Where Are We Now?

 Where are we now?

VALUES

Many people do not understand that spending a heritage is like draining capital; in this case it is cultural capital

Many do not understand that our UK cultural capital has been laid down over many centuries via strong Judeo-Christian emphasis; that does not mean that I believe we have ever been a ‘Christian country’ whatever that means.  But we have inculcated values that help us live, keep us safe, make us generous and help us to treat each other with respect and dignity.

Each time a bit of the law of the land reverses that cultural capital, or erodes it by practice it makes many things harder for all of us.  In what way you might ask, well in very practical ways, for example:

  • The pressure to keep married if you are married

ILL: as someone said on Radio 4 question time recently, we have dismantled the family and replaced it with the welfare state and it really isn’t working.

  • The pressure to stay sexually healthy
  • The pressure to benefit your children with a stable home and good role models both male and female
  • The pressure to stay financially solvent
  • The pressure to care for the stranger who comes into our country
  • The pressure to work and care for others

 

We need to understand that these values are in the culture, and actually they did not appear from nowhere.

ILL: Recently I was in a government think tank environment and we were asked to come up with ways that OFSTEAD inspectors could judge if a school is working well ‘morally’; OFSTEAD are required to inspect a school on that subject by UK law.  We were told we couldn’t change the law, but we could advise best way forward.

My problem straight away was how do you get a moral base unless you have a moral giver or to put it another way a law giver.  In my group were Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Hindus, Roman Catholics and some from ACE Christian schools, oh yes and one humanist.  All agreed moral imperatives don’t come from nowhere, all except that is the humanist.  I asked him why is it that Britain is often so generous to other countries who are far away but who are going through natural disasters like earthquakes, or famine or floods.  Why is it the British are actually very good givers, yet there are other nations who are as rich as we are if not richer yet they see no need to help, his response was, ‘well that’s their problem we have ours.’

The humanist argued with all those who expressed any kind of faith saying to me, we are generous because we used to be a colonial power!   Hang on a minute I thought colonialism was, to a great extent, about getting what we could from others, or did I miss something.

Yes I know it was about trade, and also Christians went along to share the message of good news, but there was a lot of exploitation too. In the end I said to the humanist, I am so glad you disagree with me, (he did on every subject), and he looked puzzled and asked why.  I said well if you agreed with me I would think I must be wrong!

People of a faith may disagree on a lot of things, but they know one thing and that is moral prerogatives do not come from inside mankind; rather it comes from another source.  Each time the culture takes its own supposedly amoral direction, but more often than not, immoral direction then we have squandered a little more of our culture value capital, and in the end we are broke, morally, and that’s worse than having an economic downturn or financial cut backs or being  financially broke.

STRATEGY

I worry about those who think there is no strategy to people of the way, or that we do not need one. I am sure we do, but not one that hems us in, or turns us into ‘religious’ people or that becomes humanised, corporate, institutionalised and fixed. We need that Celtic wild goose experience that is God led, and let me tell you He has a strategy.

 Why do you think that in the early first century people like Paul set their face toward Rome, it was a lot more than the tourist in him, he new that Rome then was influential and he want to influence.  Why does Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem, he is determined to go there, scripture says it was the plan, it was the Fathers strategy for rescue.

So what is our strategy?  It ought to be to influence, to be salt, to be light.  Not to attack, notice Paul starts at the point where people are, he circumcises John Mark, because he believes that he should be so, not because he was willing to go in that direction but to enable others to hear him.

On Mars Hill, he starts where the people are. He says ‘I see you have an alter to the unknown God, I have come to show you him!’  Does he start by quoting scripture at them no; rather he says, ‘your poets have said….’  Our strategy must not be condemnation, but friendship and cooperation without letting go of who we are and what we hold dear.

How many Muslim, Hindu or Sikh friends do you have? You need them. If you haven’t got any then go and find some, understand them, understand their culture, understand their ways, not for false compromise but because scripture says that he that who wins people is wise, very wise.

