Tag: reflection

The Rapture that Didn’t Come

Well, it’s May 22nd. And as you may have noticed, despite the hopes and expectations of Harold Camping and his followers, the world did not end yesterday.

Yesterday, sceptics across the U.S. organised “Rapture parties”, and talk-show hosts joked about Judgment Day. At the restaurant where my sister and I had lunch, the end of the world was *the* topic of (lighthearted) conversation among our servers and fellow diners. Thousands of people even RSVPed to the facebook event “Post-Rapture Looting”. It’s easy to mock Harold Camping. After all, he already predicted the world would end once before, in 1994. This time, he calculated the date of the Apocalypse based on the belief that Noah’s flood began exactly 7,000 years ago, and that Christ died on 1 April 33CE. Hmmm.

But dig a little deeper into the media coverage, and Camping’s prophecy begins to hit closer to home. The New York Times reported yesterday that relationships are strained in families divided by belief. One teenager (whose parents stopped saving for university in light of the coming Apocalypse) states, “My mom has told me directly that I’m not getting into heaven.” Conversely, one believer who had just said goodbye to his unbelieving family expressed his deep sorrow that they wouldn’t be with him in heaven. Both of these sentiments are painfully familiar to those of us who have strayed from our childhood religion, or who have embraced new expressions of faith alone, later in life.

It’s also difficult to read about the man who spent his life’s savings on publicity materials to spread the word about the Apocalypse, the woman who fled an abusive relationship and found meaning through Camping’s teachings, or the man who said he planned to euthanize his beloved pets before the Rapture. Where are these people now? What are they thinking? Now that they’ve lost everything chasing a lie, will they lose their faith altogether? Will they be able to trust again?

Ultimately, I have to believe that Camping’s followers were driven by love—love of the divine and of humanity. Only this, I hope, could have empowered them to endure apathy and mockery as they bade farewell to family and friends and attempted to convert unbelievers before it was too late. Likewise, the only legitimate response to the “crazies” is love—by recognising that their extreme behaviour stems from the same profoundly human search for truth and significance that drives our own faith.

POSTED 22.05.11 BY: Moot Archive | Comments (3)

“Slow to anger, abounding in love”

Since Aaron’s post about how transformative he’s been finding the virtues postures and practices, and the discussion it started about anger, I’ve been doing a bit of research. I’m troubled by Old Testament wrath / New Testament mercy ‘flip-side of God’ theology. I don’t believe God changed, ‘like shifting shadows’ as James says, nor that God has moods or gets provoked and vindictive.

So I looked up some Hebrew words for ‘anger’ used in the bible last week, and found that physical imagery is inherent in many – aph depicts flaring nostrils; charah and chemah are about heated indignation. God is often described (about forty instances across the Old Testament) roused to wrath of the nostril-flaring variety. This troubles me.

But something that puts God’s wrathful moments in context for me is the as-frequent phrase ‘slow to anger’, also written as ‘long-suffering’, and to me that deliberately illustrates exactly how I’d aspire to see myself deal with anger when it flares in me, in my true, most whole or healthy self, just as with moments of gluttony, selfishness, pride or apathy. Hence ‘be still and know’, ‘wait on the Lord’, and ‘flee from anger and bitterness’.

I think Jesus was doing this when he crouched and drew in the dust, instead of reacting at once to the people ready to stone the woman they’d caught in the middle of adulterous sex. I think he was asserting space for momentary, flared-up anger to diffuse, both theirs and possibly his own.

Also, the very fact that these are physical words presents their illustrative quality to me. I am not massively into turning everything into metaphor, but I do think it’s safe to say God is not being described to us as a being with actual nostrils to flare, or blood pressure to rise. Nor, I want to suggest, is angry action innate to God’s being – God is love. God is not justice, – God holds and wields all justice. But he does not simply hold and wield love. He is love.

I happen to agree with Christopher Jamison and the Desert Fathers he cites, that anger isn’t really a good sign of anything. I don’t think getting angry is ever really just about the thing that we think, in the moment, that it’s about. I think I, and all of us to a greater or lesser degree, are sitting on a big old keg of old hurts and injustices. And when we get angry about things in a particular instant, I think that keg of anger comes into play.

A couple of mooters pointed out to me the danger here of getting into dualistic territory: ‘anger = bad’; ‘getting frustrated = bad’. I’m glad to have the community round me to navigate this territory.

