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Archive for September, 2010

I wanted to post this picture to pose the question ‘what reaction does this create in you?’

It’s Jesus washing the feet of world leaders like Angela Merkel, Kofi Annan, Tony Blair and, yes, even Osama Bin Laden.

Just before Jesus washes the disciples’ feet in the bible, it says that Jesus knew the Father had put all things under his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God.  The next word is ‘therefore’.  Therefore, he knelt down and washed feet.  It’s like this is how he tries to illustrate what he does with all the power.

I guess the picture is really asking, ‘well, what do you think God’s actually like?  Is God really like this, exactly like this?’  How does this image make you feel?  Like it’s unfair, unjust, blasphemous?  As though it can’t be right and that Bin Laden ought to be punished rather than served?

The picture was actually designed as a poster to advertise a conference in the USA about God’s character.  It triggered such an outcry from Christians that the church that was going to host the event cancelled it and the organisation had to move the conference to a secular location (which, typically, had no problem with the poster!)

It’s true, it’s a hard hitting picture.  For me, I find it particularly difficult to imagine Hitler there and Jesus washing his feet after all that he did.  Even worse, what if Jesus was washing Hitler’s feet and Hitler wasn’t even sorry for what he’d done?!  And yet, here’s the thing – Jesus washed Judas’s feet, knowing Judas was about to betray him.  Then Jesus went and healed a guy who was coming at him with a sword.  And later still he went the whole hog and allowed his life to be taken in the most gruesome way for every person under the sun while they were still spitting at him and not at all sorry.  Now, if he did that last part for everyone then why would it be odd to think he might wash their feet for them?

Christians say they believe that Jesus was and is God, that he represents to us the image of God fully.  Paul writes that Jesus was the radiance of the Father’s glory and the exact imprint of his very being and Jesus even said ‘if you’ve seen me you’ve seen the father’.  The trouble is, those same Christians then go on to say that apart from just being like Jesus, God is also like this and also like that, adding on to Jesus or taking away from him.  In particular, they feel an obligation to say that God is all the ‘omnis’, you know, omnipresent (all-present), omnipotent (all-powerful) and omniscient (all-knowing) and possibly also that he never changes, is free of any happiness or sadness and is so ‘holy’ that justice (punishment) must at all costs be served and he can not look upon any evil.  It’s like these things are just obvious and go without saying.

But they’re not and they don’t.  Where did these ideas come from?  When you read the bible you find a God very different, one who cries and laughs and hurts and gets frustrated, and constantly gets his hands dirty amongst all the ugliness of the world.  Imagine how differently we’d think about God (and feel about him?) if we scrapped all our preconceptions and just started again by focusing solely on Jesus?  Imagine if he was our one and only guide for what God is like rather than our personal life experiences or Greek philosophy, which has shaped our culture and religion so deeply.  God might just start to look like the man on his knees in the picture.

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A friend of mine recently drew my attention to this surreal photgraph manipulation by a Hungarian lady called Sarolta Ban.  I don’t think I could describe them as beautiful necessarily, in fact they have a distinctly creepy edge to them in my opinion.  But they’re also totally fascinating because they each suggest that a mysterious story in a very weird world has led up to them.  I’ve got my stories but you’ll probably have your own………………..

You can find a few more of these at:

http://www.funoak.com/amazing-surreal-photo-manipulation-by-sarolta-ban/

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A few days ago, a friend of mine posted some quotes and comments on Facebook about Stephen Hawking’s latest views, expressed in his new book.  Those were the first rumblings for me that something was up in the Science-religion world (again!)  Apparently Hawking believes that it’s not necessary to invoke God in ‘lighting the blue touch paper’ to set off the Big Bang at the dawn of all creation.  He states that because there are such laws as the law of gravity, the universe could have spontaneously come into being.  Straight away the question that jumps to my mind is ‘where did the laws of gravity etc come from then?’ but I may just be a dunce and I haven’t read the book so I might be totally misunderstanding Hawking’s views!

