Natural disasters and religious belief

Volcano with picture of Jesus above it

Volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis make people more religious according to a study reported by Adam Becket in today’s Church Times. Why? Is it because ‘religious coping provides a stable reason for why people believe in God’?

This explanation is religiously neutral: it tells us belief in God is psychologically helpful, regardless of whether it is true. This post suggests that believers can make stronger claims.

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Why did Jesus send out missionaries?

Drawing of Diogenes and Alexander the Great

This post is a sermon about the Gospel reading for 7th July: Luke 10:1-11, 16-20. It follows on from the sermon I published on 29 June 2019 .

Jesus sent out missionaries. Scholars have asked how they compare with the Cynic philosophers of their day. Here I point to some similarities and differences.

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Nobody is an undesirable

Mark Field MP has attracted attention to himself again, describing some homeless people as ‘undesirables’.

This post argues that from a Christian perspective nobody is an undesirable. Christians should publicly object to language like this.

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Why did Jesus make that fateful journey to Jerusalem?

Jesus and disciples
Misioneros Del Sagrado Corazón en el Perú: http://www.mscperu.org/grafic/graficoslit/cTO/13_to_c.htm via http://www.textweek.com

Some passages in the Bible seem really obscure. To understand them, we need to know the context.

This post is a sermon based on Luke 9:51-62, the Gospel passage for 30th June. When we understand what Jesus was doing then, it raises the question: what should we be doing now?

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The problem isn’t just Boris

Drawing of Boris Johnson

‘It’s time for Christians to speak out against Boris Johnson’ declares George Pitcher in an article in the Guardian.

This post summarises Pitcher’s argument and argues that it applies to the political establishment as a whole, not just one person.

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The biblical power of the moon

The moon, pointing

According to Matthew’s Gospel some of the people Jesus healed were moonstruck.

Needless to say, the people who translate the Bible into English don’t use this word. They usually translate ‘epileptic’. But epilepsy is a modern diagnosis. Like most modern diagnoses, it has no ancient equivalent. So are the translators misleading us, and what can we realistically expect from the Bible?

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Healing, wholeness and being accepted

This is my sermon for 26th May, published now in case any other preacher wants to pinch bits. You won’t want to pinch it all.

It’s based on John 5:1-9, the story of the invalid at the pool in Jerusalem, and describes how Jesus did his healings.

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British exceptionalism and attitudes to Europe

Map of the European Union with a bright pink Britain superimposed on it

Britain votes again today, for Members of the European Parliament – to the dismay of people who hoped to have left the EU by now.

This post is mainly about identity and British exceptionalism. Is being British a way of being European, or is it different? How do we identify ourselves? Do we identify ourselves in helpful or harmful ways? I conclude with a reflection from a liberal Christian perspective.

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Myths, facts and values

Fracking rig
Fracking rig

The British Government has produced a standard response to opponents of fracking. It takes the form of ten pairs of ‘myths’ and ‘facts’. You can read them here. Friends of the Earth has produced a rebuttal.

I have written on fracking before. This post looks at how the rhetorical use of words like ‘myth’ and ‘fact’ is used to suppress major questions of priorities and divert attention to minor details. I focus on this particular document because it is a clear example of an all-too-common tendency in our superficial society. We spend our time tightening up a few nuts and bolts when we should be asking whether we bought the wrong machine.

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Power, responsibility and voting

Remains of an ancient Athenian kleroterion, a system of randomising allocation of state offices to citizens
Remains of an ancient Athenian kleroterion, a system of randomising allocation of state offices to citizens

Local elections today, and in a few weeks we are, after all, to elect members of the European Parliament. Is this anti-democratic, in view of the 2016 referendum, or is it very democratic as it uses a better voting system than the UK’s biased First Past the Post system?

And we may yet get a second referendum on membership of the EU. Would that be a betrayal of the clearly expressed will of the people, or an opportunity for the people to express their will now that we know more about it? Does the welter of conflicting claims about what is, or is not, fair reveal an underlying awareness that our democracy isn’t democratic? Are there better ways for decisions to be made?

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