Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Art Attack

Just a follow-on to my previous blog on Bridget McConnel and the exhibition at the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art – with its invitation for people to write comments over an open Bible. The need for Christians to respond with grace does not obscure, however, just how inappropriate and provocative towards Christians this use of public space and money was. It was especially galling in that was backed by institutions and personnel who are quick to advocate the values of ‘community’ and ‘respect’.

For example, suppose as a private citizen I see the Koran as standing in opposition to my personal beliefs. So I decide to get a copy of the Koran and write disparaging comments over it about the Muslim faith. I then go round my neighbours, some of whom I know will be Muslims, and say, ‘hey, I’m having an open house and have an exibit of the Koran on display – why don’t you drop by’. I mean, I could only possibly do such a thing on the basis that: (1) I’m happy to see those Muslim neighbours offended and upset, and (2) that my relationship with them will almost inevitably suffer for the sake of a point-scoring gesture.

You see just because an idea seems to be ‘clever’ or ‘artistic’ and just because there is nothing to stop you doing it – doesn’t legitimise it. All the more so when the space you are using is public space funded by all the council-tax payers you represent. One would have hoped that those claiming to champion the values of ‘Community & Respect’ would understand such distinctions better than they appear to do.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Turning the other cheek

Bridget McConnell is the head of Culture & Sport in Glasgow - and thus head of the department that helped fund the controversial MOMA exhibition that included an invitation for people to write comments on an open Bible (surprise, surprise many of the comments were offensive to Christian beliefs). Since then it appears she has been the target of an unpleasant campaign by some Christians who see her as attacking Christianity with public money. In an interview with the Times (see it HERE) she reveals she has received almost 2000 letters and emails, some which include statements such as 'Filth' , 'Shame on you' and Bible verses such as 'The soul that sinnneth it shall die'.
The fact that those behind the nastier elements of this campaign will just be a tiny minority of Christians is of little consolation when we see headlines like the one above. Such tactics play into the hands of those oppose Biblical faith - it reinforces the stereotype of dangerous religious fanatics. Look, says our secular and liberal media, Christianity is just another bullying and vindictive religion. Just as extremist Muslims intimidate authors and artists- so now come evangelical/fundamentalist/ Bible-believing (take your pick!) Christians.
But what does the Bible say about how to respond in such situations - I mean if someone is going to extremes to defend it you would hope they would be familar with its contents. One might think on the basis of some the attacks on Dr McConnell that the Bible is full of teachings such as:
If someone slaps you in the face (physically or metaphorically) - keep on slapping them back until they repent;
Curse those who persecute you
Hate your enemies
Do ill to those who harm you.
Yes the exhibit was deeply offensive and an abuse of artistic freedom. Yes, Christians are rightly grieved by it and understandably feel their faith is being singled out for disrespect (let's face it, such use of the Koran would never be countenanced by a local authority in the UK today). But the Biblical response is to respond with gentleness, kindness, humility - to seek to do good to those who would do us harm. We are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus who, 'When they hurled their insults at him, did not retaliate; when he suffered he made no threats. Instead he entrusted himself to him who judges justly' (1 Pt 2:23). Yes those who dishonour God and His Word will answer to God one day (unless they seek His forgiveness first) - but their accountability is to God in the future not to Christians now. Like Jesus we need to leave such matters in God's hands.
If that appears to be weakness to some - an invitation to walk all over Christians - then so be it - but the way of the Cross is nonetheless the power of God to those being saved. I'm not suggesting we never write a letter to explain our Christian viewpoint or even take legal redress where that option is legitimately open to us - but that personal attacks, vilification, hostility, intemperate language are all inconsistent with the Gospel - they contradict the very thing they claim to uphold.
That Bridget McConnell feels threatened and abused by Christians, whatever her disregard of them has been, is a great shame on the church in Scotland.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Small Group Spin

Whether you're a longsuffering Small Group leader or just weary of slickly packaged ministry tools - you'll appreciate this...

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Donald's Diet

Another NEW BLOG - this time from arch-apologist Donald Ferguson. Donald is currently doing a MTh on early Christian Theology - his new blog, however, will cover a wide range of topics and is aimed at anyone with a general interest in matters theological...

Check it out here: A DIET OF WORMS

Friday, January 01, 2010

Breaking the ice

Some pics of the New Year's Day Swim that has been a tradition of a few Glasgow South Crusader Old Boys since the 1970's - a great way to prepare for another year of ministry (after this things can only get better!)...

Pics top to bottom: (1) The Enoch Burn near Eaglesham on 1/1/10; (2) Peter Dawson breaks a path through the ice; (2) Martin Boyd; (3) Tommy MacKay does the high jump in some questionable swimwear; (4) Myself and the joy that's it over for another 12 months!

I know - vanity vanity!!!