An Asian Christian woman living in London blogging about the everyday issues of religion

Monday, 31 October 2011

If only this sermon had been given at St. Paul's

The Reverend David Pape in Southwark gave this sermon yesterday. It is the best piece of writing on the debacle unfolding at St. Paul's because it touches on the simplicity of the Christian message, the moral mandate of the Church and, most important of all, the central purpose of a Church.

This is the sermon:

'Today, I am focusing on the St.Paul's situation because I am very worried that this building, dedicated to God's glory and symbolic of the faith of the people in this country appears to be compromising not only its' own symbolism but the very future of the Christian faith in this country.

It appears that the senior decision makers at St. Paul's are trying to serve two master. It worked to allow protesters the right to peacefully enamp in its precinct, in order that they might speak out against the excesses of a material and capitalist system that seems unmoved by the plight of the poor and the needy. But, having done so, the Cathedral's earthly overlords in the City of London and the financial business world appear to have since put pressure on St.Paul's to silence their critics and end the protest.

Any excuse will do! Health & Safety rules and regulations seemed to have been invoked (what 'rules' and by 'whom'?) Yet, just as quickly as the front doors of St. Paul's were closed they opened again on Friday lunchtime without any indication of what changes had been made to comply with those rules. To me, at least, it seemed that St.Paul's had shut their doors on God and I am not sure that God is now ready or keen to go back in.

The Church's patron, Paul, was a tentmaker and would have probably smiled on those who stood up for the poor and needy, particularly those in the precinct of the Cathedral. Paul was also a Roman citizen who used his citizenship and relationship with the Roman overlords to proclaim his ministry. Paul, however, was prepared to die at the hands of Rome in order to stand up for his faith in God.

And unlike many of today's protests which are sometimes hijacked by political and anarchic activists this protest has not yet declined into violence. The media also seems a little confused. Whilst some newspapers questioned the sincerity and commitment of the tent-dwellers others have allied themselves to the protesters, anxious of the opportunity to swing a boot at the established CoE.

Now is the time for truly concerned clergy to preach the gospel of Christ in their actions as well as their words because we all have much to be concerned about.

Whilst we moan and groan at the way our banks and financial institutions are being run we still continue to support them with our savings and our business. We place more faith in them than we do in God. We supports governments of various political shades who, all to often, bow to the whims of big business rather than represent the people whom they are elected to serve.

We too need to be mindful of how we invest our resources in others and in ourselves. We too need to invest in God and to 'give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's.

St.Paul's had to deal and work with the powers that be but did so without compromising his faith in God. He realised that those who expect and receive remuneration in exhange for compromise will ultimately pay the price of that cooperation. However, he also realised that his indebtedness to God far overshadowed his indebtedness to any earthly power and gave his life for it. Perhaps some of his words from Philippians (Chapter 4) might help us to hold onto God.

'...Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.'

We know St.Paul worked to this end but what about the Cathedral built for the glory of God which bears his name?

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

St.Paul's is Wrong

The Guardian today carries an editorial which talks about St, Paul's being famous for, until the present demonstrations, the Royal wedding. Unfortunately, there wasn't a Christian message in that piece of history because all attention, let's be honest, was on the glitz and glam of Diana and associated royalty status. However, could there have been a Christian message in the 'Occupy' movement who have camped outside St. Paul's? I firmly believe that the answer could have been a 'yes', but not anymore.

When I heard the words of the Bishop of London on the news this morning all hope fled. The Bishop said: "Nevertheless, the time has come for the protesters to leave, before the camp's presence threatens to eclipse entirely the issues that it was set up to address."The Dean and the Chapter, who are responsible for St Paul's, have already made it clear that the protest should come to an end and I fully support that view."

There is something quite heavy handed in this message. Perhaps not in the words but certainly in the tone. Does it smack of belonging to the establishment? Is it extremely patriatchal and patronising in telling a group of people that they have had their day and insinuating that it is now time to join the real world? Whatever the reason it represents a lost golden opportunity to engage with a populist movement which is a message bearer for the woes of the world.

