Saturday, July 16, 2005

Its not what, its who

Today I am packing to head off on holiday to Shetland. Those of you who have talked to be recently will wonder at another trip, only this one is my first real holiday since Christmas 2004 and so I believe I deserve it. Whilst on the train to Edinburgh I re-read the most recent Adrian Plass diary, “The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass on Tour”, and it emphasis the theme of today’s post. The meeting and experiencing of God through people. The idea that one can experience the Christian god, something that we cannot see but only ever feel is a crazy one. Scientists, atheists and even myself have all, over time, gone to great pains to show how god cannot be “shown” through people. Yet I have met some extraordinary people and so through meeting them I have realised that you really can experience God through people. The act of encountering is often not one that you have when you are with that person; it is what comes with the reflection afterwards. As I mull over the days events, with “The World Tonight” whispering in the background, I tend to ponder upon the influence that those I have come into contact with have had. Often it will be a simple smile, or indeed a laugh at the joke told at midday or whatever. Yet once in a while I cannot stop thinking about that person. This is not in lustful or romantic way, instead this on another level. This is where the way a person acts or what they say take on undue precedence in my life due to who they are and how they live. That is not to claim they are the second coming, instead that that particular person not only brings me something new, but also enhances my faith without even knowing it. This enhancement only happens with reflection as the joy of sharing my time with these people blots out any theological thought, bar any discussion in their company, yet I cannot stop thinking about what they have done that day. This experiencing of God, over seeing God is because from it I can not only gain but also feel closer to my God. I see God in many different people and things and am always amazed at the new sights, sounds and (well I am a student) smells that this planet holds. This viewing of the gifts of god is wonderful, but it is like watching a beautiful bird in the jungle on television. Once can appreciate the beauty whilst still only seeing it in an abstract reality created by the “goggle box” that you are watching. Whereas I experience God through people through the tales they tell to me and the experiences we share together enhance me more than in that moment. There are few people who do that, but I could write a list of people through whom I can defiantly experience God. It is wonderful, it is amazing and it has lead me to explore new thoughts and reflections that I wouldn’t have comprehended last week, let alone last year. That said, my struggle with meeting God through people is on a much more PC basis, rather than scientific or reality base. I struggle because my list comprises of 5 men and a singular woman. This is worrying because they are all white and reasonably middle class (though they would hate to admit it). Whilst I am a firm believer in god being a reflection of your culture, not an abstract culture to you, I do worry that my experiences of God are far too limited. Whilst over time I will meet others through whom I will experience, I can only hope that this is from a broader spectrum. Else the God I meet at the end of it all will be a Guardian reading, sandal wearing, muesli munching liberal…actually…. upon reflection…I quiet like the sound of that!

Friday, July 15, 2005

One Week but Many Thoughts

Today marked one week since the bombs were detonated both over and underground in London. This was a day which has shaped everyone’s’ London since. This is partly on practical grounds (the tubes are not fully running etc) but also there is a sense of slight entrepidation about as people seem to watch everyone carefully, as well as exercising added prejudice in suspicion towards people of the Muslim faith. I intend not to write on the issue of the bombs but more on the feelings surrounding it. As a Christian it is an interesting issue as it again returns to the idea of the “just war”, one that I so often struggle with. I am against violence, for the simple reason I could never kill someone so and myself would never wish it to be done “in my name”. Whilst to many it would seem rather simplistic, it is the yardstick I set myself in my life. After all, if I am not comfortable doing something myself why on earth should I wish it on others? This has become fairly ingrained into me and interlinks with my feelings on forgiveness, something I shall return to at a later date. The issue of violence appears due to the idea of retaliation or “justice” to those who perpetrated those hideous acts of violence. The ol nugget of the death penalty raises its ugly head once again in a launch for restorative vengeance to please the public need for a quick fix over real solutions. As you might guess, I am not for the death penalty and I am frustrated at those who think it is the answer for such crimes. What right have we as a nation to be in outrage at the killing of “innocent” people, if we then condemn and then murder them, even though they could be innocent themselves? We do not have the perfect justice system and we never shall, this is not the countries fault this is the fact we are human and fallible. I also struggle with the contradiction and it is one I have had with the Stop the War coalition as well. I was a key part of the original stop the war coalition in Edinburgh, in the run-up to Iraq War 2. I helped facilitate and film the 3,000 young person walkouts from schools two days prior to the breakout of war. I believed and fell for that cause. Yet as the war progressed I began to struggle with this new movement. This was a movement that was so broad and then began to narrow itself down and to spit vitriol at those who strayed to a differing path. First there was objection to the Liberal Democrats for their middle of the road “ we support the troops but not what they are fighting for” stance, which I could understand after a while. How can we really claim to support the troops by keeping them in a situation we do not wish them to be in? But my real problem is the more than tacit support for the Iraqi resistance; this is whilst also providing a platform for Rose Gentle to discuss how hurt she feels that her son (a British army soldier) was killed in Iraq. Therefore we support the families of those killed whilst also supporting those who committed the killing in the first place? A rum situation indeed. But what does this all have to do with “just war” etc? This comes back to the idea that the ever present search for a quick fix solution, from ID Cards to Coppers with Kalashnikovs, is ever destined to fail because we never look at the root of the issue and only try to solve the issue. Until we as a people are ready to do this, then we can never progress. Tempting, as it is to finish on that note, instead I wish to share a tale you no doubt have heard. A survivor of the bomb on the underground was greeted by the BBC and asked what they felt for the bombers who had destroyed the train they were on. All they said was “Pity for them (the bombers) that they think this can succeed”. This was a wonderful quote and shows how far we can come as humans. I do not know, neither do I care if they are, but for me this was something closer to the true Christian response to such inexplicable acts of violence, understanding and pity rather than another war. This was to worry why the person committed the act, rather than to seek revenge for the act committed. There is hope, if you look outside of the tabloid press. Many Regards John