One of the frightening things that we do is to dehumanise people, we do this by giving humans strange names that make them less than human which then enables us to treat them as other than wonderful beings made in the Image of God. I noted in the Northern Island troubles that Catholics would refer to Protestants as Prods and the Protestants would refer to the Catholics as Papists, both in a sense dehumanising each other so it’s almost as if, when you kill them you are not killing a human being. And also like phrases used in war: ‘body count’  or ‘civilian collateral damage’ for those phrases read ‘dead people’, or worse still mothers, sons,  fathers, daughters; that changes our perception, do not dehumanise people they are people whom God loves.

 VISION

What will it look like?

Do we know what we are looking for – personally I want to be obedient to the command to ‘seek first the Kingdom of God’ and if we are seeking it we should have some idea what it will look like when we find it.

‘Our Father which art in Heaven, your Kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Peace, righteousness, justice, wholeness, let’s find it, Let us be the salt / influence that brings it to earth. Let us be a light that shows the way.  You cannot do that without being involved in the culture, changing it, seeking the Kingdom in it, in the areas that make and mould the culture education, arts and media, politics, business. And you can’t do any of that without getting your hands dirty and being involved and that means touching all the people not just the ones that you perceive are nice enough to become Christians; whatever that means.

 

 

 

Newcastle on Tyne 22nd October 2010

Adrian Blog

www.adrianhawkes.co.uk

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To structure or not to structure, that is the question

To structure or not to structure, that is the question

The people I mix with have got somewhat bored with, and no longer wish to think about or discuss church structure. That’s rather a shame as I believe it’s important and perhaps seminal to the current time and the cultural collapse.

If pressed into a debate they say that it doesn’t matter what form of ecclesiology the ‘local’ church takes as long as we love God. The problem I have with this train of thought, the sentiment of which I understand, is that tradition and form often has a huge molding effect on our thinking and thus our actions. And as we know, wrong thinking leads to wrong actions, and wrong principals to wrong values.

There are also those who constantly plead for a return to New Testament church practice, as if we know precisely how it was organised, and even if we did, are we going to avoid development and live in the past? A problem with this debate is that they don’t distinguish donkeys from Daimlers or a slave based structure from a democratic society. They also seem to overlook the problems experienced by the early church and its practices, much of the New Testament was written to correct such practices and problems.

As I often say to theology students, beavering away on their degrees, with ambitions to take up positions overseeing a local community following their graduation. ‘Hmmm… not quite sure your ideas would work out too smoothly in a church in ancient Corinth; I don’t think I would want to be a leader sorting out those crazy values.’ But idealistic students do tend to have this rosy view of what church life is like, and have very black and white answers on how to deal ‘theologically correctly’ with problems.

So we have this rejection of structure, and as I have stated above, I do have sympathy for this point of view when I see what some ‘structured churches’ are like, or what I would call organised religion, but I don’t believe it’s the structure that is at fault. As human beings we need structure and regularity in our lives even if it is only to remember a basic requirement like cleaning our teeth each day.

If you look at history in general and church history in particular you can see how it ebbs and flows, there will come a time of refreshment, increased knowledge of God, a renewing of horizontal and vertical relationships but then gradually man takes over and it solidifies, stultifies, settles and secularises. This says more about our sinful nature that seeks money, power and sex, than about the structure. Ultimately we can even end up allowing God’s power to corrupt us so that we rule and lord it over people, bringing them under our control rather than into God’s love and freedom. Eventually the organisation or denomination takes on a life of its own, often far removed from Godly values. Power rules and people ask the legitimate question ‘is this how a simple follower of Jesus would act?’

We need to remember the foundational building block which is, Jesus said, ‘I will build my church.’ Perhaps we think that as he has gone away that we should now take up the baton, and when we do that, what a mess we make. This is because we confuse the ‘church’ with the ‘kingdom’. God told us to seek the kingdom and he will build the church. The church is not the kingdom and the kingdom is not the church. The church should be seeking the kingdom, which is so much bigger than the church. We get sidetracked building the church, when actually we should be seeking the kingdom.

