50 shades of greed

greed1024x768I have always called for an even approach to sin. We need to define just what sin is (well, it’s the chapter I’m working through on my book right now, so maybe it’s just me!). Then once we have established that, we need an even-handed approach by not suggesting that any one sin is any worse in God’s eyes than another. I truly believe the 21st century church is guilty of such unevenness, and maybe the most prevalent example is the zero attention to greed.

I’ll not take the time here to outline all the Bible verses where it is condemned alongside the other ones we always hear decried from pulpits, like drunkenness, adultery, deceit, lust, nor do we hear the greedy person condemned alongside the sexually immoral or the slanderer, yet this is exactly what I read in my Bible! Here’s just one example:

For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Eph. 5:5)

Did you notice that little hidden word there? Greedy! Just that it’s not exactly hidden, is it? Some preachers, who may be millionaires themselves, and are telling their congregations that they too can become millionaires just by faith in God, seem to miss it when they read from their Bibles to proclaim their truth. And I have never come across it as a sermon topic!

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“This is my truth, tell me yours.”

 – Aneurin Bevan.

 

Problem is that we all have a truth that is ours alone, and we all like to find the scripture that fits that personal ‘truth’ and ignore the others. I have yet to meet anyone who genuinely does not do this – it is a human trait and is practically impossible to throw off and be 100% subjective. However, when faced with an overwhelming amount of scripture that repeats the same thing, we must allow it to shape our truth, must we not?

Recently much of our media attention has been directed at a book & film that just should not have amassed an overnight fortune for its author, since it is so badly written (from practically every review that has been written about it). I am not fuming jealousy at the idea of a bad writer getting all the money… no, maybe I am, if I’m honest enough; if this book of mine only makes one percent of what that book/film made, I could retire a very contented man! Nor am I accusing the author of greed – she could not have known just how much she would make from a piece of sleazy chick lit, and I am sure she must have some idea that she is no Shakespeare! It wasn’t her fault that our media moguls fawned all over it, and Holywood came calling! Reports are that it has outstripped even Harry Potter in book sales and film revenues!! Whatever you may think of the Harry Potter stories, very few would try to say that JK Rowling is a bad writer!

50ShadesofGreyCoverArtIf you’re still not sure which book I am referring to, it’s ’50 Shades of Grey’. Did you not even see my title? Now this is a book I have never set eyes upon, nor do I wish to, and I have no desire to see any more of the film than has been shown in trailers. Fortunately, a brave female fellow Christian blogger has read and watched it, just to be able to critique it properly, so I’ll take her word for it. She’s a good blogger and writer and I have no reason to challenge her opinion (and it is refreshing for once to not find a Christian voice condemning something without actually having looked themselves!).

 

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Here it is if you wish to read it:

A Missionary’s Position on 50 Shades of Grey.

The basic conclusion is interesting; this is a book about a stalker! Had anybody else acted as creepily obsessive over the woman in the story as Mr. Grey, they would have had an exclusion order slapped on them! It is just bad, for our 21st century emancipated women – the poor woman in the book is the pawn of a control freak! Just why and how does the male protagonist get away with his behaviour? Because he’s a handsome billionaire!! He’s such a great man, so successful, so wealthy, so revered by society, he just couldn’t really be a nasty criminal type, or any sort of mentally ill wacko! Surely not! However, that is the problem: with everyone falling over themselves to promote this work of crass sordidness, and throw their investment money at it, is it any real wonder when it is billionaires who are the ones who like what the book is stating?

Can I be allowed to cast a stone? While I am trying to promote a ‘condemn the sin, not the sinner’ attitude, there are times when it becomes pretty clear that a stone or five could be chucked. For instance, were I to meet a man who had cheated on his wife about half a dozen times, I would be justified to say “you’re an adulterer!” No? Really? I would try to understand just why they would come to behave in such a way, if I could, and offer counsel if asked, but I should be safe to say; they are an adulterer! Likewise, I think I should be entitled to say to a billionaire “you’re a greedy person!” The aforementioned JK Rowling was a billionaire, but she has now given most of it away! If such wealth is such a burden, as some of them try to make us believe, then let us relieve them of some of that burden… please!

We have got to stop revering greedy people, as a church of followers of Jesus: He, as our example, had “no place to lay his head.” (Matt. 8:20). We are called to “not conform to the pattern of the world” (Rom. 12:2), so let us renew our minds and recognise sin where it lies and be the example of ‘betterness’ – just as we should not be sexually immoral, so we should not be greedy.

“But,” you may object, “this is just a work of fiction, that’s not true in the real world! Billionaires are not given any more respect than the rest of us. They don’t have any real higher ‘status’!”

Really? My reply to that is that you’re living in cloud cuckoo land! A judge once said “the rich get justice, the poor get the law” since they can always afford the best lawyers. If you have enough money, you can get one of them to go through your arrest report for drunk-driving and search for the smallest mistake that can see you avoid court! Still not convinced that there is a culture of reverence for the rich and famous? Why was it that many called for Paris Hilton to not be sent to prison for a crime she committed? Is that just stupid uneducated people? No, it occurs in the well-educated judiciary too: Read this news report and then come back to me and try to say we don’t have a major cultural problem that the church is failing to address!

1396212401000-wildc5-6ehdlb201ybix4mc8ky-originalI am not saying in any way that all super-rich people are like this lowlife, but I am saying that we have allowed ourselves to disassociate greed from any taint of sin or wrongdoing and have in fact allowed people who suffer from this sin to not only go unchecked but to be exonerated in churches as much as they are in society.

Grace be with you.

