I read this article the other day by Katie Botkin:
It purports to be looking at the deficiencies of Christian art, specifically music. She makes some obvious points, which tend to throw more rocks at a form of American Christianity than illuminate the matter of music with any depth.
Her main point is that Christians make poor art because they will only project a censored view of life, which lacks any authenticity with respect to the “human experience”, is cold and therefore bad art. She bases this on her own attempts to conform to this artificial and culturally-influenced standard in novel writing. She contrasts this with her brother’s song-writing which invokes more Buddhism than Christianity and is better art because it is “real”. Read More
This hedge of conifers is 85 foot long and has been growing alongside my home for over 25 years.
On Monday, it will be felled.
The action is not voluntary. We are being compelled by the Council, who assert that the pavement is being obstructed. Although the conifers at either end grow out more than in the middle, it is not so obstructed that neighbours do not cycle down the path at speed. Two ladies walked arm in arm down the pavement the other day. Besides, no neighbour complained to us. We knew nothing until we were given an ultimatum. Read More
When Christianity is reduced to sentimentality, the Church neglects its duty to God. Surrendering to the world, apologising for what it believes, desperate to prove itself “kind”, the Church soon falls into decay.
Some will say that such an approach is merely love for our enemies. But consider what “love” means. It is seeking someone’s good in accordance with God’s laws. Therefore, if someone is promoting heresy and leading others on the road to perdition, we would seek their good by pointing out their errors, rather than allowing them to lead others into sin. So if we would love our enemies we will be busy and unpopular. Read More
“Culture follows religion. We cannot mend the religion of others. We can only take care of our own. Once we understand our duties, we may provide an edifying influence on the Christians around us. Should this be true and growing, then such a Church will be a beautiful sight and will produce its own culture, a vineyard worth sampling. That culture could be replicated whenever God-fearing people populate a Christian Church. And should those people find themselves with authority over regions and even a nation, then the culture will reflect the religion by God’s appointment, and not by the shortcut taken by well-meaning but arrogant Christians. Read More
For over two years I have been researching and writing for a book about idols who are accepted as Christian (or accepted by Christians). The adoration of such idols makes them millstones around our neck. We are encouraged to act in imitation of them, to construe their behaviour as Christian, even though on closer inspection they disregarded most of God’s commands and set themselves up as saviours of mankind. By worshipping such men and women, we lead others into idolatry and far from their duty before God. Read More
These words from the Lord’s Prayer have gained a special poignancy to me over the last year. As commercially produced bread is increasingly adulterated with soya flour (often modified), it has been more and more difficult to find any wholesome options to buy. I started to make it myself, as a supplement to the bread available, but over the Christmas holiday we have only had the bread I have made.
I remember one of my favourite Sunday books as a very little child was called “Thank you for my loaf of bread”. The little boy thanks his parents, who say that they only bought it; he thanks the baker who only baked it; he thanks the farmer … and so on, until he thanks the Lord for his loaf of bread. The attitude of gratitude is certainly the right one. Read More
England apostatised through Romanticism. It was a suitable portal because it did not appear to be a religion. Most people did not even know the term - they just became obsessively interested in literature, art, music and architecture. Once their interest was captured, the English became very jealous over their right to enjoy the Arts. Ultimately, in 1870, they fought the clergy over the right of the people to have a concert in a cathedral rather than a sermon. The people won and there was no turning back. Read More
When we sing (rather than read) the Psalms, we hear the words differently. We proclaim rather than study and, unless we are dreadful hypocrites, the act of singing Psalms is a declaration of consent. There may be parts of the Psalms we do not understand as well as others and that should provoke us to further study, but it is still important to sing them all. We are not told only to sing the Psalms once we have reached a level of theological acumen. By contrast, the person who sings the hymns of men selects those which he feels to be most true, which accurately reflect his beliefs and experience. We are not given such autonomy with the Psalms. We sing the same songs as children, adults and in old age. We change - the Psalms do not. Read More
In December 2016, I received a lengthy comment on my review of “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. I chose not to publish the comment at that time because to do so would have required a response. I was not sure how to approach the commenter and therefore put it aside. But I never forgot the comment's opening words:
Firstly, it's not a book of theology.
My original review was written nearly 4 years ago and in that time I have given little thought to Ann Voskamp and her large number of followers. This week I revisited her website to see how things had changed. Less than one week ago and to coincide with Easter, she had published an excerpt from her new book. It started thus: Read More
A biography of such an unusual person was never going to be a straightforward task and Daniel Mark Epstein successfully portrays her life.
