Category: Secularism


idiotsinviteR2WAMDG
This week I had  two experiences that provided a very important juxtaposition. The cold, grey, elitist world without God where the weak are trampled on, and a vibrant, love filled world where the weak are cherished and God is at the center…..   On Monday night I was debating a very pleasant Humanist Minister on Ummah TV ( A Barelvi Muslim Channel).  The worldview that the ‘Humanists’ offer is limited by a hyper-rationalism….  which not only is misleading but is also dangerous.  This was put into perspective very powerfully on Weds night when I attended a screening of a new film called ‘The Idiots’  which tells the powerful life story of Jean Vanier and his life among the disabled.  The life of Jean Vanier and the work of Larche paints a powerful picture to why we need to resist ”scientism” and the ‘Humanist’ world view.
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preview_become_weaker_wide_quoteThe film – first.  As a young Canadian naval officer he was invited to live in a house for the disabled by a French Priest. This changed his life and since then he started the L’arche movement which currently has over 130 communities in 32+ countries, including a recently opened home in Bethlehem. Awarded the Templeton prize of £1.7 million last year, Vanier is recognised by many as a living saint, in fact his parents have the process towards beatification already open. But his experience of embracing the weakness of the most vulnerable in our society has a prophetic role in a society which is attempting to eradicate weakness through genetic engineering, pre-natal screening, creating the perfect baby etc.  What is beautiful about the film the Idiots – it is never patronising, it never glosses over the reality, but the joy and the love is palpable.  Here is link to their website where you can see a teaser for the film …  The Idiots – R2W Films .  Hopefully it will be on general release soon.
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maxresdefault (1)On Monday night  I was on a Muslim TV Channel debating with a ‘humanist’.  A charming gentleman but I challenged him over his hyper-rationalism.  The problem is that it is over-reductionist.  A technique that was revolutionary in the science lab – and had amazing results and great discoveries … now has now been applied to the much more complex world of Human Existence. Rationalism has developed its own extremism which in the US is referred to as ‘Scientism’….   Many great errors and disasters have come from an excessive faith in pure reason.    The French Revolution which brutalised French society with the pretense of recreating a new Society based purely on reason, Social Darwinism influenced the Nazi desire to create the Master Race, Communism socially re-engineered a new generation ‘The Soviet Man’ .  I know here in Manchester the students talk about an orthodoxy in life sciences which for example promotes (unchallenged)  the weeding out of Down Syndrome Babies.
This is is why we need Jean Vanier – the Prophet of Weakness.

AMDG        

Homily given at Holy Name Church,  Manchester   15th Sunday  – July 16th 2014

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Today’s Gospel presents a fascinating question for Jesus ‘ Why do you speak to them in Parables’ – This seems to be a question born of the disciples frustration  – you can almost imagine the disciples saying to him – Jesus stop speaking in riddles and just give it to us straight.  The irony is that when Jesus does speak straight particularly when he is predicting his suffering and his death they don’t understand……  Jesus speaks in parables because he is revealing the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.  Understanding a mystery is not like understanding a mathematical equation of a scientific formula  – to understand the truths of the Kingdom of God is not just about logic or reason –  it is nothing to do with how well educated we are, how many degrees we’ve got, in fact intellectual pride can become an obstacle to understanding the mystery that Jesus is preaching –  Certainly Jesus talks about the importance of understanding, but this is the understanding of the heart.  Understanding the Kingdom of God is a process, a journey if you like, a journey of the heart. What the heart understands goes deeper than our intellect, they are truths that we grow into, that we live

Why do you speak in parables?  This to an extent is the same question that we may ask of God, particularly when we are in a dark place, experiencing pain and grief,  we may ask  ‘God where are you, why are you hiding, why don’t you reveal yourself?’  This is why faith is not an easy thing – faith is not a comfortable lifestyle choice – a true living faith stretches us, challenges us, faith calls us to trust and then trust again ……  Be very suspicious of anyone who claims too easily or too glibly to tell you who God is.  Perhaps that is why religious extremism and fundamentalism is so problematic – that desire for certainty, that desire to reduce the mystery of God to something smaller, that we can manipulate – the desire for clarity, can easily come at the expense of others – it is easy to be clear, to be certain when you know who the enemy are.  Ultimately it is a false faith that is built ultimately on hatred and anger – and it is dangerous – we just need to look at the international news to see that.

This easy faith – this certain faith – ultimately is far from the mystery of God, which is the mystery of Love. Today’s parable touches upon this – if we think of the seed as the heart of our faith, the infinitely creative love of God –    like all seeds  this needs nourishing.  Seeds often grow in darkness and silence as they reach for the light – we have to trust in this silence, in those moments of darkness, we have to trust that God’s grace is working – silently  in the rich soil of our hearts.  When we allow ourselves to become superficial, when we are too concerned about the spirit of the age, when we want to ‘fit in’ or we worry too much we are not giving a chance for this seed to grow.

If we look around us – in our day to day lives – the people we know. We work with, our friends, there is a great dissatisfaction with what consumerism offers us…. Sometimes even an exhaustion and a deadly cynicism as a result of this.  But along side this is a great thirst and a hunger for something authentic …. And there is nothing more fundamental then the universal creative love of God – it is the reason that we are all here in the first place.  So if we have the courage to allow that seed to grow in us, if we provide the right conditions for it – an openness of heart, an enquiring faith, times of silence, times of prayer then we will have the integrity to pass on that seed – to those who are searching for it.  Often they will come to us and ask – there is no need to force it, and then – God Willing – we will yield a harvest, maybe a hundredfold, maybe less…..

Let us make that our priority …..  invest in your faith ……  let the seed grow