#equalmarriage, the Christian and a Cuneiform tablet

As we know, the law in the USA has now been changed and same sex marriage is now legal there across all states. Some will tell us that all sorts of natural disasters are about to befall us all as a result. In the UK there were even some Christians that said the unusual floods we experienced here were God’s judgement on our nation. I didn’t agree.

But how should a Christian, who wants to be faithful to their Lord, deal with these changes? How should we be thinking?

One problem for the Christian is that the Old Covenant is sometimes confused with the New Covenant in church culture. In scripture the Old Covenant is seen as the story of God entering into a covenant relationship with a whole nation, not individuals. Laws were set out that would regulate the behaviour with one another within the nation, with outsiders and with their God. The whole nation was given a special place in relation to God and to their world.

Now, in the New Covenant, it is individuals that enter into a covenant with their God and not a nation. Those in the New Covenant are to live by certain standards which are to emerge from within, by the influence of the Holy Spirit, and from new testament teaching. The age of the New Covenant is one where individuals must find their way of living in relationship with God regardless of how society behaves around them. This world view was difficult to keep in mind for the British during the age of empire as empire was often seen as a new version of a people chosen by God. While British church culture has moved from that position it seems to me that the USA have lagged far behind, and so they now agonise over the changes to marriage law in a distinctly USA fashion. After all, in the USA, many citizens believe that their country and empire is special to God as Britain did during their empire.

Of course marriage, as we have known it in the West for many years, is very old. Some of those who have been pressing for a change in marriage have claimed that what we have is recent and only really emerged in the Middle Ages. This is not quite honest and I am not sure it has been a necessary claim for their argument. Yes the Christian church brought a particular character to marriage in this country as they evangelised the nation. But the Christian form of marriage the church brought was very old. It is found in early church practice and came from ancient Jewish practice centuries before that.

Long ago Nebuchadnezzar led the Babylonian invasion of Judah, the Jewish home land. The citizens were taken away to live in Babylon. Some years later the new empire of the Medo-Persians rose to pre-eminence which conquered the Babylonians in 539 BC and the new emperor, Cyrus the Great, decreed that the Jews could return to their homeland. But not all did return. The Judaeans had adjusted, settled and become Mesopotamian citizens. By the time Cyrus arrived there was an established Judaean town called Jahudu. It is from Jahudu that we have this Cuneiform tablet which is a Jewish marriage contract including individual Judaean names. It is dated to after the arrival of Cyrus the Great in 539 BC.

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Jahudu Cuneiform marriage contract. Dated to after arrival of Cyrus the Great in 539 BC

So no, marriage as we have known it is not a recent invention.

But back to the original question, how should Christians respond to the changes? I think we need to be sure what we mean by Christian marriage as distinct from state marriage. Christians are not being prevented from entering into Christian marriage, and non Christians are being allowed to enter into marriages that represent their belief system.

However Christians may feel about the changes around them we must keep that distinction in mind, and the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.

 

I’ve been reading about Magna Carta and its Christian roots

The 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta was on Monday, 15 June.

John-_Magna_Carta

I was reading an article by the EA’s David Landrum and he noted that even though the anniversary was extensively covered by the news media he noted that there was a deafening silence on the Christian roots of Magna Carta amongst our secular, liberal elites. He said this represents nothing less than historical deconstruction, an attempt to re-write history to suit their own worldviews and therein shape the future.

Landrum said: Be honest: how aware are you about the Christian roots of this historic document? Who do you think wrote it? Who do you think convened the meeting when it was signed? And whose demands are stated at the beginning and at the conclusion of it? Maybe it was the barons or nobles? No. It was the Church that wrote it. More specifically, it’s highly likely that it was the Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton. Once exiled by King John – the truly awful king who was forced to sign Magna Carta – Langton was a theological genius with a particular interest in what the book of Deuteronomy had to say about equality before the law, even for kings. This was pretty radical thinking for the time, but imagine how it sounded to Moses and the Israelites. To the bishops gathered at Runnymede in 1215, the signing of Magna Carta represented nothing less than the culmination of a centuries-long war between the pagan and the Christian concepts of law and power.

David posed the question whether, as we debate British values and consider a British Bill of Rights, and the possibility at some point of a written constitution, will the debates display an embarrassment about God in public life. This would be to ignore the pivotal role that the Church, across the denominations, has played in contributing to the common good in the past and it would be a squandering of this resource in the present.

The story behind Magna Carta

King John murdered those who stood in his way. He seized property and twisted the law to suit his own ends. He imposed taxes without justification and he ignored legitimate authority and law to rule as a tyrant.

In May 1215 the barons rebelled and with an army they gathered and confronted the king. John knew he could not win so at Runnymede he signed the peace treaty known as Magna Carta. It only remained in force for ten weeks but was then replaced by others which built upon that foundation (it was reissued in 1216, 1217, 1225 and 1297). Its influence has remained for 800 years.

