A short while ago I received this message from a correspondent:
I do not believe in a devil, or demons. This difference in belief has lead to various familial arguments I'd rather avoided, but could not. My mother is quite the fundamentalist who loves her demonology and becomes rather religious about it. To deny Satan is to deny the Bible.
When my oldest daughter would visit, the doctrines of demons would be discussed (yes, attacks on my non-belief), and my daughter would wet the bed. But only at Grandmother's house. My mother phoned and inquired if my daughter wet the bed at my home? "Of course not."
What are we to do in the face of the suffering we see in Gaza? And not only in Gaza, but in the whole of the Middle East. We are there, virtually, at around 7pm every evening. Are we to ‘switch off’ at the end of the news and try to return to our normal lives, even if they are not always all that normal? How are we to think of other things? Is it even possible, at the stage which these various conflicts have reached, to do so?
In a post on my own blog earlier this year I said that autocratic power disconnects rulers from people – from the persons for whom they are accountable.
I have yet to see the face of Vladimir Putin in the press, following the recent gunning down of a commercial airliner, in which he does not look disconnected. When pressed for an explanation, or better still for a willingness to take responsibility for the tragedy and allow himself to be held accountable, he seems remote, absent, afraid.
I’m posting this because I’m preaching on Sunday, and the lectionary readings are some short parables by Jesus on the Kingdom. What Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God has been debated endlessly. The way I was first taught it, it sounded boring and irrelevant. Now I find it challenging and important.
At what point, on their outward bound journey, does the space traveller experience real panic? On seeing planet earth recede past the point of no return, in the knowledge of limited supplies of oxygen and other life sustaining resources, perhaps. I think the Church is in danger of reaching this point.
This week, I find myself once again at Modern Church’s annual conference. Its theme, so well timed to coincide with the happy outcome of the vote on women bishops in the Church of England, is A Liberating Spirit? Exploring Spirituality for the 21st Century - and how badly that spirituality needs to be explored.