Dangerous memes and the attitudes they produce…

Dangerous memes and the attitudes they produce.

I watched a TED talk recently by Dan Dennett on the subject of ‘Dangerous Memes’ – a phrase developed to describe ideas transferred through words, rituals, gestures etc by Richard Dawkins. In the video the lecturer talks of the memes as toxic ideas that are not entirely bad but sometimes can become dangerous ideologies. He even argues that fighting for ‘freedom’ is the result of a meme. I felt his reflections where honest and I would be ignorant to say he didn’t have a good point…

I also recently red an article by Aussie Rugby player David Pocock who speaks of his faith in Jesus and desire to support the oppressed, including those who are ‘sexually oppressed’, as his expression of following Jesus. I felt his article was very honest and after reading it I did the usual ‘check the comments below’. For the record, checking the comments is never a good idea if you are passionate about integrity. People always seem to use the comments box to ‘get one over’ or rant at the writer and the other readers views. It seems that the comment box is helping bring to light what ‘dangerous memes’ are really out there.

I think the comment box has shown that sometimes we just don’t get it. We focus our fight on the wrong things, on making things kosher on paper (or blog), but we do not worry so much about whether it brings life and hope. We are NOT the judge, we are NOT above reproach, we are NOT better then anybody else. Yet it seems we get these ideas in our head, we hear them from other people and they resonate with our fears or stereotypes, and so we call them truth. Loosely link them to verses, abstracted from their contexts and because this idea is fully formed in our minds, to question them, well thats to question scripture, or God.

Did Jesus come to give us a set of ideas that we would retain as information, a sort of knowledge based STD? Or did Jesus show us a way of life that takes away the role of judge from a broken people and gives us all freedom to be like him, Loving God and Loving people, unconditionally? I think it’s the second and I think many would agree, but to be honest, the first is our default position in church. In the video a key example used of a dangerous meme is Islam but I wonder if he only uses Islam to give Christianity a break from being the obvious example of a dangerous meme.

Please don’t  misunderstand here. I still do not know where I stand on any of the issues raised in the video and the article and I am not advocating their opinions as ‘right’ over any others. What I am arguing is that anything good can be hijacked by our fears and become dangerous. If you are passionate about marriage today and struggle with the idea of homosexual marriage how are you going to react to it? Are you going to reject people, take a moral high ground and claim your idea is better, or are you going to love people unconditionally, be honest about your thoughts, but acknowledge them as thoughts and journey together to better understand the thoughts of everyone and their reasons?

This is a little harsh, but would those who have homophobic tendencies be racist in the time of slavery? No you say, but I’m not so sure, if society rejects something, it is easy to reject it, if society accepts something it is easy to live within the the social norm. As followers of Jesus we are called to be the light in the world. The light is not a fire that burns the darkness it is a gentle warmth that eradicates it.

I wonder what you think? Watch the video and read the article and then ask yourself this question: Do I stand for what is right when I fight things or do I have some dangerous memes in my closet?

I know I have some.


Memes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme

Dan Dennet Video: http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_dennett_on_dangerous_memes.html

David Pocock article: http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2011/12/02/3382170.htm


Spontaneously Professional

The End is Nigh As I come to the end of 5 years in my current role It is only right that I get all philosophical, sit outside somewhere, put on a white toga (A greek mans excuse to where a dress, lets not pretend its anything else) and question everything I have done up until now. “Very Socratic of you” I hear you say…. …To be honest I didn’t get very far, it was a little cold and unlike Eddy Izzard, I just can’t pull off a dress.

In my short time of reflection however I did think about something a friend brought up and that is ‘Professionalism’ and ‘Spontaneity’ in the Church. I personally have had a tendency for the spontaneous and definitely started my ministry with the view that the church is not a business and there is no room for 5 year plans in the kingdom; especially as the main plan for me has always been about seeing Revelation 21 in the here and now. However as time has passed I have become much more methodical and have landed in what I would see as the middle ground. Its sad really, when I think back, so many of my disagreements with people in church have been about organisation and whether or not I am being professional or spontaneous enough. Some would say that: ‘Without organisation the Church will fail’ and others would say: ‘Organisation stifles the Spirit and is the work of the people, not God’. What is really going here, I think, is a subconscious ‘Professionalism’ VS ‘Spontaneity’ battle, the two are not being seen as partners but rivals and become polar opposites. People then tend to choose which side of the fence they feel more comfortable sitting on. But when we do this, I think we are doing the Church a disservice. The Church needs both Spontaneity and professionalism.


