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

Saturday, 30 July 2011

What are you blogging about?

There is an interesting post on about how some Christian bloggers tend to blog about the same issues because they use the news as their inspiration for blog posts. Vic does say more than this, I am paraphrasing in a lazy manner. Anyway, as I am guilty of using contemporary political issues as blog fodder I thought I would rise to the challenge and, instead, write about something that has entirely emanated from my personal experience.

I was at Heathrow Airport today seeing my mother off on a flight to Malaysia, where she lives. While there I had a conversation with an English woman who was checking in for the same flight. I assumed that she was off on holiday to Malaysia but it turned out that this English woman actually lived in Malaysia and was going 'home''. She had moved to an island off the mainland of Malaysia a few years ago from the UK to enjoy a life by the sea. I was born in Malaysia but consider the UK my home now. If I needed an example of Globalisation in practice and the movement of human beings as a result, there it was. It felt odd talking to someone who knew far more about Malaysia than I did of the country I had been born in.

I hope this story makes sense. If it doesn't do let me know and I will stick to political issues as a starting point for my blogging.  What are you blogging about?

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Pope accused of being the 'Antichrist'.

America has long been a source of fascinating conspiracy theories (Roswell, Elvis found on the moon, Michael Jackson seen at Wal-Mart) but this story about the Pope is trumps because it takes conspiracy theories into a place where conspiracy theories abound plenty enough -the Vatican. A tapestry of Roman  embroidery of evil and good in modern time has been woven by an American church which says that it follows closely the teachings of Martin Luther.

The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) thinks that the Pope is the Anti-Christ. This story has made the news because the Republican Presidential contender, Michele Bachmann, used to attend this church. A statement released by WELS states that:
'As Martin Luther grew in his appreciation of the gospel, he also grew in his recognition that the Papacy is the Antichrist...It was because Luther cherished the Gospel so dearly that his faith instinctively recoiled and protested in umistakable terms when the Pope put himself in the place of Christ and declared his work insufficient and in vain.'

This story has been carried by The Economist who take the view that 'anti', in this case, has not been taken to mean as being 'hostile to' but, rather, to mean 'instead of'. In other words, the Pope is being accused of seeing himself as Christ. Not for one second do I believe that either this Pope or previous ones have meant to do this. My research also shows that many Lutherans do not believe the 'Antichrist' theory either. Just as well, there are enough real devils in the world without us having to fight ones that don't carry forks.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Ireland vs Vatican

I first took note in 1992 of the sway of power that the Catholic church had over Ireland when the case of a Bishop with a love child was made public. Bishop Eamon Casey was the Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh and was highly revered. A friend who lived in Galway told me how people would speak to the Bishop as if they were in the company of God himself.

When the story broke, I was told that people were crying because their world of faith had been shattered. There was very little sympathy for the woman whom he had had a relationship with, Annie Murphy. Instead, she faced a barrage of criticism for speaking out against a Catholic Priest even though he had been a willing party to the relationship.

This fall from grace by a Catholic Bishop was, in my opinion, the start of the requestioning of the relationship between the Vatican and Ireland. Next came the child abuse tragedies that were covered up.

Now we have the Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, telling the Vatican that the relationship between his country and the Catholic church will never be the same again. Mr Kenny has accused the church of more child abuse cover ups which were done, he says, to preserve the primacy of the church. The Vatican has recalled its ambassador to Ireland. The Irish Government is considering closing its embassy in the Vatican.

We are witnessing another chapter in the Catholic Church where people feel the time has come to question the seemingly unquestionable authority it has had.

Monday, 25 July 2011

'Today's Protestant church is a joke'

The headline is a quote by the Norwegian mass murderer, Anders Behring Breivik. He describes himself as a 'Christian fundamentalist'. This man is no Christian. The word 'fundamentalist' as a self-describing addendum is nonsense. There is no sliding scale of Christianity which allows for violence and does not. Further, Anders uses multiculturalism as justification for killing innocent children and adults. The ethos of Christianity is about embracing all regardless of colour and country of origin. There is no fight to arms with Christianity against others. Our prayers are for the souls of the dead, the recovery of the injured and for families and friends of those involved.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Famine is a religious and political issue

The moving and devastating images of mothers in the Horn of Africa carrying and dragging their starving and dehydrated children into UN camps has moved me to tears. The Horn of Africa (the most eastern part of the African continent) has not had any rain for two years resulting in a severe food shortage. The extra burden of rising food prices has made eating out of the question for millions in the area.

Why in this modern day are we watching scenes of babies crying in pain and dying in front of TV camera lenses? Even worse, it has been reported that mothers are having to make choices as to which of their children they are going to save. As a result, babies who are far too weak are being left in the desert to die while the family carries on the trek to the UN camps to save their other children.

All they need is food, water and medical supplies. The solution is as simple as that yet it seems as if much of the globe has been covered with a sticker which states 'nil by mouth'. Famine and starvation in modern day is a political and religious issue. We can't keep blaming the weather anymore though there is plenty of evidence to suggest climate change is partly to contribute to food shortages.

If globalisation can result in multinational corporations setting up bases across the world; people migrating to seek their fortunes elsewhere; and the financial systems able to work around the clock to accommodate different time zones then why not a strategy to eradicate famine? It is partly because of corrupt political regimes that siphon money away from the poor and disenfranchised. It is also because of infighting between tribes in Africa who each think they are superior to the other and the Muslim extremists who are stopping people from leaving areas to flee to UN camps. Why has religion become a reason for people to die in this situation?

