Posts Tagged 'king’s x'

Wonder (part 9)

This is the final post in a series of  posts exploring lyrics touching upon the notions of “Church” and “State” written during the eighties.

Post 1 can be linked to here.  Post 2 is accessed here.  Post 3 is connected here.  Post 4 is here.  Post 5 can be found by clicking here.  Post 6 is here, Post 7 is here and Post 8 is here.

Since the time of the song being penned we have lived through the terms of office of George Bush Senior, Bill Clinton and George W Bush.  As we crawl out of 2008 into a new year, we also sit on the cusp of a new presidency in Barack Obama.  There is a quote that seemed to be everywhere toward the latter months of the year:

“Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could walk. Martin Luther King walked so Barack Obama could run. Barack Obama is running so our children can fly.”

Yet, as I learned of the Civil Rights Movements and Martin Luther King at school, it seemed like ancient history rather than something that occurred within the past 50 years or so.  What fast progress to now witness America’s first Black president about to take the reigns.  Whilst there seems to be a sense of a new dawn, he inherits a financial mess, an economic mess, an environmental mess in our ever shrinking global village.  If ever we need to pray for our leaders it is now.

These posts have sought to return to ancient truths whilst looking at issues we see around ourselves today; church and state; war and peace; God and politics; faith and action.  It reminds me of lyrics penned by Woodie Guthrie and put to music by Billy Bragg and Wilco.  Woodie Gothrie’s recording career was over by 1947, however, he kept on writing hundreds of unrecorded songs and these set of lyrics do not have a specifc date, but seem just as relevant to me today as they would have been when dreamt up by Guthrie:

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“Let’s have Christ our President
Let us have him for our king
Cast your vote for the Carpenter
That they call the Nazarene

The only way
We could ever beat
These crooked politician men

Is to cast the moneychangers
Out of the temple
Put the Carpenter in

Oh it’s Jesus Christ our President
God above our king
With a job and pension for young and old
We will make hallelujah ring

Every year we waste enough
To feed the ones who starve
We build our civilization up
And we shoot it down with wars

But with the Carpenter
On the seat
Way up in the capitol town

The USA
Be on the way
Prosperity bound”

From “Christ For President” – lyrics written by Woodie Guthrie

I guess that I am learning that Christ is my Saviour and My King.  If that is true, then He governs not just where I place my “X” on a voting slip, but how I vote in terms of what I consume, what I re-use, reduce and recycle.  It should determine how I vote with how I invest my time.  It should influence how I use my consumer vote with my money in terms of how ethical or otherwise my purchasing habits are – how are the goods I buy made?  What shops or manufacturers should I avoid (Naomi Klein’s “No Logo” might be slightly dated now, but still serves as an excellent manifesto and call to arms).  How many food miles have been involved in my food?  Do I buy fair=trade wherever possible?  Should I buy organic as often as possible?  Is my home properly insulated?  Do I use low energy light bulbs and do I switch them off when they are not needed?  Do I leave the TV on standby?  Do I take the plane when I could take the train?  Do I drive when I could walk or cycle?  Justice is a big thing.  Worship is a big thing.

Hopefully, this little series of posts have got you and I both thinking…

There was an old skateboarding sticker back in day with the slogan, “Don’t die wondering.”  Sometimes we need to stop procrastinating, to just act upon things or try them out.  At other times it’s good to challenge our beliefs or perceptions.  I think it’s good to grapple with how to really apply our faith in a myriad of situations we find around us – surely, that is what we are called to do?  The danger is that we just muse and talk and hypothesise. 

Whether you have found these posts helpful, interesting or irritating – then I would still recommend the following three books to you:

irresistable-revolution1a)  “The Irresistible Revolution – Living As An Ordinary Radical” by Shane Claiborne.

 

 

jesus-for-presidentb)  “Jesus For President” by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw.

 

 

 

 

biblec)  The Bible.

 

Peace be with you all.

Wonder (part 8)

This the penultimate post in a wee series of musings I have posted up during December inspired by some lyrics that have stuck with me longer than many.  Post 1 can be accessed here.  Post 2 can be linked to by clicking here.  Post 3 is connected here.  Post 4 is here , post 5 is here  , post 6 is here and post 7 is here.p7260034

The closing lines of the song that generated all these posts goes:

“This is Church.