The Church is getting it, I think, when the Spirit of God is breathing through the people who, are the Church. The spirit inspires, develops and shapes us whilst developing our gifts, such as, for some, is the gift of organisation (praise God for these people in my life!); and the spirit must be free to flow through us and through our traditional and funky church models. If we set out rigorous guidelines and detailed 5 year plans, we can easily squeeze the spirit out of the Church, after all we do have the free will to reject God  and do things our own way (thats a scary thought…). Likewise if we stick up our V’s to the structures and organisers in our church, we can just as easily make things ‘spontaneous’ and actually end up making a structure of spiritual blagging which looks good to those who feel comfortable in it, but ultimately is just as bad for the church as its counterpart.

Final thoughts

I think we need to pick up our bibles and read Gods story, there is plenty of spirit and organisation and they come under the same banner and work together to see the Kingdom of Heaven come, If anyone says otherwise, I would probably hazard a guess their not reading it the good book the right way up. We also need to make sure that our view on how we do church does not become more important than the reason we are called to be church. If we stand on one side of the fence and critique the other we will only cause division, but if we learn to work with the spirit whilst aiming to be professional in what we do, surely the only result is an impressive kindgom focused body that people are drawn to…what a thought…

Heaven, Hell and the fate of everyones earthly life if you miss the point.


So Rob Bell writes a book, loads of people attack him, another load of people attack the people attacking him, then another load of people choose to join in on the side of which they are most comfortable; and then a smaller group of people sit in the middle of the two camps and try to draw on the different points being made by the different camps of thought, whilst trying to remind the people in the camps that whether you agree or not with the different thoughts, disagree in love (I love these people so much, because of them we are avoiding some pointless divisions based of theological preference).

On ‘Love Wins’ and the ‘responses’
I’ve read the book, I don’t agree with everything written. I’ve read the arguments for and against, I don’t agree with everything written. However I must admit I am drawn to support team ‘Bell’ more then team ‘Hell’ (see what I did there?). Not on the basis of what is being said by that camp, but on the way in which it is being said. It would seem that the biggest issue of the people against Bell, is based around the fact that without Medieval interpretation on Hell there is nothing to fear. I may be wrong here, but the responses to Bell seem to be so focused around the need to keep an image of Hell that is fire filled and full of suffering in a human understanding of the word, for the ‘naughty people’ who don’t say ‘I accept Jesus into my heart’, come to church and tithe etc. What would we do if we couldn’t scare people to love God?!

I joke. sort of. The problem is both camps use the bible, both think the bible has all the answers (to varying degrees) yet they don’t agree. I wonder if this is what happens when we forget the Bible is a book of God’s interaction with HUMAN people, whom are trying to interpret the ‘unfathomable creator’ to the creation. Here I would like to point to revelation where John is basically struggling to describe what he sees… Maybe the answers we are looking for on Hell, are not as important as the mission that God, in my opinion, is calling us into.

Whats really important?
So Hell, eternal (literal medieval, dante stuff) or not (literal Gehenna), there is a choice. To step into the story of God in which we were created for, which is about the way we live and the way we speak and most importantly the way we love, or to reject it which is to live in Hell, now and until who knows (because we don’t fully know, sort of like a cloudy picture in a mirror…hmm I’ve heard that before). And as Bell says:

‘We are free to resist, reject, and rebel against God’s ways for us. We can have all the hell we want’

So what should we really focus on?
Good question. How about following Jesus. Living a life in which all our ways reflect Jesus to the best of our abilities. Speaking truth over people. That God is Love, that God wants to spend this life and forever with us, bringing out of us the potential He put in us, and that we can reject it, but we will regret it, because this God made us and our very being is from him, to reject it is to reject life.

Does that sound ok? I think that if we (regardless of what camp we sit in) would just focus on the above, maybe the world wouldn’t see such an ‘ugly bride’, but the Church of Jesus. I often think we like to talk about this stuff more then do it and it often feels like people talk about it instead of doing it. The Church is Gods best plan for the world. 2 Billion people claim to follow Jesus in this world. Thats 1/3 of the world. 1/3 of the world believes Jesus is the answer to all that is wrong in the world; like poverty, like injustice, like rape, like cheating, like unethical banking, like debt, like abuse, like living for money, like consumerism, like dodgy politics, like selfish gain….thats just a rant list, you know all the rest. There is 1/3 of the world’s population, who if they really practiced what they preached, we would see more then a few charities doing good, we would see every person get the chance to have the best life God wants to give us all, BECAUSE the CHURCH would not spend so much time huddled in the changing rooms chatting about it.