And righteous energy for a cause is true and a good thing – I’m a bit of a cause-carrier sometimes – but when it’s provoked by anger, I have to take time to think and to still that, until it has aired and become something more calm and constructive.

To stay in my anger is to sit in the murkier bits of my psychology. To feel it, acknowledge it, but to be slow to it and patient with it when it comes – these I think reflect a God of love – healthy care of myself and exploration of all my feelings and their roots, but also therefore enabling my outward actions to be wholly love.

This is ‘slow to anger’ – taking the space to consider both my own reaction, and also to consider whoever has provoked me as a whole human being, with more going on than I can justifiably feel irritated with. Love is not only for some human beings, according to what they’ve done. “To know all is to forgive all”. Even love for one person, a victim, I don’t believe should ever provoke us to retribution towards another. And that pause to bring us back to a place of complete love, I think, is what Jesus was doing when he wrote in the sand for a while.

POSTED 24.06.10 BY: Moot Archive | Comments (5)

The Tempest – Anxiety, fear and faith

Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41, Luke 8:22-25

“Where is your faith?” – as the boat the disciples had embarked on was about to sink, so they thought, Jesus woke up from his siesta and asked them this simple question: “where is your faith?”.

For those of us with anxiety disorders, learning to restructure thought patterns and realising that we are fully capable to cope with life on a daily basis is key to liberating ourselves from these “demons”. But, as could be argued, there is no actual need for faith in this process – a combination of medication and determination is in most cases sufficient.

In this story of the Bible however, Jesus challenged his disciples to face a real threat, death, not just something they perceived to be a threat. He did not only ask them to believe that “things would be ok”. He actually called on them to contemplate the fact they could die at this very second. No determination (and no sea sickness medication) in the world would have helped them in this situation. Faith, when faced with imminent death, is the conviction we shall overcome this very threat although the odds would be against it. God wants us to go through.

We thankfully do not realise this on a daily basis but we constantly face death. Yes God protects us, but we really do not know our day and hour. We can learn to overcome anxiety on our own. But in the case of real threats, God is ultimately in control, and only faith can overcome fear, and eventually death.

POSTED 25.05.10 BY: Moot Archive | Comments (2)

Connected Minds

It was some random link that someone sent me on Twitter – can’t remember who – but there is some excellent stuff here that could definitely feed into our discussion. I’m going to quote their precise here. Would love to know what you think:

“We think of ourselves as rugged, self-determining individualists, but our very existence rests on connected brains and minds. Social species such as ours do not fare well when forced to live solitary lives, and the impact of loneliness on individuals can be surprisingly damaging. Residents of transient communities and isolated individuals lack rich attachments, meaningful connections and enriching encounters, which can be deleterious on a physiological as well as psychological level.

An individual’s complete involvement in a thriving, engaged and altruistic community is more than spiritually beneficial. As a social species, humans create emergent organisations beyond the individual—structures that range from dyads, families, and groups to cities, civilisations, and international alliances. These emergent structures evolved hand-in-hand with supporting genetic, neural, and hormonal mechanisms because the consequent social behaviors helped humans survive, reproduce, and care for offspring sufficiently long that they too survived to reproduce. We are only now beginning to truly understand the ramifications of our individualistic lifestyles, as our social brains struggle to cope with isolation, loneliness and failing communities.

Join Professor John Cacioppo, author of the bestselling book Loneliness and co-founder of the study of ‘social neuroscience’ as he outlines the vital importance of altruistic behaviour, social connection, and inclusive communities in this exclusive and important RSA event.”

POSTED 16.09.09 BY: paulabbott | Comments (3)

Review of Pete Ward’s Book Participation and Mediation

For those who are involved in leading/developing ecclesial communities out of contextual mission, I have written a review of the above book on my own blog. It is a very important book for those who are committed to such pioneering activity. See here

POSTED 05.07.09 BY: paulabbott | Comments Off on Review of Pete Ward’s Book Participation and Mediation

Review of Pete Ward's Book Participation and Mediation

For those who are involved in leading/developing ecclesial communities out of contextual mission, I have written a review of the above book on my own blog. It is a very important book for those who are committed to such pioneering activity. See here

POSTED 05.07.09 BY: paulabbott | Comments Off on Review of Pete Ward's Book Participation and Mediation

Mission, Process and Argument

I’d like you to watch the above video. It’s important. Not because I agree with it, but because it represents something.

