Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Clock

A man died and went to Heaven. As he stood in front of the Pearly
Gates, he saw a huge wall of clocks behind him. He asked, ‘What are
all those clocks?’

St Peter answered, ‘Those are Lie-Clocks. Everyone who has ever been
on earth has a Lie-Clock. Every time you lie, the hands on your
clock move.’

… ‘Oh’, said the man. ‘Whose clock is that?’

‘That’s Mother Teresa’s’, replied St Peter. ‘The hands have never
moved, indicating that she never told a lie.’

‘Incredible’, said the man. ‘And whose clock is that one?’

St Peter responded, ‘That’s Abraham Lincoln’s clock. The hands have
moved twice, telling us that Abraham told only two lies in his
entire life.’

‘Where’s Tony Blair’s clock?’ asked the man.

St Peter replied, ‘We are using it as a ceiling fan.’

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David Suchet and the Bible

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February 28, 2014 · 13:30

Pope pleas for peace. (via Huff Post)

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis on Tuesday (Feb. 25) lashed out at public indifference to the many wars raging around the globe, with especially harsh words for arms makers who he said profit from the violence and suffering.

“Think of the starving children in the refugee camps. Just think of them: this is fruit of war!” Francis said at the daily Mass he celebrates in the chapel of the Vatican guesthouse where he lives.

“And if you want,” he continued, “think of the great dining halls, of the parties thrown by the bosses of the weapons industry that makes the arms that wind up (in those camps). A sick child, starving, in a refugee camp — and the great parties, the fine life for those who manufacture weapons.”

But Francis did not spare the public, either.

“Every day, in the newspapers, we find wars,” he said, “and the deaths seem to be part of a normal day’s tally. We are accustomed to reading these things.” It seems, he added, “as though the spirit of war has taken control of us.”

It’s not the first time Francis has tried to bring home routine suffering that often goes unnoticed. Writing in his first “apostolic exhortation” in November, Francis asked: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

On Tuesday, Francis noted the upcoming 100th anniversary of the start of World War I and recalled the enormous toll that conflict exacted, claiming millions of lives by the time it ended in November 1918.

“Everyone then was horrified,” Francis said. “But today it is the same! Yet rather than one great war, we have small wars everywhere. … This great war is happening everywhere on a smaller scale, a bit under the radar, and we are not shocked! So many die for a piece of land, for some ambition, out of hatred, or racial animus.”

The pope was speaking on the readings at Mass, on Tuesday taken from the New Testament letter of James, in which the author decries the wars and violence within communities and traces them to the sinful passions of those who love the world and not God.

Similarly, Francis also lamented that “this spirit of war, which distances us from God, is not just something distant from ourselves” but is “also in our homes.”

“The wars in families, the wars in communities, the wars everywhere,” he said. “Who among us has cried when they read the newspaper, when they see these images on the television? So many dead.”

During his first year as pope, Francis has sought to establish the church as a rallying point for peace and social justice, consciously channeling a key aspect of the spiritual legacy of his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi. In the past week, he made several appeals for peace in Ukraine, Nigeria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

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Louise Mensch – a great loss to British politics. (via article in the Independent 27 February 2014)

imageFormer Conservative MP Louise Mensch scored a Twitter own goal whilst trying to convince her followers she was in touch with British Muslims, citing a political commentator who was actually of Sikh heritage.

In the wake of the sentencing of Lee Rigby’s killers, Mensch tweeted: “One of the aims of #LeeRigby’s murderers was to stir up religious hatred and we must not allow them to succeed in their aim. #Islam #Peace”

“When I think of British Muslims I think of @Mo_Farah @SayeedaWarsi @RaheemJKassam @SunnyHundal @YasminQureshiMP &c not these fools #LeeRigby”

Sunny Hundal was born to Sikh parents of Indian origin and despite having a beard, is not Muslim. He tweeted back at her “Erm, I’m not Muslim Louise. Parents are Sikh”.

After Twitter users criticised her for her mistake, Mensch argued: “I’ve thought he was Muslim for ages. Based on his politics, tweets.”

The two religious fanatics who murdered Lee Rigby screamed a final act of defiance in court yesterday as they fought with guards and were dragged from the dock prior to receiving a whole-life and life sentence respectively for their “sickening and pitiless” kill

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“It’s a miracle! We thought that it was water”

imageADAM WITHNALL Tuesday 25 February 2014
More wine is drunk per person in the Vatican City than in any other country in the world, according to the latest statistics released by the Wine Institute.