This is State.

Rock ‘n’ Roll.  Amazing Grace.

It makes me think, it makes me deal

With the situation – how do I feel?”

from “Wonder” by King’s X

I love that phrase “Rock ‘n’ Roll. Amazing Grace”  I have found so much of God and so much that has shaped my world view in both of those things – rock ‘n’ roll and old hymnals.  I love playing my heart out on my drum kit and making a joyful noise.  I relish the fact that some folks in our church have permissioned us to do that once a month and I am so grateful to the little fluid collective of friends who are musicians and singers who join me in that.  We are all on the same wavelength and the music is so secondary.  It’s just about creating a time and space where we can set everything else aside and regain our focus and actually begin to engage and ask questions.

Sometimes I wonder if we elevate music in our services?  I mean that as a generalisation across the church rather than as a specific criticism of our congregation.  As someone involved in that side of things, I struggle with the notion that all we do is create a holy “knees up” or “feel good” session through swells of sound and music and then kid ourselves that we have “met with God”.  At the end of the day, if we are adding to the noise – then I would hope that someone would tell us to be quiet and to pack up our gear.  If we are all able to draw closer somehow with music used as a vehicle to prepare our hearts and ears ahead of a sermon or in a response time, then count me in.  If we walk out of our church building, into our everyday lives, with a changed perspective and a heart hungry to live in obedience and aware of mercy and grace, then I guess we have been good stewards of our gifts.

Wonder (part 7)

This the seventh in a short series of posts.  Post 1 can be linked to here.  Post 1 can be accessed here.  Post 2 can be linked to by clicking here.  Post 3 is connected here.  Post 4 is here , post 5 is here  and post 6 is here.

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I guess the largest political issue for many in my generation is rolled up in the September the 11th atrocities and the military decisions of the US and UK governments in the aftermath.  It is easy to judge our leaders rather than to pray for them and I read a recent interview with Moby where he was struggling to reconcile a natural inclination to judge with a more gracious response.

Here’s an excerpt from a book I would thoroughly recommend to you.  The American author at one point visits Iraq as part of a peace envoy.  Here is a small snippet of one of his tales:

“I was invited to worship services nearly every day while in Iraq.  The Christians in Baghdad gave me so much hope for the church.  One of the most powerful worship services I’ve ever experienced was just a few days before I headed home.  Hundreds and hundreds of Christians from all over the Middle East had gotten together – Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox.  They read a statement from the Christian church directed to the Muslim community, declaring that they love them and believe they were created in the image of God.  Then we sang familiar songs like “Amazing Grace.”  We said the Lord’s Prayer in several languages. They lead us to the cross and prayed a prayer similar to the one Jesus prayed when he was on the cross: “Forgive us, for we know not what we are doing.”  Hundreds and hundreds of people continued to try and get into the service and ended up gathering outside with candles.  It was holy.

Afterward, I was able to meet with one of the bishops who had organised the gathering, and I explained to him that I was shocked to find so many Christians in Iraq.  He looked at me, puzzled, then gently said, “Yes, my friend, this is where it all began.  This is the land of your ancestors.  That is the Tigris River and the Euphrates.  Have you read about them?”  I was floored-by my ignorance and by the ancient roots of my faith.  It is the land of my ancestors.  Christianity was not invented in America…how about that?

The bishop went on to tell me that the church in the Middle East was deeply concerned about the church in the United States.  He said, “Many Americans are for this war.”

I nodded.

And he asked, “But what are the Christians saying?”

My heart sank.  I tried to explain to him that many of the Christians in the US are confused and hope that this is a way God could liberate Iraqi people.  He shook his head and said, very humbly, “But we Christians do not believe that.  We believe “blessed are the peacemakers.”  We believe if you pick up the sword, you die by the sword.  We believe in the cross.”  Tears welled up in my eyes as he said, “We will be praying for you.  We will be praying for the church in the US…to be the church”.

