Thursday, October 30, 2008

Priorities

Is anyone else really hacked-off that the top story for at least a day this week was comic radio presenters doing the kind of thing they do all the time, when a possibly historic and progressive piece of climate change legislation was being debated in Parliament, that I didn't see reported anywhere.

I listened to the Russel Brand thing and honestly can't see what the fuss is about, but whatever your opinion, how the hell can it possibly be justified as a top story on the news? There's a whole lot of other stuff going on in the world.

Annoyed of Bolton.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Does Christianity only attract a certain type of person?

When I was at Greenbelt this summer I decided to go along to the free speed dating evening run by a Christian dating website. When I got home I received emails inviting me to join their website. I did join for the free trial, but didn't pay to become a member.

At the speed dating and on the website I didn't come across anyone I was remotely interested in. One of the reasons for this is that I found all those folks just too.... Christian.

And now I have to explore what I mean by that. I suppose I really mean Evangelical Christian. But it's still worth exploring what I mean a bit more.

It's difficult to express it, but a lot of Evangelicals seem to me to have a certain sort of personality. It's difficult to say without sounding insulting, but I find Evangelicals (in general) to be somehow simplistic, naive, timid and without a sense of humour.

This could sound just like prejudice, and it's quite possible I can see the splinter in my neighbour's eye more than I can see the log in my own, but I am convinced I'm on to something.

What else convinces me is missionary-type work that I do. Whenever I have a chat with non-church-goers I find their attitude and personality to be very different to church-people, and not in a way that reflects well on church-people. Sometimes non-Christians to me seem much more self-confident, self-assured, honest, blunt people, and I find that refreshing to be honest.

Is it possible that the type of evangelism that the church engages in in the west says something like this - "if you're feeling overwhelmed with guilt, or fear, or confusion, then come to Jesus who can help ya'll with all that stuff." And so people who do feel consumed by guilt or fear do come to Christianity and get something from it. But what about all those people who don't feel overwhelmed with guilt and fear, who are more confident in their own abilities and life. The way Christianity is presented to them, they don't see the need for it for themselves.

Is the whole theology of Christian evangelism in the west geared only towards a certain personality-type? If so, what theology needs re-thinking to engage with all types of people?

I'm not sure how the liberal church fits in with this. Again, I think it's easier for me to see this working in a tradition that's not mine. Perhaps those people who go into the liberal church are very individualistic idiosyncratic types who nevertheless somehow want to join communities. Still, I think we're only attracting certain types too.

There's a lot of talk in mission about adapting to different cultures, but what about adapting to different personality-types? What does mission look like when we try to do that?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

EC candidates revealed

It's been confirmed that the following people are running for election for the Unitarian Executive Committee, for the term beginning April 2009:

Joan Cook -- St Mark’s Unitarian Church, Edinburgh, Scotland

Jim Corrigall -- Golders Green Unitarians

Elisabeth (Lis) Dyson-Jones – South East Wales Unitarian Society

Dot Hewerdine – Chorley Unitarian Chapel

Andrew Pakula – Newington Green Unitarian Church

The Rev Dr Ann Peart – Cross Street Chapel, Manchester

Louise Rogers – Newcastle under Lyme Unitarian Meeting House

Sir Peter Soulsby – Great Meeting Unitarian Chapel, Leicester

Alison Thursfield – Midland Union of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches

The Rev Dr David Usher – London District and South Eastern Provincial Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches

Howard Wilkins – Hinckley Great Meeting Unitarian Chapel

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Biblical Unitarians

Have you heard about these biblical Unitarians? Like me, you may have seen their adverts on Amazon and if you google searched for something Unitarian. Which in itself, suggests there's some money behind this.

I sometimes call myself an evangelical Unitarian, but it's a very different kind of evangelical Unitarianism than these folks. I watched this video (all two hours of it) yesterday with half an eye while I was constructing a sofa bed.

Video

Now, there's much I can agree with about what these folks are saying. I am still basically a Unitarian Christian, I might even call myself a biblical Unitarian. I certainly preach from the Christian scriptures or Hebrew Bible 80% of the time. Yet I certainly don't believe that the Bible is the Word of God in any literal or authorative sense. However good the menu is, it ain't got nothing on the meal.

The style of this video is certainly American Evangelical. And the techniques of apologetics used are pretty poor. For example, why do you interview scholars to represent you own opinion and interview people in the street to represent your opponents' opinion? It's pretty easy to outwit a random person in the street, and it's a technique that loads of Evangelicals use in similar videos to this (come to think of it Muslims too). It's also a technique I've seen Richard Dawkins use, talking to school children and the worst kinds of fundamentalists to represent "religion." This is called a straw man. These folks should have had the decency to have this debate with articulate scholarly Trinitarians.

But this all brings up a number of questions for me. How big a movement is this? Is it significant? It's very difficult to tell when a small movement can make such a big noise on the internet. If it is, or becomes, a big movement then what does this mean for Unitarianism? Could the Unitarian situation in America become like the Quaker one, with Evangelical Unitarians and liberal (UUA) Unitarians?

Maybe this is only a small, insignificant group. But consider this: perhaps most global Unitarian growth in the future will come from Africa and Latin America. It seems to me wherever there is Christianity, this is eventually Unitarianism. So what if an emerging group of Unitarians in some African nation begins to search on the internet for others who believe what they do (this type of thing happens all the time) but instead of finding the UUA or the ICUU they find these folks and build up international friendships with these people. It seems in those circumstances biblically conservative Unitarianism might become a significant force in the world, with Christian groups prefering to work with these people than with the liberal UUA-types who do not speak the Christian language.

Part of my instinct is to be in ecumenical friendship with these people. That friendship would be deeply challenging, but perhaps enriching.

I don't know, but the possibilities are intriguing. What do you think?

Friday, October 10, 2008

National Quaker Week

Those people who are interested in evangelism within progressive or alternative Christian communities might like to check out this site promoting National Quaker Week. I'm more and more convinced for myself of the power of story-telling and personal testimony in evangelism. Here's a good example. It's also worth saying that "Thou Shalt decide for yourself" is a pretty good line for Unitarianism, if those darn Quakers hadn't nabbed it first.