A presentation by Colin Chapman Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide Seminar 9 October, 2018
Let me begin with a one-sentence answer: it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible to separate religion and politics in the Middle East today; and the future is bleak unless we can find ways of separating religion and politics and allowing religion to support an international order that is based on the rule of law.
This presentation is very much a ‘big picture’ exercise, an attempt to put some of the pieces of the jig-saw puzzle together. As a Christian who is interested in the role of religion and the interaction of religion with politics, I’m trying to make sense of the history that is being played out before us in the Middle East at the present time.
I probably need to explain my credentials. I’m not a historian or a political scientist. I happen to have worked with a mission agency, the Church Mission Society (CMS), in the Middle East for 18 years and have been engaged in theological education of different kinds both there and in the UK, specialising in recent years in Islamic studies. Continue reading →
Our Advent reading from Luke 3 introduces us to the three most important themes of the Bible. They can be summed up in three questions. The primary theme in the gospels concerns the identity of Jesus. “Who is Jesus?” The second theme has to do with the mission of Jesus. “Why did Jesus come?” The third theme has to do with the call of Jesus. “What does Jesus demand of us?” When you read the gospels thoughtfully – you discover that every event, every story, every quote, every conversation is about one of these three themes. It is asking or answering one of these three fundamental questions. About Jesus’ identity; his mission; and his call. Who is Jesus? Why did Jesus come? And what does Jesus demand of me?Let us try and answer these three questions this morning. Then we can celebrate Advent and look forward to the return of Jesus. Continue reading →
If you were like me, when you were very young, there were only two really important events in your life. You felt like they could not come soon enough. What were they? The first was… your birthday. The second was… Jesus’ birthday. Both involved presents. Lots of presents. Then when you were old enough to know that Father Christmas was not in the Nativity Play and you were allowed to stay up late, there was a third special day. New Year’s Eve. There were no presents but you still looked forward to the party and seeing in the New Year. For me, Summer holidays were special but never as special as my birthday and Christmas Day. We love to celebrate beginnings. We celebrate new life. Our birthday. Family birthdays. Jesus’ birthday. The birth of a new year. So what is it with the Church? When does the Church year begin? Not Christmas and the birth of our Saviour. Not Easter and the gift of new life. Not even Pentecost and the birth of the Church. The Church year begins with Advent. Continue reading →
A presentation given at the Palestine Center in association with the Jerusalem Fund, in Washington DC, last week on the historical roots, theological basis and political agenda of Christian Zionism. The presentation was drawn from the following three summaries of my PhD thesis on Christian Zionism.
A young boy asked his father a question, “Why must we surrender our Jewish faith and attend Lutheran services here in Germany?” The father replied, “Son, we must abandon our faith so that people will accept us and support our business adventures!” The boy never got over his disappointment or bitterness. His faith in his father was crushed. He gave up on religion. He left Germany and came to England to study. He spent many months in the Reading Room of the British Museum developing his convictions. These he published in 1848 in “The Communist Manifesto”. His name was Karl Marx. Marx argued that capitalism would inevitably self-destruct, and be replaced by communism. And religion, he insisted,
“…is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”.
Did you realise that once broadcast, TV signals begin an endless journey outward into the cosmos at the speed of light? That means our earliest TV broadcasts are probably travelling through star systems more than 400 trillion miles from earth. Do you realise that our neighbours living 60 light years away are watching the first episodes of the Lone Ranger in black and white. 50 light years away they are now watching Bonanza. 40 light years away they have moved on to the original Star Trek series. 30 light years away they are able to watch the Dukes of Hazzard. Just 20 light years away it’s the Sopranos. Those only 10 light years away are being blessed by countless episodes of Lost. Scientists tell us that the further away your neighbours live, the more likely they are to hold outdated, inaccurate and stereotypical views of you.
As a young man I once visited an American friend serving with the US military on Lakenheath Airbase. As I left the base, on the perimeter wall, hidden from the main road and the gaze of British civilians, I saw a large sign, about 40 feet long with lettering two feet high. Intended for US military personnel only, it read “Danger – you are now entering a war zone.” It was probably intended to improve their survival rates driving on the wrong side of British roads,
I’ve thought a lot about that message. “Danger – you are now entering a war zone.” I would be tempted to hand a similar sign over the entrance to a Church. I just can’t decide whether to put it on the inside for those leaving or the outside for those… Continue reading →
“Follow me, Vicar, into the red zone… Life is too short, and my time left too precious…This is why I shall not be going to church any more. I’ve never been a fan of the baby Jesus, but now, as the summer of middle age begins to fade, I can no longer tolerate the interminable hymns and the dreary psalms and the saccharine lectures on peace and imperialism and recycling from beardy in the pulpit. In the past I could sit on my hands and bite my tongue and count the seconds, knowing that soon I’d be released into the fresh air. But today I just don’t have the time to waste and I’m filled with a sometimes uncontrollable urge to throttle the vicar, goose the organist and make a break for freedom through the vestry….Me? Well, since I believe you should live life and not spend half of it in church, preparing for death, I’d take the Mazda, warts, beeps and all, every time.”
That’s how Jeremy Clarkson introduced the new Mazda CX-7 in the Sunday Times recently. Although I’m already a fan of Mazdas, Jesus was right, when he said “you cannot serve both God and money” or in the case of Jeremy, “You cannot serve both God and cars.” I would love to have a one-to-one with Jeremy and find out whether, like many other people, he has been turned off Jesus by the caricature of Christianity he may have encountered.
I want to bring out three ways Jesus brought blessing to a couple on their special day, three ways in which I believe he longs to bless each of us today also.
The Blessing Of Jesus’ Presence : (John 2:1-2)
Jesus and his disciples had been invited to a wedding. In Israel they do things properly. The wedding reception lasts a week. Everything stops in the community and everyone joins in. When you think of Jesus what do you imagine His schedule looked like? Can you imagine Jesus relaxed, laughing and enjoying himself at a wedding reception surrounded by people in festive mood, for a whole week? No watch, no mobile phone, no emails, no post, no distractions, just a week of eating and drinking good food and wine celebrating the shared joy of a new marriage in the community. Can you? Continue reading →