That is in no way just a challenge to the US.  How different would our communities, the places we work, the places we hang out, the lives of the people we really invest time with be, if the Church of Jesus Christ actually acted and lived like the Church of Jesus Christ?  I have a long way to go, but I want to journey forward in that direction.

Wonder (part 6)

This is the sixth in a short series of posts.  Post 1 can be accessed here.  Post 2 can be linked to by clicking here.  Post 3 is connected here.  Post 4 is here and post 5 is here.

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So as I mentioned earlier, the same day of the terrorist attach on Glasgow Airport in July 2007 we went to hear Rob Bell deliver a presentation in Glasgow entitled “Calling All Peacemakers”.  What does that look like?  Thank you Fourth space for sharing your notes from the talk which I have heavily plagiarised for this post!!!

Rob pointed out that the Kingdom of God is here, right now, and is present.  The message of Jesus is to return (to repent) and get back into a right life.  BUT: We live in an evil, dark world.  A world with fighting and turmoil and pain. What does Jesus say to that?

Jesus says if someone hits you on the right cheek, turn the other one.  He helpfully explained that for the Jews, the right hand was the clean hand, used for eating and handshakes.  The left hand was used for…..well, not polite stuff anyway.  You’d want to wash your hand.  So the left hand was unclean.  So you would only strike someone with your right hand, as otherwise you would be unclean.  You had two options – a right hand fist to the right cheek (hitting with a fist was indicating that person was your equal – remember it was all about relative status) or secondly, to slap – to strike an unequal, with the back of your right hand; this would be done only to a slave, a minion, a soldier below you, to someone less human than you.  So if someone hit you on the right cheek, then it follows that it must have been a slap as they couldn’t hit the right cheek with their right fist.  To have been hit on your right cheek must have indicated that the person hitting you thought you were below them – a lesser human being.  So when you turn the cheek, they would have to hit you with the fist, treating you as an equal.  It was a simple way of turning things upside down of asserting that you did not consider yourself less than them and asking them to recognise that.  It moved the position of the person being struck from unequal to equal.  This simple action takes away power and coercion.   It says, “Treats me as equal.  Validate me”.

If someone takes your coat, then give your shirt also.  Remember that the Jews would have had 2 layers – a shirt, then a coat.  So if someone sues you and takes your coat (what if you have only that left, 80-90% tax rates at the time – Jews had been conquered, there was a big army, which was in need of high revenues, so there was a high tax on people conquered – e.g. census at Christmas for purpose of counting people).  People were losing family lands.  People were oppressed.  People who were poor and having to get hired out hourly to work on their own land.  These people were experiencing shame, humiliation and guilt.  All you have left is your coat.  You are poor.  Jesus says to give to them your shirt also.  Why?  Because viewing the nakedness of another was shameful in that culture for the person who viewed it – not the person who had been stripped bare.  Again, this turns things upside down.  The master would then say “stop doing that”, put your clothes back on.  The oppressed person is now acting, the master begging him to stop.  It offered an innovative, peaceful and practical way to deal with the situation.  The genius is that the aggressor may change his heart and give the coat back.

Jesus says if demanded to walk 1 mile, then go another one.  Romans mastered the place, these are the people who invented crucifixion.  These were not nice conquerors.  Roman soldiers could demand that you walked with them, to carry their pack – even if on Sabbath, you had no choice, even if it meant being apart from your family.  It treats you like an animal.  BUT Roman military rules restricted this to 1 mile per person.  So if you then walked another mile, the Romans had to beg you to stop – otherwise they would be in trouble with the military commanders and could face a court marshall.  The Romans would have begged you to stop.  A Roman wouldn’t want to be caught punishing a person who was carrying their pack.  So Jesus says be fearless. Go the 2nd mile.  Put the Roman in an awkward situation.  Ask him to do something.

The world we live in suffers from lack of imagination.

When we suffer wrong there are 2 approaches we usually take:

1)  Do nothing.  Pacifism.  Turn the other cheek.  Take it.  God loves you.  Jesus gave my spine to someone else.  This is not what Jesus is advocating.

