Dion's random ramblings

Monday, February 04, 2008

Does religion REALLY matter!? A debate on blasphemy between Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens

The story at the end of this post gave me some cause for concern. It was Arcbishop Desmond Tutu who once commented that the problem with us 'religious' types is that we tend to give answers to questions that people aren't asking!

Heck, I have certainly been in a few service where I heard someone preach and asked the question "now what the heck was that about!?" Yup, it is a sad reality of 'naval gazing', we do tend to get so caught up in our own worlds that we forget that there are 'other worlds' out there that on a completely different track!

Of course, as I think about it, the very best of Church leaders, and Christ followers, are those who bring God's love, grace, justice, and mercy to bear on the real concerns and struggles of secular humanity. It's not that secular society sets our pace (as if our pace is something truly different from what the rest of the world is having to deal with). Rather, it is that [and here's the bit that may surprise some of us Christians] God actually cares MORE about the needs and concerns of the world than God may care about the Church!!!! (for those who need to proof text this idea please see Jesus own parable of the lost sheep - , Matthew 18:12-14 and Luke 15:3-7 , Jesus leaves the 99 'found' sheep to go and find the one 'lost' sheep).

Yes, it just may be that God is more concerned about starving children, abusive systems of government, people who are dying of diseases that are treatable because they cannot afford medicine... And a myriad of other concerns. And, that God is less concerned about whether gay people are allowed in Church, and whether only men should preach..... Sadly, some of the most VOCAL 'answerers' in the Church are also those who embarrass us most... Take a look at this guy... Parking his Christian construction company truck outside the adult bookstore, I wonder what Adult, XXX, porn DVD he wanted to view (of course as a source to inform his prayers...) ... Mmmmm.... Sad really.

Brian Mclaren tells of a magnificent realization that he encountered when leading a Youth camp. He was asked to lead a camp for a group of evangelical youth... They expected him to deliver a 'pep rally' of feel good messages... However, what he did was he got them to work in groups and list some of the world's major crises, struggles, and problems on large pieces of paper.... Then he got them to list the things that THEIR Church of faith community was most concerned about.

Amazingly he discovered that they teens had an awareness of things like global hunger, human rights abuses, inequity in global economics, the effects of consumerism on the environment, the devastation of dissease... (the list goes one). Yet, when they listed the concerns that occupied their Church's agenda it had to do with things such as what type of Music God preferred (hymns or contemporary music - as if God has a preferential taste!) Their Church was concerned about fellowship meetings and Church growth...

Mclaren asks the question 'which church would you rather have your children belong to? The Church that seeks to address what the world most needs, or the Church that is simply looking after itself and its own innane concerns?' [this is a rough summary by the way, so please don't quote him on this!]

Well, I can tell you which Church I long to belong to! I want to belong to a Church that answers the questions that the world is asking... NOT because the world should set the Church's agenda BUT BECAUSE the world IS GOD'S agenda, and so should be the agenda of the Church...

Does that make sense!?

Anyway, what got me thinking about this was a rather offensive, and telling debate, between two prominent public figures on blasphemy (please be warned that this contains profanity). However, their need to become to vile, beligerent, and dismissive of religion (and to tackle the subject of blasphemy) my just be because WE ARE SO BLASPHEMOUS! We blaspheme against the God who cares about the world and its needs when we get so caught up on our own little agendas...

Here's the story:

Listen to Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens debating blasphemy at last year?s Guardian Hay Festival - blogs.guardian.co.uk: One of the most talked-about events at last year?s Guardian Hay Festival was the Blasphemy Debate, chaired by Joan Bakewell and inspired by the Incitement to Religious Hatred Bill, which had been announced in the Queen?s Speech the previous month. The speakers at the debate were the actor and writer Stephen Fry and the journalist Christopher Hitchens, and their frequently heated discussion covered issues of freedom of speech, religious tolerance, multiculturalism and orthodoxy. It was a fascinating, though-provoking and - as you?d expect from two such consummate orators - extremely entertaining event, and as a warm-up to this year?s Hay Festival, the good people at Radio Hay, the festival?s online broadcaster, have kindly allowed us to offer you the chance to hear it for yourself. Click here to listen to the debate on your computer (MP3; 78mins).

Warning! coarse language.

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