What!? It can't possibly be time for the Saturday Supplement Again

Most of the pieces that have caught my eye this week follow on from some of the pieces I pointed to last week... First and foremost being ye olde flags issue... 9 weeks and counting... It must be serious in that even Seamus Heaney, has said something, despite his self-enforced rule of "whatever you say, say nothing." He argues that the whole thing was unnecessary and badly handled, but I would be wary, as some have done of taking from his words much succour for the unionist/loyalist cause, without also hearing his critique of the Unionist "caste" system. One of the pieces on this subject I highlighted last week came from a former youth worker at the East Belfast Mission, while this week one of the best was by the Director of EBM's Skainos project Glenn Jordan, on Crookedshore where he points to this as possibly the end of a political era and, perhaps the emergence of a new one with new voices and emphases. Meanwhile Jude Hill, UTV reporter and the driving force of "Tell it in Colour", which encourages the sharing of positive news stories, typically offers a more encouraging take on the whole debacle.
Last week I also pointed to Rachel Held Evans' "Scandal of the Evangelical Heart" (I should perhaps just offer a standing link to her blog on my Saturday supplements as her material is rarely dull), but I suggested that we have not properly addressed the scandal of the evangelical mind. This week Peter Enns picked up on a similar theme on Patheos, suggesting that whilst some evangelical theologians have embraced a more scientific/academic approach, there is the danger that within wider evangelicalism, their studies will only be accepted if they conform to predetermined outcomes.
Also on the Patheos portal however, is a piece by John Mark Reynolds that suggests it's not only evangelicals who have closed minds, but also those who see anything that evangelicals engage in as negative, including those who criticise current campaigns against sex-trafficking.
On my own blog this week I returned to the subject of food banks, following some ill-judged remarks by a Downing Street "source" in the wake of the announcement that David Cameron is going to visit a food bank in his own constituency. Only after I wrote it did I come across two other pertinent pieces on food poverty... one by Rev. Al Barrett on This Estate We're In and another by Greg Smith written last October on the Christian Socialist website. These, seeing foodbanks etc as a "necessary evil" act as a slight counterbalance to those who, as the new Archbishop of Canterbury is reputed to have done, speak of the current economic and social crisis as an "opportunity" for the gospel. I know what he is meaning, and I actually have a lot of time for this banker turned evangelical cleric, but those who are at the sticky end of the present mess may not like their misery being seen as an opportunity for anyone, be it Wonga.com or the Church of England! As I suggested on my foodbank post, the plight of some poorer families and individuals may be made worse by the proposed "bedroom tax" coming in as part of the Welfare Reforms. There were a number of stories posted about this over the past week, many of them pointing out the fact that the Tory Minister heading up this policy change is Lord Freud, who between his 2 homes, has 10 bedrooms surplus to requirements, but few are more stark than this one from the Daily Record, telling the story of an unemployed man who was told by Lord Freud on a phone-in that when his 3 children come to stay they should sleep together on a sofa-bed.
I believe that it is part of the role of the church in any state to speak truth to power, currently in the UK a lot of that involves speaking up for the poor and the marginalised, and I believe that we would need to do that whichever party was in power. In the US the faultlines seem to be a little more stark at times: President Obama is not exactly the darling of conservative evangelicals, however it was interesting to read this retort to a  typically graceless tweet by Mark Driscoll at the time of the President's inauguration.
I suppose this rang a bell given the piece by Rachel Held Evans I mentioned last week, because glacelessness is fast becoming a defining trait of contemporary evangelicalism... we are walking talking illustrations of Jesus' story of the unforgiving servant, although the issue is not specifically forgiveness but the grace that underpins it... Then later in the week I came across this piece on a pastor who wrote a graceless note on their check (sic) when the 15% gratuity was automatically included... That was a bad enough only compounded by this story posted yesterday which reveals that the pastor discovered her note had been posted online, complained to the restaurant with the result that the waitress was fired... Great witness!
In stark contrast was this account by Shane Windmeyer, an American LGBT campaigner speaking of the positive engagement he has had with Dan Cathy the openly evangelical owner of the Chick-Fil-A fast food chain, initiated by Mr Cathy. This should be the model of engagement around any contentious issues... build relationships first...

But that's enough for now... and since a lot of the above is fairly heavy stuff, let me finish with a video guaranteed to make you smile...




 Shalom



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