Clauses 39 and 40 are particularly relevant to our age, the age of Guantanamo Bay detention camp and illegal renditions (state kidnap).

Clause 39: “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.”

Clause 40: “To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”

36 Things Worth Knowing About Magna Carta

The Origins of ISIS

I read a very good article in the Guardian today by Seumas Milne entitled “Now the truth emerges: how the US fuelled the rise of Isis in Syria and Iraq”.

I find it especially interesting that these things have not been said more often and from more sources. After all, anyone who follows coverage of the news will have accumulated much of this information over time. Haven’t we all? Perhaps one problem is the short term memory that comes from world news overload. We forget what we have already heard and then it is easy to fail to join the dots and see the bigger picture.

It was just yesterday that I watched the video in a post with the long title of “Someone Finally Explained How ISIS Was Created, and it Will Make You Question Everything” that chimes with the contents of the article in the Guardian.

In the video Ben Swann explores the origin of ISIS and takes a particularly USA viewpoint that he claims has already been long forgotten by American media. Swann takes on the central issue of whether or not ISIS was created by “inaction” by the United States government or by “direct” action. Watch it and make up your own mind.

Is sexual orientation #homosexuality fixed? Ask the Royal College of Psychiatrists

As a Christian I have been very uncomfortable (to put it mildly) with the practice of some Christian groups claiming they can change a person’s sexual orientation through therapy or counselling.

But…

As a pastor I have had many people who have confided in me about their sexual appetite, desires and orientation. As a result I have found myself to be a bit sceptical of the claim that a person’s sexual preferences or orientation are fixed for life. I have known supposedly heterosexual people leaving their heterosexual partner of many years to pursue a same sex lifestyle. I have also known those who have always claimed to be homosexual to have left a homosexual lifestyle and partnership and ended up in a heterosexual partnership and lifestyle.

I have listened to various explanations of an apparent sexual orientation switch, in both directions. Some people have claimed they were never really what they started out as, and others have simply claimed to have changed and found peace, contentment and fulfilment in their new “orientation”.

Not personally having gone through a sexual orientation switch I find it a difficult subject to discuss with people as one thing that does seem very much fixed are the views about this subject.

I find it very interesting therefore that, virtually ignored by the media, the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) has quietly issued a statement marking a small but significant shift in their thinking.

Their previous view expressed in 2007 was that sexual orientation is “biological in nature determined by genetic factors…and/or the early uterine environment…”; and that “there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heterosexual or homosexual orientation”; or with regard to sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) that “there is no evidence that such change is possible.”

Now they seem to be moving more in the direction of saying that likely causes of homosexuality are “a combination of biological and postnatal environmental factors.”

Setting aside their comments questioning whether a person is born with heterosexual or homosexual orientation, they are now questioning whether sexual orientation is fixed for life: “It is not the case that sexual orientation is immutable or might not vary to some extent in a person’s life” even though “there is no sound scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed.”

By introducing the term ‘postnatal’, the RCP has taken a significant step to acknowledge that research over the last few years has increasingly recognised the importance of nurture and environmental influences in explaining sexual orientation.

Significant is the almost simultaneous publication of recent research by the renowned American sex researcher Dr Lisa Diamond on whether homosexuality is unchangeable and whether homosexual people change. The study by Dr Lisa Diamond is particularly significant as, being a self-identified lesbian she considered by many in her field to be one of the leading experts on female homosexuality.

In 2009 she shook up previous understandings by publishing her findings about the fluidity of female sexuality (see Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire, Harvard Press, 2009).

More recently, in a lecture at Cornell University in October 2013, she presented her more recent discoveries about male and adolescent sexuality. Diamond has come to the conclusion that identity, attraction and behaviour is fluid, is not specific to women, but is rather a general feature of human sexuality. She now questions whether the gay community can any longer advocate for rights based on the concept of immutability (that sexual orientation is fixed) “now that we know it is not true”.

I wonder how long it will be before this shift is more commonly known about or accepted.

No #assistedsuicide. Since NL euthanasia law passed in 2002 its now acceptable for disabled babies to be given lethal injections

Since the Netherlands euthanasia the law was passed in 2002, it has become acceptable for disabled babies to be given lethal injections.

Commenting on the medical practices in the Netherlands Dr. Herbert Hendin, of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention said “the Netherlands has moved from considering assisted suicide… to giving legal sanction to both physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia… from euthanasia for physical illness to euthanasia for psychological distress, and from voluntary euthanasia to nonvoluntary and involuntary euthanasia.”

soynentgreen

When I watched the film Soylent Green in the 1970s it was then regarded as a horror. I never thought I would see its approach in my lifetime.