The figures show that residents of the Vatican consume 74 litres of wine on average – roughly equivalent to 105 bottles over the course of a year.

That’s around double the amount drunk by the average person in France or Italy as a whole, and triple the quantity consumed in the UK.

There is no denying that the population of the Vatican represents an unusual, and rather uniform, demographic.

As well as the occupational hazard of being required to take ceremonial Communion wine, the National Catholic Reporter said Vatican residents are more likely to be old, male, highly educated and eat in larger groups – all factors that can contribute to greater wine consumption.

These aspects of the Vatican’s national character are more likely to put it at the top than simply its size alone – though other so-called microstates also featured prominently in the Wine Institute’s list.

The fact that it only has a population of around 800 people does make it easy for per-capita figures to be distorted by outlying groups, however – and in the Vatican there is reportedly a single supermarket supplying everyone with wine almost completely tax-free.

 

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Russell Brand on the Murder of Lee Rigby

Sky Pilot

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The best comment on the very sad killing of a soldier, Lee Rigby, at Woolwich last week was not from any politician, nor ideologue, nor media commentator, nor was it from a religious leader, but from Russell Brand. It deserves to be publicised widely. It is the antithesis of those who preach hate, whether religious hate, or from other kinds of fundamentalists, or from racists. Here’s what Russell said, please read every wise word: The news cycle moves so quickly now that often we learn of an event through other people’s reaction to it. So it was when I arrived in Los Angeles to find my twitter feed contorted with posts of fear and confusion. I caught up with the sad malice in Woolwich and felt compelled to tweet in casual defence of the Muslim community who were being haphazardly condemned by a few people on my time line…

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Alpha Experience

by “Recovering Agnostic”
April 5, 2013

My Alpha experience – why I consider the course to be cynical and dishonest

The Independent recently ran an article gushing with praise for the Alpha Course, calling it “British Christianity’s biggest success story“. I can understand that in a world where results are what gets you noticed, but having attended an Alpha Course once upon a time, I still find it both appalling and wryly amusing that the church is putting so much weight on a course that’s so fundamentally dishonest.

I went on the course at a time when I was feeling uncertain of my faith, the best part of ten years ago. I thought a return to the basics might be just what I needed, so I booked myself in and prepared to ask my questions.

Before I go any further, and to forestall common defences of Alpha, I want to emphasise that I was under no illusions about the theology of the course, but that was what I wanted at the time, and I desperately wanted to believe. I also know that courses vary massively in tone and content, even though this is against the wishes of Nicky Gumbel and Holy Trinity Brompton, but the course I attended worked through the standard videos and books. What I experienced was the very core of Alpha.

The first couple of weeks were pleasant and inoffensive. Gumbel’s video talks were relatively vague and platitudinous, but our group had some interesting discussions. Some knew nothing about Christianity, some knew quite a lot, and one guy was always asking about Islam, which was a bit odd, and suggested he was probably attending the wrong course. The one thing that puzzled me was that no one was prepared to correct obvious errors and misunderstandings.

That all started to change soon enough. When Gumbel introduced the Bible, suddenly all the fluff was moved to one side. A couple of weak, hackneyed arguments about the provenance of the Bible were rushed through as if they had a train to catch, and from that point on, it was expected that any question could be resolved by appealing to the Bible as an infallible book of rules.

It was also about this time that the course organisers started to get far more involved. From not correcting misunderstandings, suddenly they were pretty obviously starting to tell everyone what to think. I’ve since read Gumbel’s book on running an Alpha Course, and this is what they’re told to do – avoid correction or criticism for the first few weeks, then start hitting them hard with the party line. It’s a deliberate strategy.

When I’m asked to describe Alpha, the phrase I use most often is bait-and-switch. The whole thing is based on the idea of friendly discussion, but quickly becomes an RE lesson. We have some old fragments of parchment containing copies of Biblical texts, therefore we can assume that it’s all 100% true. We’re just going to talk about some issues, except for when we go off on the Holy Spirit Weekend!

The what? Yes, you read correctly – the Holy Spirit Weekend.

I could say a lot of things about the Holy Spirit Weekend. It’s undoubtedly clever, but I think it’s also deeply cynical and manipulative. Everyone goes away somewhere to learn about the Holy Spirit. Why do you need to go away for a weekend? Because the unspoken intention is that the new hothouse environment will facilitate a spiritual experience that will get you hooked. One session is even called “How can I be filled with the Holy Spirit?”