I was in Toronto last week and visited 'Occupy Toronto'. Individual groups may seem like splinters of misfits and Swampyesque types but what I saw in Toronto was a quest for justice and a global cohesion in their objective. It is extremely foolish and feeble minded to think that the group outside St. Paul's are a bunch of stand alone mischief makers.

The church has given up a golden opportunity to engage in a way which would have been perceived as bringing our thinking into, right bang, contemporary mode. Even The Guardian takes this view: '…the role of the church is to talk with them and to find out how their sense of injustice at the present slump can be refined and educated and brought out into the wider conversation…;
What role for the church then? Secularists will have a field day. The church looks like it is standing with the establishment by repudiating the needs of the protesters. The humanitarian reason for religious intervention rings hollow. St, Paul's has to stand for more than just architectural magnificence.

Monday, 10 October 2011

RE Is Marvellous

Premier Radio is leading a campaign to persuade Michael Gove to include Religious Education (RE) in the syllabus of the English Baccalaureate and a paper petition launched has collected 145,000 signatures so far. The significance of this is that any petitions with over 100,000 signatures ought to qualify for a debate in the House, time permitting.

I hope this happens because RE must be one of the most underestimated subjects in the British school curriculum. Listening to the arguments against it makes one think that there is a danger of a revival of Puritanism if RE were to be included.  

What is modern education policy if it does not include personal capacity building tools? Religious Education provides pupils with the means to evaluate various religions through the examination of the core belief of each. By conducting such an examination children build up an incremental picture of the religion being studied which also includes an evidence base. The personal capacity building comes from deciding whether or not religion is something worth following.

RE is a modern way of studying religion and is in no way comparable to yesteryear when religion was rammed down people's throats. On the contrary RE transforms the image of religious education and ought to be allowed to challenge the negative perceptions that being religious is an outdated way of living.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Three Apples That Changed History

'The Three Apples that Changed History' was a very popular tweet on Twitter following the death of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple computers. The first apple was the one that Eve ate, the second is the one that fell on Newton's head and the third is, of course,about Steve Jobs. All thee scenarios transformed the way we live, work, entertain ourselves and charted new territories for the disciplines of Science and faith.

Now spot the difference between the three. What do you think the answer is?

It is Eve's apple experience because it is the only one out of the three that is perceived as a negative experience and which has cast a long shadow over one half of the human race. Eve is a benchmark for fallen women; the type of female that men ought to stay away from because all her charms are evil tempations in disguise. I attended a talk at St. Paul's Cathedral last week and learnt that there are only 4 references to Eve in the bible. Her fame is in disproportion to her place in history but this statement does not take into account the male dominance debate within the church which keeps Eve's memory alive with talk of the rib and helper and all that.

What irony it is then that Eve is mentioned upon the occasion of the death of someone considered to be the father of modern technology who has been credited with giving the Western world an edge in the competitive digital global world. Yet, thousands years later and nobody refers to Eve as the 'mother of feminism' who is credited with giving Western women (or any women anywhere) the right to act in an autonomous, one that is not classed as 'obedient' or 'disobedient'. Such is the span of Eve's perceived onslaught on the societal notion of the 'ideal' of feminity which is about being demure and placid.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Is a murder case entertainment?


The live broadcast of the trial and verdict of the Meredith Kercher trial has provided, let's be honest, entertainment for many who have no vested interest in the whole sad saga. Of course we care that a young woman was murdered. Yes, we care that justice is done because it is inherent in human nature to want a right to redress a wrong.
However, thousands of cases of injustice are heard in our law courts every year and we don't sit in the public gallery silently cheering justice on all the time while the lawyers argue and the judges deliberate do we? There is a line that exists between being a voyeur and a strong member of society. The name of that line which exists as a boundary is called 'public interest'.
What public interest was there for the public to be told over and over again the sexual details of the life and subsequent murder of a young woman? None. Where was the public interest element in having the verdict broadcast live today? None.
Please remember the true victim in all of this - Meredith Kercher. Pray for her and her family for whom justice still hasn't been done.