The challenge therefore is to be kingdom-minded; here are a couple of quotations which you may find helpful as you take up this challenge;

“The church gets into trouble whenever it thinks it is in the church business rather than the Kingdom business. In the church business, people are concerned with church activities, religious behavior and spiritual things. In the Kingdom business, people are concerned with Kingdom activities, all human behavior and everything God has made, visible and invisible. Church people think about how to get people into the church, kingdom people think about how to get the kingdom into the world.
Church people worry that the world might change the church, Kingdom people work to see the church change the world!” Howard Snyder.

“The Kingdom is a dynamic greater than the church. If you pursue the church you won’t find the Kingdom, but if you pursue the Kingdom you will find the church.” Simon Markham.

Adrian Hawkes
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My Pope Stories

My Pope stories…..

I have lots of stories about my wife, her antics are a mine of interest and humor, let me share a couple with you.

Story one  – Who is he

 Some years ago I had a friend, let’s call him Scott (not his real name), he was South African.  When we were in South Africa we stayed at his home and consequently got to know him well.  He even used to lend me his car so that we could explore the country.  Some years later my rather famous friend was appointed as a special representative to the Vatican, speaking on behalf of his religious denomination.

As Scott was attending many meetings in Rome on behalf of his denomination it became very newsworthy, and one day, on the front cover of an international magazine, a photograph was published of Scott with the man who was Pope at the time; inside was a large spread all about the work he was doing.

My wife and I and a group of friends were in central London and we walked past a newsagents; the window display was of this same magazine, along with the photograph of Scott and the Pope.  Pauline scrutinised the picture, then turned to our friends to say, ‘We know him, that’s our friend Scott, but who is that man with him, the one in the funny dress?’

Story two  Ignorance is bliss

A couple of years ago my wife kindly treated me to a trip to Rome as part of my birthday celebrations.  If you a doing the sights in Rome, you must, or course, visit the tiny nearby country called ‘Vatican City’ which, as it happens, is the smallest country in the world. We wandered around taking in the sights and sounds and inspected the Swiss Guard.  Pauline noticed that there was a meeting of some kind taking place in the chapel.

She was keen to go in, I was not, but as she had treated me to this trip I thought it best to tag along.  It was obviously some sort of celebratory mass, not that I understand much about Catholic ecclesiology. There was a crowd of people at the front of the chapel and we watched as a procession of men moved down the isle, one of them had on a very large pointed had.  Pauline asked ‘Is that the Pope?’ ‘No,’ I replied, ‘but he might be one day; I think he’s an archbishop judging by the special hat.’

We found a couple of empty seats and sat down.  Pauline then decided that if they were doing communion then she was going to join in at the front.  I told her, ‘it’s for Catholics’, but she was having none of it, saying ‘I follow Jesus so I’m sure I must be included.’ She headed off to the front.  I sat tight.

There was a large multi-national crowd at the front, the man in the big hat was moving along the rows of people with a container of wafers, which he was placing on outstretched tongues.  As he placed each one he said, ‘bless you my child’.  Pauline wanted to return the favour, so she put her hand on him in order that she could bless him back. In a trice, the plain clothes security squad was at his side, to protect him from perceived danger.

Once the members of the crowd had received communion they began returning to their seats, whereupon I found that Catholic love and grace does not extend to someone who has pinched their seat, I was swiftly ejected from my perch, and was made to feel I had committed a heinous crime.  I managed to squeeze in at the end of the row just as Pauline returned.  The procession now weaved it’s way out of the chapel and Pauline noticed that the man in the big hat was waving at her (or so she thought, he was, in fact, pronouncing a blessing on the assembled crowd) and she began waving back frantically at her new found friend.

I perceived rapid, shadowy movements out of the corner of my eye, so I put my hand in the small of her back, began propelling her to the exit and hissed, ‘It’s time to leave, NOW!” before it’s too late and the plain clothes security squad arrested you as a trouble-maker.