Clever churches get some church members to come along as well, ostensibly to help out on a more intensive weekend, but it also has the handy advantage of helping to create the right atmosphere. A bunch of confused Brits aren’t an ideal group if you want to encourage ecstatic spiritual experiences, but throw in a few people who know the drill (trust me, there is one) and it tips the balance considerably.

The weekend is at the heart of the entire course. The first few weeks deal with some basic housekeeping and weed out timewasters, and then they want you to be hooked as soon as possible. So they take you off somewhere strange, fill the place with music and people speaking strange languages, and wait for the payoff.

After that, the rest of the course seems slightly dull, stacking additional layers on top of what’s previously been discussed. If you’re in by this point, you’ll lap it up. If not, it’s just more data on what Christians believe, which will probably leave you cold, but might possibly be enough to convince you to “graduate” to church at the end of the course.

You might have gathered that I’m not a fan. I think the course is dishonest in its advertising and its arguments, sometimes manipulative, and always cynical. Finding out quickly moves into being taught, and then into emotional exploitation in unfamiliar group settings, all step by step, like a frog being boiled alive.

If a recognised cult was behaving like this, you wouldn’t be surprised.

About Recovering Agnostic
I’m Christian by upbringing, agnostic by belief, cynical by temperament, broadly scientific in approach, and looking for answers. My main interest at the moment is in turning my current disengaged shrug into at least a working hypothesis

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Jesus Facebook Movie

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February 23, 2014 · 08:46

Dumfries North West Church – Free Meals Project

Free Meals Project
The Free Meals Project offers a free, hot, vegetarian, whole-food meal, lunch-time and evening, Monday to Saturday and a food-parcel is available to anyone who needs it on a Sunday. The Free Meals Project runs 52 weeks a year including Christmas and New Year. The ‘Family Meals Project’ is integrated into it too. Parents are welcome to bring their children. We are responding to a very real need in the community.

This project is unique in the area, not simply because of the number of meals it offers but because it is driven by a theological imperative which comes from Matthew 25,

‘I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

We do not evangelise or see the Free Meals Project as an outreach opportunity. We have come to understand it as sacramental. The sharing of real food sanctifies what we do symbolically in worship. This is not faith in practice. This is faith as practice.

It is expensive to run this project. While we are very grateful to the NHS, Dumfries and Galloway Housing Project and to many other organisations and individuals for financial support, the project is independent. No-one receives a salary. It runs at a very significant cost to Dumfries Northwest Church and we depend entirely upon those within and outside of the congregation to offer financial support. A donation of as little as £10.00 will enable us to do so much for people in the community.

You can donate by sending cheques to

Dumfries Northwest Church Office
Free Meals Project
Lochside Road
Dumfries
DG2 0DZ

or online.

Please note that a donation to the Free Meals Project will only be used in the Free Meals Project. Your donation will not be used to finance other areas of the Church’s work.

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Ragnarok

imageRagnarok 2014 heralds apocalypse on 22 February. Today is the end of the world. This ancient prediction of apocalypse by the Vikings, the people of the Norse culture (793 to 1066 AD) in Scandinavia, is called Ragnarok. According to Norse mythology, Ragnarok, also called the fall of the Gods, is the catastrophic battle between all the Viking gods – namely Odin, Thor, Tyr, Freyr, Heimdallr and Loki, following which the world will be submerged in water. Ragnarok 2014 coincides with the finale of York’s 30th Jorvik Viking Festival, one of the largest festivals in Europe, which celebrates the Viking heritage of the ancient English city of York. The festival organisers define Ragnarok as a prediction about the end of the world in Viking folklore in which a series of events, including the gods’ battle and natural disasters, will destroy the nine worlds that make up the universe. “Ragnarok will begin when the wolf, Fenrir, son of Loki, breaks free of his imprisonment. This will lead to a chain reaction of events including the Midgard snake Jormungand rising from the sea and a wolf devouring the sun,” the organisers explained. “Everything will come to a head in a huge battle that draws in the Gods, men and all the races of the nine worlds.” Legend has it that the events of Ragnarok will cause death of all the Norse gods. In fact, the Norse word Ragnarok has been interpreted as the final destiny of the gods. Norse folklore suggests that all the sequence of events comprising the Ragnarok was predicted by the Norse god Odin himself. Odin prophesied the events after he acquired wisdom to foresee the future by hanging himself from a tree.

 

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