We begin with Aimee Kennedy and rehearse the stories that she herself told about her childhood. We observe the transformation first to Aimee Semple, the wife of a Pentecostal missionary; then to Aimee Semple McPherson, the housewife who will not be tied down and leaves her husband to embark on her own evangelistic tours. Between the large-scale events at Angelus Temple, we examine her mysterious disappearance, the breakdown of the relationship with her mother, her daughter’s divorce, Aimee’s short-lived third marriage, the law suit with her daughter until the rather sudden ending - she took too many sleeping pills and never woke up. Read More
There are times when we are happy and there are times when we are sad. We don’t mind happiness. We don’t stop and worry what it means or whether it will end - we are simply happy. But it is different when we are sad: we want it to stop hurting; we want to feel better. But there is no magic wand. Some people drink too much and take drugs to stop themselves knowing they are sad. But they still feel sad next morning. Read More
In late 17th century Scotland, a young farmer waits to meet his fiancée. She is a maid in the nearby hall. Today she is late, so the young man takes out his Bible and leans against a wall to read.
A party of soldiers crosses the bridge, leading to the farm. They are paid by the Crown to hunt down Covenanters. Right now they are searching for the two sons of this farm. Their eyes land on the young farmhand. He looks about the right age to be one of the sons. And what is that in his hand? No one but a Covenanter would read a Bible! The soldiers approach the young man and shoot him dead. Read More
The evening news closed with the obituary of "Holocaust-survivor" Alice Herz-Sommer, whose story features in a short film, soon to be noticed in the Oscars. The Lady in Number 6 provided clips of the deceased pianist, suitable for an evening news bulletin. In one of these excerpts, Mrs. Herz-Sommer said that music is her religion before correcting herself - music is her god.
If this lady had not been through World War II, we would gasp at such a sentiment. But we do not gasp. We are asked instead to admire her courage, optimism and humanity. The fact that she managed to survive through music and by music is deemed a victory. Read More
If I murder you, that is a sin. Once upon a time no one would argue with the death penalty being appropriate. Now things have changed. The murderer is sick and needs understanding. Think what a traumatic experience it was to commit a murder! Poor lamb, they say. And lawyers like Clive Stafford Smith suggest that since a life has already been lost, it is not worth spoiling another too - namely that of the murderer.
This shifting in the "cultural norm" of morality (not God's law, which is unchanging, but the perception of what is generally agreed amongst people) dictates the stories we can tell. Think of the most recent adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express. It's a simple story: a child was brutally killed and the murderer got away with it. Everyone who loved the child boards the same train as the killer and they murder him. In the original story, Poirot is sympathetic and holds the truth of the death a secret. It might be rough justice, but it is justice nonetheless and if the police cannot fathom who did it, he will not tell them. Read More
Before creation, there was Tohu and Bohu - confusion and emptiness.
Each day of creation banished tohu and bohu more and more.
Light established clarity, where darkness brought confusion.
Light revealed the subsequent creations - plants, birds, fish animals - and a world so far from empty as to be full of goodness.
The creation of man was the final abolition of confusion, for man was commanded to rule Eden. With the order for all creatures and life to be fruitful and multiply, the world was to be less empty, every day, every year, everywhere. Read More
“After the funeral service for Diana, Princess of Wales, choir singers from all over the world hurried to find copies of Song for Athene, which was sung at that service, so that they too could enter that ethereal, comforting, deeply personal and uniquely imagined sound world.”
John Tavener certainly did invent his own world, one in which it was possible to reconcile contradictions of belief. The man who struggled to express “universalism” in his music was born into a Presbyterian family. Those beliefs could have shaped him into a great Christian composer. Instead, he abandoned them to ride the waves of Catholicism, then the Orthodox church, and latterly to invoke Hindu and Muslim ideas within his pseudo-Christian framework. Read More
Channel 4 news have broken the silence surrounding the scandal of sexual abuse at the UK's most prestigious music schools. One lady's words in this latest report are impossible to forget.
She taught at one of these colleges, where sexual contact with pupils was - allegedly - rife. She said it was not just tolerated, it was normal. She was asked by the journalist whether she had considered blowing the whistle on it all. She had thought about doing so, but she had counted the cost in the knowledge that they would close ranks. In other words, she would have lost her job. Read More
The antithesis is sharpening.
Funerals are now taking on a new complexion in England. Some are religious and some are humanist. And people are becoming so indifferent as to the distinction that, more often than not, they do not tell you it will be humanist until you are outside the door of the "Church".
The fact that a funeral is classed as humanistic does not remove religion. In my experience, humanists always need music. Read More