Christian Aid published a report in 2008 titled, 'Fighting Food Shortage. Hungry for Change' in which it refers to food crisis as the 'silent Tsunami' and states that the shortage is man made. Mothers of starving and dying children are caught up in a political nightmare. The solutions are clear. If you look at the websites of charities such as Save the Children and Christian Aid you will find reports published on what it will take to eradicate hunger. But solutions require a will for an outcome to take place.

It is only by the accident of birth that you or I aren't one of those poor women, men or children. Thus, we owe it to them to do what we can.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Friendship by Numbers

We live in a paradoxical world.where the onset of social networking has enabled us to open up our world of friendships. You can even keep a tally of how many friends you have if you are a Facebook user. Friendship by numbers. Yet, many still live isolated and lonely existences in society.
Technology is an innovation that is to be applauded for the way it has changed the way we work, play and rest. It can be used to find ways to ease loneliness. Facebook isn't the enemy but I use it in this post to show how one can have many friends but still be lonely.
In a report titled, 'The Lonely Society', released by the Mental Health Foundation, loneliness is defined as a 'situation experienced by the individual...where there is an unpleasant or inadmissible lack of certain relationships..' In other words, one can have many friends but still remain in a lonely state if those relationships do not sustain or provide you with elements of friendship. In Genesis 2:18, the reference to loneliness is defined as a situational existence, ' No man should be alone'.
Upon reading these definition I pondered on the question of which factions of churchgoers would be particularly at risk of suffering from loneliness. Obviously, all of us have at some time or another suffered from bouts of loneliness because it is inherent in human nature to feel rather alone in reaction to certain situations or event. However, are there any among us who could be suffering on a prolonged basis? Immigrants, perhaps, who have endured hardships in their countries and have fled to the UK for safekeeping; mothers with young children who stay at home; and the elderly?
In fact, in the conclusion and recommendations chapter of the report it states that the way communities are formed is a fluid concept in modern day. The concept of community isn't a stagnant one anymore where people live on in the place where they were born. People now move away to other cities and countries. Globalisation has encouraged people to seek better lives in other countries. Wars cause people to flee their homelands. The elderly don't know their neighbour anymore. Mothers don't always have access to other mothers with children. The challenge for us as Christians is to be sensitive to those in our churches who could particularly be suffering from loneliness.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Murky World of Playboy

I took this picture of a Playboy Bunny when I was demonstrating against the opening of the Playboy Club as part of the 'Eff Off Heff' campaign. 'Heff', of course, refers to Hugh Heffner, the man who owns Playboy.

In the absence of a collective society onslaught against the decline of social values and standards Playboy and other such like men’s clubs ride on the wave of the new social order of the ‘Booty Culture’. Into this chasm of moral turpitude has stepped the Playboy Club to dignify the selling of porn with glitz, glamour and high prices (cocktails are reputed to cost as much as £2,000 each).

The return of the Playboy Club to London heralds an era in which pornography has become as acceptable as having a cheese sandwich. Going into a supermarket to buy your lunch will also bring you into contact with unsavoury men’s magazines that carry pictures of near naked women on the front covers. No pretence is made to hide them. Gone are the days when these types of magazines were kept on the top shelf, away from eye level (especially children’s eye levels). Discretion and pornography do not make for bedfellows anymore.

Hugh Heffner once said, ‘Playboy was perceived as a chauvinist publication. Today the rabbit symbol has been embraced by women as a form of their sexual empowerment’. Firstly, I have never seen a two legged rabbit wearing a black leotard. Secondly, wearing the Playboy costume as a work outfit must be as empowering as wearing high heels at muddy Glastonbury.

The narrative of Heffner’s is dangerous because it masks the reality of what the outfit really represents – subservience and women as sexual playthings. Yet, it is such type of talk that has edged the degradation of women more and more into mainstream thought.

As a Christian woman I couldn’t separate my feminism from my Christian values when I was demonstrating outside the Playboy Club. There’s much infuriating Christian literature on how being a feminist is to betray Christian thought because women are secondary to men. This line of thought then goes on to the ordination of women and ordination of women bishops and states that women can be equal outside the church but not in it. Such discourse actually disempowers Christian women because if the structure of the place where we get our core moral fibre from lets us down then how can we go out and fight for respect?

Monday, 4 July 2011

Africa needs Christianity

The Church Newspaper has reported about a particularly sad incident that took place in Kaduna State, Nigeria, involving a Christian village which was razed and its wells poisoned by Muslim militants. About 183 homes, businesses and the village church were set fire to and pepper, clothes, mortars and firewood were dumped into the water wells.

Even more shockingly a minister in the Bauchi State was tortured and killed for refusing to renounce his Christian faith. The poor pastor was travelling in a van which was stopped by thugs who proceeded to beat him and set him on fire. The pastor had eight children. Over 200 churches have been destroyed and 800 people killed by Muslim militants since the President, Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian was elected into power.

The problems of African are traditionally seen as being centred around conflict, famine, drought and corruption. However, the persecution of Christians is claiming lives at such a rapid pace that the figures are starting to look like something akin to war casualties. During a debate in Europe recently on interfaith action it was reported that Christians killed every year for their faith number 105,000, and that number includes only those put to death simply because they are Christians.

Regrettably these things don't make the news because there are numerous factions or schisms of people being killed and persecuted globally. War and strife have become part of our modern day TV viewing and is a big part of world politics. People have become desensitised to some extent and the powers that be don't listen. However, It needs to because the fleeing of religious persecution could very well become another reason for immigration and this would be a sad indicator of the absence of an international religious will to practice religious tolerance. This, surely, is a basic human right.