Let me explain – I thought these kind of arguments had been killed and buried at the end of the 80s, but actually they are making a big resurgence. Increasingly as I wade through the internet I find myself embroiled in this sort of debate (I know! I know! I should just close the lid of the laptop and walk away!)
It seems that in the light of the past few years’ worth of military and political activity in Iraq, Afghanistan and so on, for some spirituality has become something to “tackle” as harmless nonsense, and religion as organised dangerous nonsense. I know most readers of this blog would make the distinction between religious and spirituality, but for many people that I come across, they are considered to be two sides of the same coin.

However, in my interactions with these sorts of arguments, I’ve come to realise that both “sides” (myself included) can be guilty of what I’m going to call “bad argument”. These “bad arguments” tend to take a number of forms and I’m going to share what I think are the biggest sins in this area. If we disagree with someone, we disagree with someone. There’s no getting around that. But if we’re going to do so, then missionally it makes sense to do this fairly and without coercion, whilst also recognising when we are being coerced, for the sake of credibility. So here are the definitions of classic bad argument, in no particular order:

Please Note: None of the examples are intended to show any of the points of view presented are wrong, or belittle any religious or political belief. Please concentrate on the structure of the argument rather than the subject matter. I could just have easily have presented a false argument from the opposite position.

You’re an idiot, so you must be wrong (ad hominem)
Where you attack the speaker and not what he’s saying. If someone has to resort to this technique, you’ll often find they haven’t thought through their position very well. This form of argument goes on all the time in political circles.
Eg: “Rowan Wiliams/Richard Dawkins/George Bush is a complete twit, so his argument is completely false.”

The Bible says it’s true, so it must be true (argumentum ad verecundiam )
This is also known as an “appeal to authority” and is very common. Just because a statement supposedly comes from a credible source, doesn’t mean it’s true.

Most of us rely on this one more often than we probably should. We’re unlikely to investigate too thoroughly whether what a doctor says about our health is true, for example. He’s a doctor, so we just assume he’s right.
Because this is such a powerful form of poor argument, it’s often used to trick people into believing something that may be false. Advertisers use scientific terms to sell their products, for example.

You can usually spot someone who’s using this to cover up a weak position by pushing them to provide some evidence other than the authority to back up their claims.

All models are tall, Sally is tall, therefore Sally must be a model (affirming the consequent)
This is when you say an assumption works in both directions, even if there’s no reason to believe so. Just because X means Y, doesn’t mean Y means X, in other words. This can be a very subtle argument to catch out.
Example: “If my business partner was stealing from me, he’d probably buy himself a fancy car. He just bought a Mercedes, so he’s probably stealing from me.”

Evolution says men come from baboons – only an idiot would believe something like that! (straw man)
This is a very common form of poor argument. It involves misrepresenting your opponent’s position, by pretending it’s something that sounds similar but is easy to refute. This is used a lot in political or religious arguments.
Example: “The only reason you want to stop companies offshoring jobs to India is because you’re a racist. No decent person can take such an argument seriously”.

Britney Spears is the most popular singer in the world, so she must be very talented (argumentum ad populum )
This is the appeal to the majority argument. If enough people believe something to be true, then it must be, in other words. The problem is, history is full of examples of sincere majority beliefs eventually being proven false. Just because a lot of people think something, doesn’t make it right.

It’s hot and the crime rate is up – therefore heat causes crime (correlation implies causation )
This is an easy one to catch people out with. Just because two things happen at the same time or in the same place, doesn’t mean there’s any kind of cause and effect going on. It may just be coincidence.
Example: “Every time Frank is on duty in the store something goes missing. That guy must be a thief”.

Killing is wrong, therefore abortion is wrong (petitio principii)
This is a type of circular argument. Basically, it takes the form of putting the proof of your argument into one of the assumptions. The conclusion appears at the beginning and the end of the argument, so nothing of any substance is really created. It basically says X is true, because X is true. It can also take the form X is true because Y is true, and Y is true because X is true.
Example: “Only a loving God could have created such a wonderful world, therefore our world was created by a loving God”.

I have quoted this almost precisely from a great website called Paul’s Tips, and I’m very grateful to that website for such a concise rendering. Please go and check out the many other brilliant things there.