Slavery and ‘the Founding Fathers’

I was looking up some information on the founding fathers of the US, when I stumbled upon this speech, recorded from around 1687, that addressed the petition of a religious sect who were calling for the abolition of slavery. I found it fascinating:

“Have these people considered the consequences of granting their petition? If we cease our cruises, how shall we be furnished with the commodities their countries produce, and which are so necessary for us? If we forbear to make slaves of their people, who are to cultivate our lands? Who are to perform the common labours of our city, and in our families? Must we not then be our own slaves? And is there not more campassion and more favour due to us, than to these dogs? We have now above 50,000 slaves. This number, if not kept up by fresh supplies, will soon diminish, and be gradually annihilated. If then we cease taking and making slaves of them, our lands will become of no value for want of cultivation; the rents of houses in the city will sink one half? and the revenues of government arising from its share of prizes must be totally destroyed. And for what? to gratify the whim of a whimsical sect! who would have us not only forbear making more slaves, but even to manumit those we have. But who is to indemnify their masters for the loss? Will the state do it? Is our treasury sufficient? Will this sect do it? Can they do it? Or would they, to do what they think justice to the slaves, do a greater injustice to the owners? And if we set our slaves free, what is to be done with them? Few of them will return to their countries, they know too well the greater hardships they must there be subject to: they will not embrace our holy religion: they will not adopt our manners: our people will not pollute themselves by intermarying with them: must we maintain them as beggars in our streets; or suffer our properties to be the prey of their pillage; for men accostomed to slavery, will not work for a livelihood when not compelled. And what is there so pitiable in their present condition? Were they not slaves in their own countries? Are they not all governed by despots, who hold all their subjects in slavery, without exception? Is their condition then made worse by their falling into our hands? No, they have only exchanged one slavery for another: and I may say a better: for here they are brought into a land where the sun of our religion gives forth its light, and shines in full splendor, and they have an opportunity of making themselves acquainted with the true doctrine, and thereby saving their immortal souls. Those who remain at home have not that happiness. Sending the slaves home then, would be sending them out of light into darkness. I repeat the question, what is to be done with them? I have heard it suggested, that they may be planted in the wilderness, where there is plenty of land for them to subsist on, and where they may flourish as a free state; but they are, I doubt, too little disposed to labour without compulsion, as well as too ignorant to establish a good government, and the wild natives would soon molest and destroy or again enslave them. While serving us, we take care to provide them with every thing; and they are treated with humanity. The labourers in their own countries, are, as I am well informed, worse fed, lodged and cloathed. The condition of most of them is therefore already mended, and requires no farther improvement. Here their lives are in safety. They are not liable to be impressed for soldiers, and forced to cut one another’s pagan throats, as in the wars of their own countries. If some of the religious mad bigots who now teaze us with their silly petitions, have in a fit of blind zeal freed their slaves, it was not generosity, it was not humanity that moved them to the action; it was from the conscious burthen of a load of sins, and hope from the supposed merits of so good a work to be excused from damnation. How grosly are they mistaken in imagining slavery to be disallowed by the Holy Book! Are not the two precepts, to quote no more, Masters treat your slaves with kindness: Slaves serve your masters with cheerfulness and fidelity, clear proofs to the contrary? Nor can the plundering of infidels be in that sacred book forbidden, since it is well known from it, that God has given the world and all that it contains to his faithful, who are to enjoy it of right as fast as they can conquer it. Let us then hear no more of this detestable proposition, the adoption of which would, by depreciating our lands and houses, and thereby depriving so many good citizens of their properties, create universal discontent, and provoke insurrections, to the endangering of government, and producing general confusion. I have therefore no doubt, but this wise Council will prefer the comfort and happiness of a whole nation of true believers, to the whim of a few, and dismiss their petition.”

Such was the religious attitude at that time to the differences between the ‘civilised’ believers and the ‘heathen’ slaves. But I confess, I have doctored just a few words and omitted a couple of sentences that would have given away the truth; that this was written by an African Muslim from the Barbary coast (present day Morocco) where there had been pirating of European ships and enslaving of European Christians! It was included in an unpublished letter from Benjamin Franklin to the Federal Gazette on the topic of abolition. The full letter is here: http://franklinpapers.org.

The sect discussed here was a sect of Islam called the Erika or Purists, who opposed piracy and slavery. If you read the speech again, or maybe better, the unaltered version in the link above, there are surely many things that must spring to your mind… about us, our faith, our culture, our history…? I shall make no further comments myself.

Forgive me if this appears to be deceptive, but my device had a purpose, I hope!

Grace be with you.

I am an Ulsterman 

“Like the poet John Hewitt, I can be Irish, Northern Irish, British, European. A citizen of the world.

I’m also an Ulsterman, and the Ulster I live in can have room for all those identities. If we want it to.”
– William Crawley

The Tribulation: Why I Am Not Building a Compound

Looks like I’m not the only one seeing the links…

Everyone Has A Story...

Armageddon ExplosionPower. Authority. Responsibility. All of these things are connected, and they are some of the first lessons we learn as children, though so many of us never realize just how clearly our lives will be constantly impacted by those lessons until the day we die.

I have met so many people in my life, from differing walks of life, with different priorities, values, hopes, and fears. Yet the one common thread we all share in our lives is we are ruled by our subconscious understanding of the power we either have or lack in our own lives, the amount other people in our lives wield over us, and what responsibilities this invisible force has saddled us and them with.

When power corrupts, as it inevitably does, the authority over us begins to benefit those with the power at our expense, and the responsibilities towards those under that authority begin…

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