Sunday 7 April 2013

Dipsy doodlings

by Kim Fabricius

Sometimes someone will say to me after a service, “That sermon really made us think.” Which vexes me because it suggests, first, that some Christians have to be made to think, and second, that the church is some kind of discussion group. They shouldn’t and it’s not.

I’ve preached people into my church and I’ve preached people out of it. I’ve no doubt which were the better sermons.

A woman once asked me why I never preach on taking Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour. “Because, ma’am, I preach on the Bible.”

So you’ve taken Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour. Where? Bowling?

I’m all for being born again, as long as it’s again and again … and again. Otherwise, I’m for rebirth control.

Any preacher who brandishes a book and declares “God says …!” can only be waving the Qur’an, not the Bible.

Paul – great writer, lousy speaker (II Corinthians 10:10, 11:6): i.e., better read than said.

Some evangelists put notches in their Bible the way gunslingers put notches in their Colt 45. Indeed for some evangelists their Bible is their Colt 45. Come to think of it, vice versa too.

He was one of those haunted, hunted Christians who, I imagine, when he was four or five, saw a picture of the crucifixion, asked his parents why this man looks so unhappy, and was told, “Because of you!”

What is the difference between evangelism and proselytism? That’s easy. Proselytism has no ears, it’s all mouth. Some Christians speak of evangelism and dialogue, or even pit the former against the latter. No! Evangelism is intrinsically dialogical, or it is – exactly! – proselytism.

How powerful is the love of God? So powerful that it can do absolutely nothing to protect us.

Word-care is only half the battle – and the second half. Ear-care comes first.

Christianity is small in the UK, BIG in the US. That is partially because the secularisation thesis has purchase in the UK in a way that it doesn’t in the US – yet. But it’s also because American religious space contains such influential church leaders as Osteen, Dobson, Driscoll, Warren, and Piper, and such hot button theological issues as creationism, the historical Adam, complementarianism, premillennialism, and eternal damnation. (One issue, really: biblical inerrancy.) Compared to such cyclopean religion, small is beautiful.

It is true that, for church or society, sexuality cannot be a purely private matter, but it is a shame the way it dominates debate in the pubic square.

Sometimes when talking ecumenism with Catholics (“My way or the highway” – the Via Appia – heading southeast), I think, “When in Rome, do as the Visigoths”.

The History Channel’s The Bible is not a docudrama. It is not even a documelodrama. It is a docusoap, so embarrassingly awful that cardboard cut-outs would deepen the characterisation and speech balloons would improve the dialogue. When will the doyens of evangelical culture learn that crap religious painting, poetry, music – and film – do the faith no favours. Indeed, it would seem that the more “called” and “inspired” the creators feel, the tackier their productions. It takes a Pasolini (gay and atheist) or a Monty Python (satirists, parodists) to make a good film on a religious theme; and, ironically, it is kitsch like The Bible that is an insult to the Lord.

In Jesus God takes time to have a word with us.

The difference between a charlatan and a sage is that the one speaks imperiously about truth, the other speaks modestly about truthfulness.

People mainly leave the church for one of two reasons: it’s either the assholes or the problem of suffering. And I always think: What’s taken you so long?

Faith without works or works without faith? Hmm… I’ll take the latter: I may still be sinful (Romans 14:23), but at least I’m still alive (James 2:20).

“Speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Hmm… Often used at meetings, as an introduction to an intervention, a kind of biblical “With respect …” But it’s not the pretence of affection that concerns me. Indeed the more genuine the affection, the more I get nervous, lest it lead me to drop my guard when it comes to the “truth”. After all, Job’s friends were utterly sincere in their companionate compassion – and then they spoke theology so pernicious that it pissed off not only their mate but the Lord himself. Only then, after Job refuses to play ball, do they get nasty.

The book of Job is not a theodicy, it is (a) an exercise in theological bullshit detection, and (b) a theological therapeutics, the divine healing of the suffering ego incurvatus in se by exocentric expansion, first in solidarity with the poor, then in wonder at the universe.

In 2004, the Philosophy Department at Swansea University, once world renown as a Centre of Wittgenstein studies, was terminated (Wittgenstein’s “full stop” with a vengeance). Last summer, the front of the main administrative building, Fulton House, was renovated (it now looks like a mini mall, with the Chaplaincy Centre cunningly reshituated between the men’s and women’s toilets). Last September, the University launched its £200 million second campus expansion plan (called the “Humanities and Other Useless Knowledge Campus” – just kidding: the “Science and Innovation Campus” – what else?). And now, at the end of April, the University Bookshop will sell its last tome and textbook (a university without a bookstore, for Chrissake!). Instead of publishing an Annual Report this year, the University Council should write a suicide note.

The trick is to walk on your knees and pray on your feet.

We are most at worship when we are not at worship.

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