2)  Strike back.  Pick up the sword and swing.  Corresponding level of aggression.  “Let me tell you about those gossips so you can pray better for them” etc. At that moment you have just lost.

Jesus is giving a 3rd way.  Not passivity.  3rd way theology.  Jesus pioneered non-violence.  Gives us imagination.

Turn the other cheek.  Do not co-operate with anything that humiliates you.  Preserve the image of God.  Protect the humanity.  He holds out the possibility that the aggressor may have a change of heart.  We can see it acted out in more modern examples e.g. Freeze practices of Danish resistance.  Chose a random time, e.g. Thurs 2.07, held a 2mins freeze.  Saved thousands of people, allowed thousands to escape WWII with their conscience intact.

Is there a 3rd way here today? Can I do things differently?

How can you get to the oppressor asking you to stop your innovative, non-violent and yet provocative action?

The 3rd way demonstrates tremendous creativity and  massive courage.

THE CROSS

This was first seen as an icon 300-400AD, funnily enough the same time as the Romans died out.  Crucifixion was a genius tool for oppressors – kills people, they suffer for a time, most people can see it and heed its warning.  The cross only became art when people who had seen crucifixion died out. – YET WE SING SONGS OF THE CROSS & ITS POWER. HAD COSMIC IMPLICATIONS FOR FIRST CHRISTIANS. GOD RECONCILES ALL THINGS TO HIMSELF THROUGH THE CROSS.  God makes peace with all things.  Very real reconciliation.  The work has been done, it’s about trust through the cross & resurrection.

BUT REMEMBER THAT THIS RECONCILIATION REFERRED TO ALL THINGS. Reconciliation – trusting Jesus is where it starts.  The cross is our personal encounter with Jesus.  Christ wants to put each of us back together.  The cross is the only hope.

As church experiences shalom together He works inside us, bonds us to others.  We then understand we need to bring shalom to the world.  God wants to reconcile himself to all things.

The world today

– 6bn people

– USA 300m

– UK 60m

This is only 8% of the world population.

  • 1 billion people do not have clean drinking water
  • 2.6bn people do not have adequate sanitation – leads to lower immune rates etc
  • 780-800m people are hungry due to no food
  • 2.2bn children. 1bn live in poverty (absence of basic necessities)
  • 2bn no electricity
  • 80% live in sub-standard housing
  • 1bn can not read or sign their name
  • Wealthiest 1% have same net worth as poorest 57%
  • 1bn people live off <$1/day
  • 2bn more <$2/day

THIS IS NOT SHALOM

  • 20% of the world consume 86% of world’s resources

In Rwanda there was a woman who was very poor – a micro-finance loan was given, she bought a stall, built house & owns it, uniforms & food for kids & they go to school.  She was able to pay the loan back. $40 loan.  Given to someone else. Etc etc.   For these particular series of talks Rob Bell was offering £1 off the ticket price and that £1 went to turami, to micro-finance in Burundi where $90 is the average annual income.  The repayment rate on micro-finance loans is 98-99% globally.

All the spare money from the speaking tour went to turami.  Lets set out to bring shalom.  Catch a vision for being a peacemaker.  Bring shalom to the world.

 Peace & Shalom.

Wonder (Part 5)

This is the fifth in a short series of posts.  Post 1 can be accessed here.  Post 2 can be linked to by clicking here.  Post 3 is connected here.  Post 4 is here.

This appeared on yesterday’s news.  Who is the peacemaker here?

Wonder (part 4)

This is the fourth in a short series of posts.  Post 1 can be accessed here.  Post 2 can be linked to by clicking here.  Post 3 is connected here.

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In July 2007 there was a terrorist attack on Glasgow Airport.  Those who drove a burning vehicle into the departure lounge did so “in the name of God”.

That same day, we were in Glasgow listening to Rob Bell deliver a talk entitled “Blessed Are The Peacemakers”.

What does that really look like right here, right now?

Wonder (part 3)

This forms part of a short series of posts.  Part 1 can be accessed by clicking here and Part 2 is here.