Adrian Hawkes

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Getting Your Hair Done!

Getting your hair done

Black people in my church community, well to be more specific, the black girls, tell me that I need to understand that getting their hair done is:

• Expensive

• Takes a very long time to do

For years I took this on board as fact and sympathised with the money they shelled out and the hours they spent sitting in the hairdressers. One morning I woke up and thought, ‘today I’m going test this fact out, I’m going to take my white man’s hair to a black hairdressers.’

Lunch time came around and I left the office and headed to the local black hair salon. Now I must confess that it was a ladies salon, but that did not seem to bother the hair stylist when I popped my head round the door and asked, ‘can you fit me in for a haircut?’ ‘Yes darling, come in and take a seat,’ was the willing reply.

It was 1pm

I was ushered to a seat by the basin and my hair was washed quite quickly, then, with a towel wrapped round my head I was offered tea; then cake and other goodies appeared and after quite some time I was placed in a chair in front of the stylist who began to scrutinise my hair. She pulled it this way, and then that way, and then back to how it had been, and then it started all over again. All the while chatting away and telling me the local news, the music soothed me, and the cutting and styling went on. And on and on. And on. Eventually it was done, and done very well I must admit. The cost was not that high considering all the food and drink and time spent based on an hourly rate. Being of the male species I’m not sure I want to spend so much time on getting my hair done, I gave her a generous tip and went on my way.

It was 5pm.

Now, when the girls say, we are black and our hair takes time and money. I reply, ‘You can’t kid me, I know all about your hairdressers!’

Adrian Hawkes
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Strange Story

Strange story

Some years ago I was invited to speak at a church meeting. My theme was ‘getting involved’, Pauline was with me and she also spoke along similar lines, emphasising the need for people who call themselves Christian to ‘get their hands dirty’ and care for God’s world. James 1:27 (NIV) tells us, ‘religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself from being polluted by the world.’ I spoke about the shortage of foster carers in England and Wales, another 10,000 are needed. The people in this community responded in a positive way, and quite a few became foster carers and adoptive parents. 10 years on it’s encouraging to see the fine results that those people have achieved.

I got to know one couple very well, and when I went to visit them I was struck by how small their house was compared to how large was their willingness to get involved. I said, ‘you need more room!’ We sat down and looked through their finances, and they said they couldn’t afford a bigger house. I am an eternal optimist when it comes to such things and so I said, ‘I think you can, but that’s just my optimism, let me send you a financial advisor to see if he agrees with me.’ They agreed and my financial advisor went to see them and came to the same conclusion as me, he even arranged a mortgage for them. All that was needed now was to find the right house and sell their small house. Eventually they found a house and when we saw it we were staggered by the size and the extensive land that surrounded it. The price was a stretch for their finances, but after we had prayed together it seemed that this was the right place and would help this couple to achieve all that was in their heart.

Offers were made and accepted, their small home sold quickly and we were just getting ready for celebrations when there was a twist in the tail. I received a tearful phone call from the couple telling me that their house was sold, the contract signed, moving in date arranged, but the large house they wanted to buy was no longer available, the seller had called them to say he was removing it from the market. Instead of celebrations, commiserations; instead a large house, homelessness. No wonder there were tears and prayer requests.

The next few months were very tough, the couple and their permanent lodger moved in with a relative who had a house almost as small as the one they had sold, they were living a nightmare and didn’t know what to do next. Then one day the wife did something very weird and even to this day she has no idea why she did it.

Her husband cycled to work every day, and she strapped a large sack of salt to the back of the bike, her husband assumed that it was to help him to keep fit, as he was having to push those peddles very hard to propel himself and the huge sack of salt. (It was impressed on me how enormous the sack was). At the time she said she had read in the bible somewhere that people who are followers of Jesus should be salt in his world. A rather mumbo-jumbo interpretation of that concept, but because things were so difficult and stressful at the time, the husband decided to humour his wife and kept on cycling every day, with the sack of salt in tow.