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POSTED 01.07.08 BY: paulabbott | Comments (9)

Affluenza, the new Orthodoxy?

I have had the opportunity for discussion and to hear talks about Affluenza as well as how that relates to people in our community. A number of things concern me about this and the one that concerns me the most is, is Affluenza becoming the new orthodoxy. The reason that it concerns me is that the values that attracted me to moot seem to be increasingly left by the wayside. I left the evangelical church because it lacked the things that I valued most like acceptance, an outlet for ideas as well as affirmation and an inclusion of those that were at different stages of faith than those in the community. I feel that Affluenza perhaps is influencing some community members world view, that the world is an oppressive place and that we are doomed to live a life of soulless money-making repitition unless we adopt the (In my view fairly extreme) lifestyle that Oliver James suggests will fulfill us. I feel that the message being pu across is that unless we actively doing something about social injustice we are active participants in our “oppressive” culture as well as being less than christian. I think we must ask ourselves, who is this message aimed at? also that would we be inclusive of people with wealth, if someone of that background turned up at one of our services, would they be welcome? Anyway I think I have said all I have to say on the matter, but if that changes then you know where to look.

POSTED 09.06.08 BY: paulabbott | Comments (5)


Those of you who know me will have heard me raving about the book “Affluenza” by Oliver James a lot lately.

Affluenza is about how deeply contemporary life in the English speaking world revolves around the notion of what James calls “Selfish Capitalism” – an economic system that is geared towards unhealthy attitudes to money, status and influence, and that affects how we see each other and how we see ourselves. The problem, as James brilliantly defines it, is that the impact on us as human beings is immense in terms of emotional distress – addiction, depression and anxiety.

It affects how we live, how we think about life, how we think about each other, how we divide up our time, what we do with our money, how we raise our kids, our education system, what and when we buy property, etc., etc., He cleverly and incisively shows the reader how the values that we have adopted without thinking are often dictated by these things more than anyone else.

Looking at it as a phenomena that particularly affects the English speaking world, he interviews various people from England, USA, Australia and New Zealand, whilst also interviewing people from different backgrounds to compare and contrast non-English speaking nations that have caught the “Affluenza bug” (Singapore), nations that are well on their way to catching it (Russia and China), and nations that don’t appear to have it at all (Denmark).

I think this is very relevant for us as a community as a topic for discussion (and not just because it would appear statistically that a belief in God is a good way to cope with our overly Selfish Capitalist society).

Whilst I would disagree with James on many things, I believe the book would be an extremely useful diagnostic tool, in helping us to live out the idea of Balance, as expressed in our Rhythm of Life, as well as identifying possible coping mechanisms for depression, addiction and anxiety. This is something that I have observed us as a community (myself in particular) struggling with, and to that end we will be taking Affluenza as a theme for a month in the new term’s programme.

Also, in order to spark discussion I will blog again about this subject, making it a regular series here. If you want to get ahead and follow me, especially as we are going to make the book into a theme as part of our regular meetings, then get a copy through the link to the right of this page (scroll down, just below “Friends of Moot” section – buying it through us helps moot because a proportion of the cost goes to help fund moot’s work.

Enjoy reading…

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POSTED 26.03.08 BY: paulabbott | Comments Off on Affluenza

Google Earth Bible

A bunch of Australian artists, The Glue Society, have developed a set of google earth like images based on the Bible: Adam and Eve sunbathe in the Garden of Eden, Noah’s ark is washed up on some rocks, Moses and company cross the Red Sea and Christ is crucified. [Go to work/new/miami art fair on the link]

The aerial viewpoint has become common place with satellite and Earth from the Air imagery. It sees the world from a distant place, observing often beautiful patterns, form and rhythm that our limited ground level viewpoint never reveals. Somehow it is also rather humbling. People appear as little specks on the surface of a huge planet. The viewpoint is often termed a birds eye view.

The first three images I could take or leave, they’re amusing and curious, but the final one, the crucifixion, unnerves me. Assuming the stereotype that God is ‘up there’, somewhere seeing the google birds eye view, then Christ comes to us as a fellow speck, a small bunch of pixels on a vast image.

[Thanks to BLDGBLOG for the link.]

POSTED 19.12.07 BY: paulabbott | Comments Off on Google Earth Bible