In today’s society, I struggle to see that someone can say with authority that all Christians should vote for a specific party.  I do believe, however, that each of us should responsibly consider with conviction how to use our vote and how to try to influence matters.  So, I am fairly well aligned with one political party in my own voting practices and the agendas that influence and concern me in particular. 

In our own congregation there are people who hold loads of opposing ideas, viewpoints and political allegiances, some of whom are party candidates and, yet, church is one of the rare places were those differences become secondary.

I can see why it could become easy to be disillusioned or bored by politics, but I firmly believe that every vote counts.  If we really voted with our conscience rather than tactically, how would the political landscape look? 

Countless bands have probably helped shape my political views over the years, but few have done so to such an extent as Fugazi and Billy Bragg.  Fugazi in that they wrote and sung about their own straight edge ideology (often associated with their previous incarnation as Minor Threat) and lived out their ethics with such authenticity.  Billy Bragg has always sung with such conviction and many of his observations form the 80s and 90s still make a lot of sense to me as I look around our global village.  I’ve not always drawn the same conclusions or party allegiances, but these artists have made me see the importance of how I practice what I believe in.

Here’s an excerpt from an interview with Billy Bragg in the Guardian earlier this year which connects with me in many places and makes me realise that I need to take ownership of where I place an “X” on a voting paper…


Tuesday March 11, 2008
The Guardian
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“I don’t mind being labelled a political songwriter,” says Billy Bragg, his voice snouty and rough, and his eyes sharp little specks in a well-freckled face. “I am a political songwriter – that’s the life that I’ve made for myself. What really upsets me is being dismissed as a political songwriter.” He pivots on the word “dismissed”. People do dismiss Billy Bragg. He has spent 25 years in the music industry, and is one of our greatest living songwriters. Yet for all those who adore him, Bragg still exists in the wider public imagination as the Bard of Barking, the voice of the miners’ strike and Red Wedge, a voice still singing a refrain of Old Labour and New England.

The album opens with a song named I Keep Faith. It is one of those overlapping songs, a perfect Venn diagram of the political and the personal. “Firstly, it’s about some of the people that I work with closely – Labour backbenchers,” Bragg explains. “It’s probably the closest I’ve worked with politicians, those bright young Red Wedgers who are now ministers. I did some shows for them during the 2005 election campaign, and I got to see how hard they work, and how little they get back for that. And then also it’s about my missus, Juliet, and the struggles she went through to do what she wanted to do with her own life, and she’s setting up a business as well, and that was a great inspiration for me.”

The final verse was inspired by a songwriting workshop that Bragg held at a women’s hospice in Weymouth, working with half a dozen women over a six-week period in 2006. “Trying to help them write songs, songs that allow them to say the things they can’t say over the dining table in the evening but that you can say in a song – that are namely, ‘I love you, but I’m not always gonna be here,’ ” he says softly. “That probably is one of the things I’m most proud of. And that last verse, that whole idea of, ‘I know it takes a mess of courage to go against the grain/You have to make such great sacrifice for such little gain’ – what those women went through, how they retained their dignity and kept their self-pity at bay was just phenomenal to witness. And yet they were able to communicate to me deep, deep feelings they had which then we were able to make into something for their families to treasure. And I just came away every Friday incredibly inspired by these women and their fortitude.”

“So,” he says, leaning forward in his chair a little, “I’d like to think it works on a number of levels – on the level of a personal commitment to another individual, on the level of a song about faith as in the sense of solidarity, faith in humanity. I’m not sure I want to live in a world without faith, you know? Faith in one another, faith in community, faith in humanity: I don’t think I’d like to live in a world where everything’s a matter of science and reason.”

The song has allowed him, he says, to speak to audiences about something of which he has grown increasingly aware: “Our real enemy in trying to make a better world isn’t conservatism, or capitalism or racism – they’re manifestations of a deeper malaise, which is cynicism. And there’s so much of that about, in our political and social discourse. And I speak as someone who has to fight to overcome their own cynicism – I helped get Tony Blair elected. In some ways I’m complicit in the invasion of Iraq because of that, despite our best efforts to stop it happening. So you know, I am overcome by waves of cynicism. But as Woody Guthrie said, ‘I never want to write a song that puts people down.'”

 


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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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