The months went by and then I received another phone call, the wife told me she thought she had heard God speak to her, she thought he told her to take the sack of salt that her husband had been towing around on his bike, go to the house that they had wanted to buy and pour the salt all around the house (outside the property boundaries of course!). To avoid people thinking she was a ‘nutter’ she and her husband drove to the house at around 1:00 am and quickly poured the salt out as they thought God had said they should. The next morning they received a phone call from the owner of the house saying he had decided to put the house back on the market and were they still interested, if they were they could have it at the price they originally agreed. With joy in her voice she told me, ‘He wanted it to happen quickly, we signed the same day and we are moving in.”

I told you it was a strange story, how can anyone explain that! I went to the house warming celebrations, and over the years joyfully watched their many adopted children growing up in a warm, loving and nurturing environment. This story remains a mystery to me, I don’t begin to understand the ramifications, I only know that sometimes when we are a ‘follower of the way’ God asks us to do strange things, and we do well to obey his instructions. I don’t think that gives us an excuse to be weird and off-the-wall, I think perhaps there are enough people around who are like that without you and me joining them. But the moral of the story is how good and pleasant it is when a follower of God is obedient to His request.

Adrian L Hawkes
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Faith Schools

Faith Schools

I note that the atheist religious evangelist Richard Dawkins in on Channel 4 again complaining about faith schools and telling us in superior and somewhat condescending tones about how divisive they are to the community.

I also note that in these presentations and debates there are underlying assumptions that are never mentioned, and I therefore suppose do not exist, at least that is the conclusion to which I am expected to be drawn.

But think about it for a moment, not about the premise of whether Richard Dawkins might be right or wrong, but consider what he does not tell us in his programme, or does not allow us to ask. He simply makes the bold statement, ‘faith schools cause community division’, as if that is the root cause of all division.

Where I live, post codes cause community division; there are young people I know that won’t move from one post code area to another as they fear they will be beaten up.

Then there are people who live in ‘posh areas’, who divide themselves from those live in the ‘not so posh’ areas. Is that community division?

I did not go to a faith school, I went to an ordinary secondary school, we wore green blazers, the school up the road wore red blazers, and the two groups had fights and divided the community. There are many things that divide communities, money, housing, blazers, music, clothes, skin colour, accent, language, post codes, and I’m sure you could add to my list. Whilst it suits Mr. Dawkins spurious agenda to highlight faith schools as divisive, the division of community is a deep and complex problem, and his opposition to faith schools is, or course, deeper and more complex. If his proposed atheist schools go ahead, will they be divisive?

During his Channel 4 programme he states, ‘these faith schools indoctrinate children’. He makes it sound like a wicked thing, to indoctrinate children. It is implied that we have no right to give children a view on the world, to tell them things are right or wrong. The manner in which he says it leaves us with the impression that we have all agreed that indoctrinating children is wrong.

On the subject of indoctrination, which I have thought about a lot because people like Mr. Dawkins would always accuse me of doing it, are you really convinced that non faith schools don’t indoctrinate children, about anything? That all teachers have no world view, no opinions, and pass on to the children pure, unadulterated, unbiased teaching on every subject. Please! Whatever areas children are exposed to there will always be an element of indoctrination, it’s unavoidable, and none of us have the privilege of a totally blank sheet.

In schools you often hear the phrase ‘the hidden curriculum’ this refers to things that are not written down, they are not in the year plan, not on the lesson plans, not in the text books but nevertheless are real and apply to the ethos, values and world view of the staff and administration, and will be evident and filtered down to the children.

I’ll give you a couple of examples, these are from my own experience with my own children, from two of their schools, and both were English grammar exercises, with the request to ‘re-write this sentence correcting grammar, spelling and punctuation.’

Sentence one – jesus went around doing good and healing the sick in irael for around 3 years.

Sentence two – when i got home from school i found my boyfriend john in bed with another girl

No hidden curriculum there then, and no indoctrination.

