Sunday, August 13, 2006

God Slot

Dave commented this week and seemed to think that it was a bit ironic for me to go to Rome and seek God. Well, fortunately for him I did not go to Rome in order to seek God. I went to Rome to sing with my college choir.

But come to think of it, I find it quite sad that 'seeking God' was not a big feature of some of my visits to Rome's many churches. In fact, I would go so far to say that St Peter's angered me somewhat. This is the centre piece of the Roman Catholic church, and yet rather than focussing on God the statues of the Popes seem to be more important. Rather than being welcomed I felt that I was ushered round aggressively. Rather than encouraging an atmosphere of reverence and worship, camera flashes and talking seem to be acceptable during the services. And rather than taking the opportunity to preach the Christian message in all it's simplicity it was acceptable - encouraged even - to queue and rub the feet of a bronze statue of Peter. Idolatory aside, what happened to John 14v6?

So the irony in 'going to Rome to seek God' actually stems from the fact that I noticed God's work more outside the walls of St Peters. Just in the way that things worked out, in the way that my tiny little prayers were answered. In the evidence of God's people - Christians - throughouut the ages, even if sometimes it is corrupt and misses the point (Christians are only human, after all), and in the beauty of His creation, especially along the leafy oasis of the Appian Way.

I have also noticed God at work without having to travel to Rome - see my posts about camp in Norfolk. In fact one of the clearest answers to prayer I've seen recently came last week, on a wet and windy morning as we gathered as leaders. Someone prayed that we would have good weather for the day ahead, and almost instantaneously (I kid you not) blue sky appeared on the distant horizon. The approaching rainclouds went along both sides, but not over, the campsite and before long the skies were completely clear and the day hot and sunny.

I think I shall end this God Slot by reflecting on the events of last Thursday, and the anti-terror arrests (news did eventually reach us in Norfolk). It's difficult to supress my anger towards the people (this is a family blog for family people, but insert stronger language here if you wish) who wish to cause such senseless death and disruption. Part of me would have them all locked up or deported without question. Part of me is angry that this country is so woolly that people like Abu Hamza can burn the British flag with hateful intent and still remain in residence here. I think that stronger measures are needed to punish these people, but at the same time that alone won't discourage other extremists.

I don't know what inspires these people. Jealousy of our tolerance and freedom? The Iraq war cannot be entirely to blame; 9/11 happened first and anyone with any sense would know that a lot of Britons voted against it.

It was quite comforting earlier to hear the Delirious? track I have mentioned before: Our God Reigns. He does indeed, and I hope that some of you will join me in using prayer as the way forward in this age of increasing terror threats.

7 comments:

dave said...

Gggggggggggod SLOT!

You misread my comment, I didn't say seek, I poked fun at you going to Rome to see how generous God was/is/never has been. God is clearly white and middle class, because he doesn't give a shit about anyone else. He's not even very nice to the Southern Italians (yes I know Rome is Southernish).

Terror alerts, hmm, the Iraq war has not made Britain more of a target from overseas terrorists, an alliance with the USA did that, the Iraq war did however incite British muslisms enough to act against their own country. Remember it was the Saudis who did 11/9 (11th SEPTEMBER, MONTH GOES SECOND).

Jealousy of our tolerance and freedom is bullshit though, its down right offensive really. You know that guy in the pub who has a Merc and a bit more cash than everyone and is convinced that everyone else is jealous of him, but really they're not, they just think he's a bit of a retard. Well that's America and we're the guy stood next to him agreeing with every word he says so we get a ride in the Merc. So when retard gets outside the pub and is shocked to find that someone has scraped their keys down the side of his Merc, he is even more sure that it is because everyone is jealous of him.

Au revoir!

Anthropax said...

I would say that God has no class or ethnicity, but Jesus was poor and working class, and also 'the first socialist'.

I would also suggest that 'speaking in tounges' and jigging around does not exactly encourage an "an atmosphere of reverence and worship", and you seem to have missed the point about the statues and so forth - I'll have to blog about it. sigh.

Anthropax said...

Not that I'm saying that Jesus wasn't/isn't God. Anyway.

Mugford said...

God is Northern. Fact.

Ross said...

dont worry James when im pope i'll get rid of all the statues of my predcessors. also i'll hold large rock
concernts in the Vatican featuring Delirious (but rubbing my
toes for luck will still be acceptable).

also noticed typo in Mugford's comment.
should read God in Northern Irish not Northern.

JP said...

Ooh, lots of comments and the beginnings of a healthy debate :)

Where to begin?

I think I'll start at the beginning of the alphabet with Anthropax.

"I would also suggest that 'speaking in tounges' and jigging around does not exactly encourage an "an atmosphere of reverence and worship", and you seem to have missed the point about the statues and so forth".

My experience is that God looks to the heart more than the outside trappings. "jigging around and speaking in tongues" (if you wish to phrase it like that) may not provide the quiet and reflective atmosphere which some people prefer when approaching God, but that is not to say that it is an inappropriate way of coming before God and expressing praise and worship to him. King David is recorded in the Bible as stripping down to his ephod and dancing with all his might before God (upon the return of the Ark of the Covenant).

Permitting camera flashes during the services, and being quite aggressive with ushering people around the building shows more concern for the tourist industry than it does for God. I am reminded of the money lenders whom Jesus threw out of the temple...

As for the statues, there may be a good reason for them, and I may indeed have missed the point. However, I suspect that I am not the only one who missed the point, and it would be easy to get the impression from visiting St Peter's that if you rub St Peter's feet and queue for Confession then you're "sorted" as it were. To me that is misguiding, and dishonest. It's hard to deny that statues and tombs of St Peter and the Popes have more of a presence in the church than Jesus' death and resurrection, and is that really what should be expected of the centre-piece of the biggest Christian denomination?

Dave, your comment about God being white and middle class and therefore not caring about anyone else was an interesting one. If I understand it, you also are white and middle class, so does this mean that you don't care about others either?

To be honest, I think that it is more that people don't "give a s**t about God" than the other way around. God has given us free will, and if we choose to ignore him that's our perogative. We cannot whinge when he doesn't step in out of the blue like a superhero when things go a bit wrong, or we mess things up. To take your example of Southern Italy, why is it God's fault that the country as a whole, or even the wider European Community has not done something to alleviate the poverty?

I would also like to add that it is in some of the poorest and most deprived parts of the world that the church is growing fastest (especially compared with white middle class areas). The people might not be blessed with material things as we are, but there are countless testimonies of people and churches in such areas which talk of God's blessing, even in the smallest of ways. The church is not growing because someone is forcing it to, and neither is it growing because it promises freedom from poverty. It is growing because the people in these communities are developing a real relationship with God.

Food for thought.

Thanks also to Ross and Rachel (how very Friends) for your comments. I await the Vatican gigs with palpable excitement, though I am less certain that God is Northern.

dave said...

Jim, Jim, JIM! JIM!

You and I both know that the only reason God is more prevalent in poorer areas is because we raped and pillaged, then told them God is great etc etc. Then we disallowed them the ability to develop and thus they are still in their post-colonialism state of "erm food please?".

Yes I'm white and middle class(ish), I'd say working though. I will accept that by middle though you actually mean that I'm 'comfortable'. And quite generally yeah, this means I don't give a shit about anyone else apart from myself, and God also being white and middle class has given me a pretty wicked life and I know he doesn't even exist. Wicked!