Belgian child euthanasia. Lives no inherent value or worth… they should die?

The Belgian Parliament will hold a debate next Wednesday before voting the following day on a measure to allow minors to ask for euthanasia if they are terminally ill. This is supposed to be for if they are in great pain and if there is no treatment to alleviate their distress. It follows a 50-17 vote in favour of child euthanasia in the Belgian Senate in December.

The Council of Europe Written Declaration is against this abhorrent proposed legalisation of child euthanasia in Belgium.

The Declaration (which has been supported by parliamentarians from across Europe) notes that the move “betrays some of the most vulnerable children in Belgium by accepting that their lives may no longer have any inherent value or worth and that they should die… [and] promotes the unacceptable belief that a life can be unworthy of life which challenges the very basis of civilised society.”

freeimages.co.uk medical images

photo: freeimages.co.uk

Some commentators suggest that the bill is being fast-tracked because opposition is growing and supporters want it law before it is blocked.

Several Belgian studies already exist proving that in Belgium:
(1) euthanasia is widely under-reported (2) euthanasia is often done without an explicit request (3) and nurses are lethally injecting patients, even though the law does not permit it.

In Belgium adults have been put to death simply for being depressed.

Belgium is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). How this proposal fits the UNCRC is a puzzle to me. How could anyone be sure of the competence of the child to both understand the consequences of euthanasia, and to choose death over the benefits of good palliative care. Surely they need our protection not abandonment to the limitation of their own knowledge and experience?

Words can not describe…

Photo: freeimages.co.uk

Why is the UKIP councillor wrong to blame storms and floods on gay marriage? A Christian reply.

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Being a Christian, I find the comments of David Silvester interesting as well as alarming. Rather than merely shouting him down like many others are doing I find myself looking critically at his theology and wanting to understand where his is coming from. I don’t think Mr Silvester wants to be hateful. I think he simply wants to stand up for what he believes are Christian truths. Good for him for trying, but I am confident he is wrong this time.

It is reported that in a the letter to the Henley Standard he wrote: “The scriptures make it abundantly clear that a Christian nation that abandons its faith and acts contrary to the Gospel (and in naked breach of a coronation oath) will be beset by natural disasters such as storms, disease, pestilence and war.”

He added: “I wrote to David Cameron in April 2012 to warn him that disasters would accompany the passage of his same-sex marriage bill. But he went ahead despite a 600,000 signature petition by concerned Christians and more than half of his own parliamentary party saying that he should not do so.”

Now I know that almost every Christian church was against the redefinition of marriage and still are, but what about it bringing natural disasters such as storms, disease, pestilence and war as Mr Sylvester claimed?

I have since listened to Mr Silvester speaking to a journalist on the radio where he repeated his comments and this time I heard him referring to the Old Testament part of the Bible. Ah, this is where his theology goes adrift.

The OT (Old Testament) tells the story of a particular people who are chosen by God to be special. It was to be their destiny to hear from God and to preserve those revelations in their national memory. The time would come when God would become flesh and dwell among us in the person of Jesus the Messiah (or the Christ). That chosen nation would (because they had preserved the previous revelations) be the ones best placed to recognise the Messiah and to provide a context for his life and teachings.

So in the OT, God is seen as having a relationship with a nation, a people. They were to preserve their distinctiveness and be separate from things God did not like. That nation was warned that to turn from him would result in all sorts of punishment, and if they persistently refused to turn back to him when he gave them warnings they would end up being invaded by foreign powers and plundered. It came to pass and they were eventually invaded by the Babylonians under the leadership of Nebuchadnezzar. The account of Nebuchadnezzar’s victory was carved on stone, at his command, and this stone can now be viewed in the British Museum.

In the post Jesus age God now enters into relationship with individuals. Instead of transforming the world by choosing a nation or country, he invites individuals to come to Jesus to follow him, be transformed by him, and then become agents of transformation in this world by working for the common good. This is what Christians are seeking when they pray “They kingdom come…”, they are seeking the enlargement of the rule of Christ on the earth. This is where Mr Sylvester makes his mistake. Whereas the OT laws were to show how a nation could live in harmony with each other and with their God, we are now in an age where it is individuals who are dealt with individually regarding their faithfulness, or otherwise, concerning Jesus.

Simply put, I can say that my failures will not bring judgement upon others. Though there is a caveat to that statement. The crooked bankers caused others to suffer but it is they who will answer to God for what they have done. Crime, violence and war harm people. Though the perpetrators will have to face God (judgement) for what they have done, the innocent do suffer because of them. But that is not the same thing as judgement. We each will give an account to God for our own lives. This will include David Cameron.

However, I don’t want to end on a note about judgement. A continual theme right through the NT is the offer of forgiveness from a generous God who is good, and who loves us.