A day or 2 after the facebook incident I received an e mail from CIS (Christians in Science) containing a link to an article in the Guardian, which was supposed to be a Christian Scientist’s response to Stephen Hawking’s writings (www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/sep/03/physics-science-theology-universe).  To be honest. I read it and didn’t think a lot of it as it was a bit simplistic and ‘heard-it-all-before-ish’!  But after I read it I made the mistake of looking at the hundreds of comments posted by readers (oh-oh), and these are what struck me.  Almost literally in fact.  I mean, I felt like I’d been physically beaten into a stupor after reading for 20 minutes.  Virtually every single comment was extremely aggressive, mocking, taunting, deliberately patronising and insulting to anyone who may have any kind of faith in a god.  It got me wondering, not in an irritated way but a genuinely thoughtful kind of way, why many people are so angry with the whole idea of God?  I mean, they could just ignore God-stuff and not really be bothered about it, especially if it’s having no effect on their life from day to day anyway.  But they don’t.  The idea of God, and that anyone else could believe in God, seems to make many people very furious.

Yes there were a fair few comments about fairies in the sky and wishful thinking, but opinions like that might bring on frustration at the very least, not raging anger.  But many people seemed to want to actively be rid of God rather than just allowing others to get on with him, which suggests that they see God as a bad thing, not as a good (or even a neutral) thing, hence the anger.  A lot of the comments hinted at the feeling that God is all about fear, about doing things right or wrong based on fear of punishment or hope of reward, about keeping us in line.  The lack of God, they suggested, would bestow on us all freedom, peace and unity.  Given many of the past and present effects of religion, not least the recent infuriatingly stupid threats by a Florida pastor to burn copies of the Quran on 9/11, I can’t deny that these people have a point.  More than that in fact, given my own experience of the personal fear of God and how that’s at times affected my life and choices negatively, I can deeply sympathise with the point (and I was raised in a very loving home and church with virtually no hell-fire talk!)

And yet the stories of Jesus are unasamedly, blatently called gospels, which means ‘good news’ and it’s obvious that those who first heard and received what Jesus brought considered it so overwhelmingly positive and joyous that they gave up everything for it.  They talk as if they had been set free rather than caught in a restrictive net, given an abundance of peace rather than a shadow of fear and an unconditional love for themselves and the whole world.  What are we missing that those early people saw?  Every now and again I catch a glimpse of what it’s really all about, something so good that I’m surprised that I or anyone else would wish angrily to be rid of it.  It has to do with an overwhelming, releasing, selfless, humble love lavished over us, taking root in the core of us and fortifying us in security and confidence so it can freely spill over from us to every part and person of creation.

Everyone bears responsibility for themselves and I reckon that a lot of Guardian readers should actually find out more about a faith before mocking their own mis-conceptions so simplistically.  But on the other hand, I can see where they get their impressions from and maybe if God-people could hold onto the truth for more than just brief glimpses, and then communicate and express it, perhaps they themselves would feel exuberantly liberated and Guardian readers would not feel such seething anger and contempt at the very mention of God.

For some (better!) responses to Hawking’s comments, see www.iscast.org/response_to_hawking (one day I’ll figure out how to make those things into a direct-click-link!!)

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Holiday sketches

So, a while back I said I was going to try and develop my artistic side a little more (which also falls into the category of doing things a bit differently to normal – see last blog), and over the holidays I had the perfect opportunity.  Be gentle, I know these items are not exactly masterpieces, but perhaps over the next few months this blog might track some traces of improvements?!  Anyway, it was fun, and I learned a lot (such as that oils take such a LONG time to dry that the smudge-risk-factor is off the scale, and never put your drink next to the cup with meths in).

You can probably see I love fineliners, and swirls/patterns are definitely a theme.  In fact, the swirls now look to me so much like hair that that may be the subject of any next little drawing!

I’ve also taken an unnecessarily large number of photos, but I just enjoy playing about with the different angles and lights (and seeing how much better these things can make my work look than it actually is!!)  So here you are.

This is a basic human cell, and when I saw it for the first time and learned about what every part does, my fascination with biology began. It is in itself a work of art. To me, the Sciences and the Arts don't always have to be separated.

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