I know this isn’t easy and I fail at this because I am selfish, I am lazy, I like the easy way, but thats not what we are called to, we are called to carry our cross, which I would argue isn’t just our failures, its the failures we see and can change. I want to take this challenge seriously and although it is hard, it is our role on earth. Not to scare people away from Hell but invite them into the life of Heaven, through our actions and then words, through seeking where the spirit is at work and stepping into it.


So if you disagree, bless you and I want to say I love you anyway and I will encourage you to use whatever understanding you have of Heaven and Hell etc, to love this world into the new one, the revelation 21 stuff!


Blogging, how I fail at it and those that do not…

I’m not going to lie, I ain’t to0 good at the blogging thing…

Going by the blogs I dip into, it would seem, that to be a good blogger you must commit to at least one blogging session a week. It is fundamental to have a blogtastic timeout in the week to share with the world all the important things you are currently thinking about. Using this as a template…I am a pretty crap blogger.

I am joking of course, blogging shouldn’t be become a job – unless it is a job. Blogging is about expressing yourself, your thoughts when you want to, not because you have to! But as I haven’t written a blog in ages, I thought I would drop you some links of people I have been following (not literally) so that you too can enjoy their musings like I have. So here’s a few:
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The Bible is not God….

The Bible is not God. It has not and does not create, heal, save or restore. It is God the Father, Son and Spirit that does all that. Amen you all say

…So why is it that so many people seem to get the two confused? I just don’t understand some peoples logic. let me explain.

I’ll always rant about theologians and pastors who take shots at other believers and then go on telling as many people as possible about how right they are because they ‘teach the bible properly’…but that manor is so annoying and it is such an arrogant mentality for a follower of Jesus to have. All it is doing in the Church is making bigots and fanatics that would die for the Bible yet still hesitate for Jesus. There is something very wrong with that…

Please don’t misunderstand me. I think the Bible is God breathed (Tim 3:16) and I also believe that if we want to understand Who Jesus is and what following him looks like we only have to read the gospels and look at the church in Acts as they try and work it out. But what IS wrong (and only wrong when it is forced upon another) is the mentality that ‘If you don’t see this scripture this way…your wrong and therefore a heretic’. REALLY?

The Bible is not God. God is God and this God gave us scriptures so that we could see that YHWH is the only God and that following Him means following his Son…which is not a debatable subject:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt 22:36-40)

or if you want it in short hand:

Love God. Love People.

And what does that look like? Well Matt 6 is a good place to start: Make your decisions God decisions not (I) decisions. Instead of justifying actions by verses, read the life of Jesus and make his decisions your decisions. Even though we are reading the life of a 1st Century Palestinian, nothing is new under the Sun, or subject to your culture, whether that be tribalism, materialism, or 2.4 children-ism. Jesus put Gods will at the center (his good, perfect and pleasing will-Rom 12) and then served those in need; and by served I mean…served..not preached…he preached to explain the actions but he started with actions.

I must say one more thing. Jesus is actually amazing. really amazing! I just wish we would remember that. His first preach (Luke 4:16-21) was basically I am here to do business with the distortions in creation…and he did. He actually did what he was saying he would! He would heal and then talk, feed and then explain, love and then correct. That’s the way Jesus did it, so why do we spend so much time talking? Church can so often feel like the changing rooms before a football match, we spur, challenge, get passionate about the game…but never touch the field.

A little disclaimer. I am not coming at anyone in particular to bring some sort of guilt trip. That is what I can’t stand…bullying people into the kingdom…that is not what the kingdom is about. This is just the thoughts of a Youth Worker trying to get on to the field where so many others are and at the same time encourage those on to the fields I have stepped out on to.

So thanks for reading. I hope this has encouraged you to read the gospels and get back to basics and get back in touch our creator and Savior; and in the words of St Francis:

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart. Amen.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace. Amen.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection,starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy. Amen.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done. Amen.

And the Blessing of God, who Creates, Redeems and Sanctifies, be upon you and all you love an pray for this day, and forever more.