An open letter to moderate, peace-loving Muslims

An open letter to moderate, peace-loving Muslims

Dear moderate, peace-loving Muslims, I know every time there is a major Islamic-inspired terrorist incident you’re called on by angry radio hosts and newscasters to renounce all violence and condemn the perpetrators. And every time this happens your imams and muftis release such statements and appear before the cameras reading them to us. But I’m not writing to demand a similar condemnation from you. I already know you want to practice your religion in peace and leave me to practice mine as well. I know you are as horrified by the recent acts of slaughter in England, Egypt and Indonesia as I am. I know you want extremists to stop bringing dishonour upon Islam and attracting global revulsion toward your religion. I know you wish it would all end. But in case you think the whole world sees Islam as nothing but a hotbed of religious fanaticism and violence, I want you to know, that even though many of us won’t admit it, Christians have a very unhealthy relationship with violence too. We have tried to rule the world with a Bible in one hand and a sword in the other. We’ve fallen to the seductive temptations of violence, authority and control many times. We are addicted to the myth of redemptive violence. And I don’t have to go all the

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Blaming Islam is just too easy

Blaming Islam is just too easy

In the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing I’m seeing a lot of commentators demanding we call a spade a spade and identify Islam as the global problem of our time. Several of them claim we’ve been pandering to Muslim extremists by downplaying the danger they represent. Enough of all this political correctness, they say, we should be bold enough to use the words “Islam” and “terrorism” in the same sentence. In fact, they say, by refusing to lay responsibility for global terrorism firmly at the feet of Islam we’re setting ourselves up as sitting ducks. One columnist, Miranda Devine started her piece this way: “We can’t keep our children safe. Every concert, every train ride, every walk across a bridge, every gap year trip to Europe, every cafe visit is fraught with fear. And that is exactly how the Muslim fanatics want it, the inadequate, baselessly arrogant fans of Islamic State with hearts full of scorn and hatred for the free societies which have taken their families in, nurtured them, and offered them every freedom. They kill our children on purpose. They maim deliberately with nail bombs to rip through soft flesh, mutilate pretty faces, butcher young limbs.” Phew! Aside from the misinformation about the likelihood of death by terror attack (you’re more likely to die of the flu

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We don’t need another hero

We don’t need another hero

First up, this isn’t an anti-Trump post. It’s an anti-Marvel one. I want to escape the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And I’m not being ironic, they actually call it that. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a creation of Marvel Studios, which has been churning out superhero films since 2007, racking up 15 so far, every one of them exactly the same as the last. In the past year alone we’ve had new Marvel franchises like Guardians of the Galaxy, Dr Strange, and Deadpool, as well as being treated to retreads like X-Men 9, Wolverine 3, and Captain America 3. And they have 11 more in various stages of production, including Thor 3, Avengers 3, the newbie Black Panther, and the third Spider-Man reboot (or 6th film if you’re counting). Hey, I’m not judging you if you like these pictures, but does the world really need another Spider-Man movie??   In the Marvel Cinematic Universe superheroes of various shapes and sizes, from Hulk down to that raccoon character in GOTG, rip and tear the world to pieces as they fight aliens, villains, gods, and mad scientists at every turn. They even fight each other. There are two main reasons I want to escape (not counting the fact that all these films share the same basic plot). Firstly, none of them contain a skerrick of actual

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Break the rules like an artist

Break the rules like an artist

Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist. – Pablo Picasso   Vincent Van Gogh is widely known today as a typically eccentric artist. He might not have invented Impressionism, but he was the first to paint stars swirling uncontrollably in the night sky, or to depict sunflowers as golden explosions, or the sky on fire above a wheatfield. His pictures were vivid, wild, daring, chaotic, full of bright yellows and deep blues. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and be surrounded by a room full of his work – Sunflowers, Irises, Almond Blossom, The Bedroom and Potato Eaters – you’ll know the powerful visceral effect it can have. And yet, if you go to the 2nd floor to the “Van Gogh Close Up” exhibit you’ll find scores of meticulous drawings of hands and feet made by Vincent when he was beginning to learn art. And then it dawns on you – Vincent didn’t simply pick up a brush and start painting A Starry Night. He took boring art classes. He submitted himself to the slow discipline of learning his craft. I remember my father moaning about modern art and saying anyone could paint like Picasso (“It’s just cubes”) or Pollock (“You just splash paint on

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The ferocious motherly love of God

The ferocious motherly love of God

I spent my first Mother’s Day as a motherless child this year. My dear old mother passed away in November last year and I wasn’t sure if Mother’s Day celebrations would affect me or not. I braced myself for the onslaught of cheesy quotes about the wonders of mothering in my social media newsfeeds. I blanched when one ministry friend (who should have known better) posted on Facebook, “Don’t forget to text your mum for Mother’s Day,” to which came the sad reply from another friend, “Not able to. Texts don’t go to heaven”. Bless. Sure enough, my feed was full of pictures of flowers and syrupy quotes. But then I got a note from the minister of our church. In the mail. Delivered to the letterbox outside my house. Remember those? He wrote to acknowledge that this would be my first Mother’s Day without my Ma and to say he was thinking of me and that he hoped I would be comforted by “the ferocious motherly love of God” at this time. Wait, what? The ferocious motherly love of God? I’m in no doubt that the Bible uses mothering metaphors to describe God as well as fathering ones. God is described as a nursing mother (Isa 49:15; Num 11:12), a midwife (Ps 22:8-10), and as one who gives birth

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Go ahead, Stephen Fry, take your best blaspheming shot

Go ahead, Stephen Fry, take your best blaspheming shot

In 2015, British comic and television personality, Stephen Fry appeared on an Irish chat show and referred to God as ‘capricious, mean-minded and stupid’. You might have seen it being shared on social media. The host Gay Byrne asked Fry what he would say to God after he died and appeared at the pearly gates. Stephen Fry replied that he’d tell the Almighty, ‘How dare you create a world in which there is such misery. It’s not our fault. It’s not right. It’s utterly, utterly evil’. Things went sour this month when a complaint was made to the Irish police that Fry had broken the country’s Defamation Act of 2009, which makes it illegal to publish or utter blasphemous material. That’s right. It’s 2017 and a famous television personality was being charged with blasphemy.   It turns out everyone in Ireland is embarrassed by their blasphemy law, so much so there are calls to repeal it, including from the church. No one has ever actually had to face criminal prosecution for breaking the law and it’s assumed Mr Fry won’t either. That didn’t stop the publicity hungry atheist Richard Dawkins, in a show of solidarity with Mr Fry, from announcing he’d be giving a public lecture in Dublin in June and would “be available for arrest on a charge of blasphemy.” He

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