In my opinion, Richard Dawkins is a religious atheistic fundamentalist, and he wants to indoctrinate us all to his point of view. I strongly believe that he should have the right to try, but I know from my email post bag that there are those who share his view, who if they had the power, would not want to extend that right to me, they would, as one of them put it, ‘silence me’ if they could. I wonder why they do not want me to have the same right to speak out and indoctrinate and influence as they would want for themselves, and I, of course, want them to retain.

Adrian Hawkes
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20th August 2010
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Asking the Wrong Questions

Asking the wrong questions

When you ask the wrong question of course you will not get the right answer.

How can the question be wrong, I hear you say.  Sometimes people just don’t think; let me show you what I mean.

London Evening Standard Tuesday 27th July 2010 P ippa Crerar says ‘I don’t want to find God to find a good school’.   It is, perhaps, a rhetorical question, and she goes on to say she doesn’t want to go to church to get her child into a good school, but she is obviously worried about the local schooling.

Here is a question that she doesn’t ask, and maybe she should, ‘Why are Christian schools or church schools better than the others?’  Answers could include; selection, size, and parental involvement.

Here however are some other answers, things that perhaps we don’t so easily come up with in our sound-bite, cynical age. How about a comprehensive world view, an understanding of a moral base, an insight into good and evil, an awareness of the essentials of not just ‘knowledge’ but ‘character’ and even more than that ‘wisdom’, where does that come from?

Interestingly, plans to set up atheist schools in the United Kingdom could soon be given the green light by the British government, or so it seems according to a report by Assist News July 29th 2010. It says:

Education Secretary Michael Gove says he is open to the idea as part of reforms to his department.

The move comes after high profile anti-faith campaigner Professor Richard Dawkins suggested the idea, Premier Radio said. Ann Widdecombe, the Former Home Secretary who is also a believer, “said it is not something that should be opposed.”

She told Premier Radio: “If you can set up faith schools, then I think quite obviously you must also be allowed to set up a school that will cater for people whose parents are bringing them up specifically to have no faith.”

Widdecombe added: “I think it is a great pity if somebody is brought up that way, but our job is to win those people over, not to look to the law to do it for us.”

It is interesting to think of atheists setting up schools, I am not aware of many hospitals, orphanages, opposition to injustice groups that they have set up so far.  Perhaps they do not understand the nature of thought, what we think is ultimately how we act, if I think I am an animal does it surprise anyone that I might act like one.  If I think there is no point to life, why should I care, why should I not be depressed and suicidal?  If I think it’s just all mechanical like one great machine, why not treat my fellow human beings like a cog in the wheel.  On the other hand if I think there is a law-giver, an ultimate reckoning day, and a purpose to my being here that will affect my thinking and my dealings with the rest of humanity.

John Newton, the famous reformed slave trader, preacher and hymn writer and of fairly recent film fame, captured the elemental truths of transformation when he penned “Amazing Grace.”  The International teacher and author, Ravi Zacharias (www.rzim.org) hits the nail on the head when he describes man as “lost and dead.” He explained, “Jesus did not come to make bad people good; He came to make DEAD people LIVE.”
I have met modern people like John Newton, I have a friend who was once a rebel fighter, he could list all the women, children and men he had killed, when I met him I thought he was a mad man.  Then he found God, bit of an easy cliché to say that, but when you see a messy life changed, new thinking found and actually death into life discovered you know the difference. The cynic and atheist can say all that they like, but I say, show me!   When you see their new concern for others, good citizenship, and a life that is progressive and enriched you know something special has taken place, there is this new passion for the life they now have.
Richard Dawkins said to me that he was more moral than me as I needed a God not to pillage and rape, kill and burn, murder and so on.   My answer was “good for you; you need to watch the news more.”
So maybe Pippa Crerar in her future journalism could ask some more questions as to why these schools that have God seem to have better education.  Ask the right questions!

Adrian Hawkes

For Adrian’s Blog

30th July 2010

Editor : A. Brookes

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