piece of kit at a reasonable price. And last week I spotted one... a Garmin Nuvi 300, at a third of its usual price. So it's a case of move over Maggie here's Gary... Now that's a female Gary, as this unit only offers female voices. Is there something wrong with a male voice telling you where to go? But anyway, she's not as sophisticated as Maggie... But I have simple needs. Getting me from A-B without a speeding ticket, accident or nervous breakdown will do. To see how she will work I have engaged in some Satnav cruelty I am ashamed to admit... I've programmed in place I know how to get to and deliberately taken a different route to see how quickly she reroutes and how well she estimates ETA, and all in all she has done very well... Except for a near hissy fit when I took her through the Ulster Hospital grounds en route to Owain's School...

So, I'm pleased by my purchase and will get a lot of use out of it... Around Ballybeen to begin with!

Actually since I've come back I have made a lot of technological purchases... A benefit of the high street crash as a result of the credit crunch and the pound nose-diving, is that a lot of internet outfits are offering heaps off certain items. So, over the past few weeks I've bought a new fm broadcaster, 8 GB memory card for my phone and headphone connector with an integrated mike so that I can use my outrageously over-specced phone as an MP3 player in the gym and car, without having to juggle it when a call comes in... And again it has worked seamlessly. Isn't it wonderful when that happens.

However I also had to buy a new digi-box for one of my TV's because during my time in the US Freeview have moved over onto a more advanced platform which rendered my old box useless. So much for me gearing up for the digital hand-over. We're not even there yet and the equipment is already outmoded. I then had to upgrade my Scart lead because my old cheap one wasn't good enough for the new box.

And that is the problem with technology. The manufacturers are selling those of us who can afford it more and more stuff that we don't really need... Knowing that in 2-3 years we will be back again either because it is so badly made it has died on us, or because it is no longer compatible with everything else we have.

Do we need all this stuff? Clearly no. Yet do we learn? Equally clearly no. But we had better... because there is no point in having a satnav if the world it is supposed to help us navigate is a barren wasteland and we are crossing it at walking pace because our cars no longer function.

And while we worry about which piece of electronic gimickry is "best value" a huge proportion of the population of the earth worry about more important things... like where their next meal is coming from and will their children survive to the morning.
Selah


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ring a Ring of Hadrons... We all Fall Down


If it is after 8.31am (BST) on September 10th 2008 and you are reading this, then the particle physicists at CERN on the border of France and Switzerland have avoided creating a black hole in their large hadron collider that will suck us all into oblivion.
It's a salutory thought that the last sight I may get of this world is the view from the top of the Holywood Hills overlooking Belfast Lough as I do my usual dash to take Owain to school... But as final views go that's not bad.
Of course it won't be my last view, at least not unless I have an apoplectic fit at the idiot reporters covering the story on radio who trot out the same old rubbish time after time without realising the immensity of what the scientists are actually doing. But immense though it is it won't create a black hole (you can say I was wrong if they do... but then we'll be dead and you'll not have read this in the first place), and it isn't recreating the big bang...
But let's just use it as a pretext (as every TV and radio programme, newspaper and blog known to man is also doing) and ask, if the world really were to have been sucked into a black hole this morning, how would you have spend your last night (keep it clean!)...

And, are you ready?

ps. It's now 9.31 am (BST... though I'm not convinced about this "summer" thing given the weather) and we're still here. But that is because I, like everyone else have bought into the hype. The only big bang this morning was at 8.35 am (BST) when, after a few technical glitches, they managed to get the accelerated proton beam 3km around the loop and someone popped the obligatory bottle of champagne. They probably won't actually collide two particle streams until tomorrow at the earliest.
One person who will probably pop a champagne cork or two if all their hopes are fulfilled is Peter Higgs, the man who proposed the Higgs Mechanism, and the Higgs Boson, or so called "God Particle" by which energy develops mass. Having posited this as a young whippersnapper in the 1960s (and ironically having the paper proposing it rejected by scientists at CERN... Ooops!) Professor Higgs has been waiting around over the last 40 years waiting for someone to find one of these particles among the wreckage caused by various particle collision experiments. When I was in Edinburgh University in the 1980s, my flatmates, who were both physicists, almost revered him, as he was still on the staff there... But no-one was quite sure what he did anymore... Interest outside of Edinburgh was raised again when Stephen Hawking's "Brief History of Time" came out... Although Hawking has placed a £100 bet that the particle cannot be found... While Higgs believes that Hawking doesn't actually understand the physics well enough to make that assertion... That is the intellectual stature of the man... Believing that Hawking doesn't know as much as himself!
Anyway, I hope that Peter Higgs is vindicated in these experiments, and that the scientists find his "God boson". If they do, he will undoubtedly get his long expected Nobel Prize, we will not, however, as Hawking asserts, know the mind of God... 
My only hope is that the scientists are right and that their particle collisions will not cause us to meet with God prematurely!

Not a Day for Enjoying Yourself


Well, professional (?) football on a Sunday has at last come to Northern Ireland. And it is a little ironic that the first game would be in the heartland of Protestant East Belfast, with a match between Glentoran and Bangor at the Oval.
Now, I'm a little ambivalent about strict sabbatarianism. Certainly the increased commercialism on Sundays has resulted in pressures on shopworkers to work on Sundays when they would rather be at church or at home with their families. The increasing number of amateur sports clubs running sessions on Sunday mornings has taken a toll on family attendance at church. And if Sunday football exacerbated any of that I would be deeply opposed to it. But I confess (and I appreciate that in some circles this is a serious confession as a minister of the gospel... tho' since I am Methodist, some wouldn't expect anything better of me...) I enjoy watching a game of football or rugby or many other inds of sport on TV on a Sunday afternoon.
But Sunday saw a group of about 50 protesters standing outside the Oval. By all accounts the interaction between protesters and fans was relatively good humoured. My brother had the job of assessing the referee's performance, and as he was going in one of the protesters who knew him shouted:
"I'm surprised at you being here this afternoon."
"Why's that?" replied Robert.
"Because the Sabbath is no day to be enjoying yourself!"
To which my brother replied: "I'll debate that with you at another time, but if you think that going to watch the Glens is enjoyable, you've got a lot to learn!"

The Sabbath is no day to be enjoying yourself... Not the first time I've heard that sadly. We've all heard as nauseam the stories of chained up swings in children's playgrounds, in various council districts run by the Evangelical Taliban... Then a number of years ago a student minister at a local church told the youth group there that it was OK to go for a walk by the sea on a Sunday, so long as they didn't walk along the beach or paddle in the water as they might enjoy that...

According to the Westminister Confession "Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever..."
A recent commentator on this statement suggests that we glorify God BY enjoying him, and his gifts to us... Except on Sundays of course...

But one other worrying heckle I heard from one of the protesters... As someone headed through the turnstile they shouted after them:
"You'll be going to Croke Park next! Joining the GAA!"
The implication is that Irish Catholics watch sport on a Sunday, not good Ulster Prods!
So that's it... That's the key reason why we shouldn't watch or play sport on a Sunday. Because not doing that sets us Protestants apart from the Papists!
In the Bible there was another group who defined themselves as set apart from the masses in terms of what they didn't do... Not Protestants, or Papists, but another P...
Pharisees. Most of them were people of integrity, seeking to follow God's laws in the best way they had been taught. But for many it had become a dry following of rules and grace didn't get a look in. In their worldview the law set them apart and they followed it rigorously.

I wonder where Jesus would have been on Sunday? With the protesters decrying people for enjoying themselves and behaving like Catholics? Or standing on the terraces with the Glens fans?
Probably neither... He'd have more sense!