Social Justice Vs Grace Christianity: Which is better?

The questions usually asked is which is more important for a Christian,
Social justice issues like taking care of the poor, helping the sick, freeing the trafficked, oppressed etc.

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I’m an immigrant (but it’s ok I’m the good kind)

I’m an immigrant.

But hold up. Before you leave this post disgusted, I’m the good type.

I’m not one of those immigrants in Calais who are trying to selfishly move to the UK so they can suck the life out of the country bringing their different skin colors and weird smells to our pale and floral smelling cities like London or Glasgow.

I moved to the USA a couple of years because I was able to and I had family and friends who helped us. I mean, we needed help because otherwise I would have had to probably limit my lukewarm chai tea latte from Starbucks to twice or heaven forfend, once a week.

Sure I moved from Belfast, where I had a great community of people around me, a job, a family who loved me, Boojum and a sense of belonging. But ever since they took Chilis away a few years ago I’ve had to wait once, (maybe twice if lucky) a year, until I visited to have a proper hot meal from a US chain restaurant.

And now Songs of Praise, a long running religious show on the BBC are offensively spending money to reporting from a migrant camp in Calais for this weekends episode. That is money that could have been much better spent on bringing back bastions of British broadcasting like Pets Win Prizes or Eldorado.

What does Christianity even have to do with people leaving oppressive living situations and traveling long distances in unbearable conditions to seek a better life anyway?

Jesus would have been ashamed to see the religion he so carefully structured around the rich, privileged and powerful reduced to reporting from this squaller. At least He had strict conditions for entry to the Kingdom of Heaven, like owning a camel. I haven’t seen one camel in the news reports from Calais and that is worrying.

And of course there will be those who claim Britain is anti immigrant and anti Christian because of all of this and especially after recent cuts to asylum support for parents with two children were announced. But we’re actually doing the Christian thing by forcing those people, oops I mean migrants, to live in even more poverty and so receive blessing from God, just like Jesus said.

Look, I’m all for helping people out a little but Jesus always made sure he kept his distance from those in need. That’s why he climbed a mountain to deliver his political manifesto the Beatitudes and another time got in a boat to preach, probably to demonstrate how cool boats were for any immigrants present who had any ideas about over staying their welcome.

And anyway, Britain has worked far too hard to make itself the country it is ever since our forefathers thousands of years before us just woke up magically one day with “British” virtues flowing through their red and blue blood. Although that’s because it’s always so bloody cold but still.

Britain is a country based on minding our own business and not getting involved in other countries affairs and now people from some of those countries, countries most of us have never been on holiday to and whom we most certainly did not have any negative influence on politically, have the cheek to take advantage of our good nature and Greggs.

Coming over here, taking our jobs that none of us really want.

How rude.

Jesus must be turning in his tomb.

Why I Gave Up on Quiet Times

I want you to know you don’t have to feel guilty anymore.

You don’t have to have a quiet time.

You aren’t a bad person for not having one or even not wanting to have one. Let’s look at why quiet times are a waste of time. You take a few minutes first thing in the morning (has to be as early as possible) and pray (but mostly just fall asleep) and read a passage out of the Bible. You then will probably forget half way through brushing your teeth what you had read earlier; really regretting not taking that extra half hour in bed. Does God want you to spend time with Him first thing in the morning if it’s going to make you grouchy all day?

Leaving out the lack of sleep for now, I’m not a fan of quiet times for a few reasons and here are 3 of them.

1. Compartmentalizing God is kind of missing the point.

If God is omnipresent and an all knowing being, why on earth do we think the best time to speak or hear him is at an ungodly hour. It’s called ungodly because even God is asleep. He’s tired enough trying to keep up with our prayers to convert our friends or for the LGBT community to repent. Give Him/Her a break. What would help would be if we stopped thinking about God in ways that limit him. This isn’t just about quiet times. It’s about realizing we don’t need to go to church on a Sunday or a Wednesday night, “expectant” for God to show up as if there’s a very specific window in which God can fit us in. It’s about being ready during all those moments we aren’t ready to experience His spirit because we thought we missed our chance for the day when we slept in like a Heathen.

He’s already showing up. We just don’t know how to shut up for long enough to hear Him.

2. The Bible is not a self help book.

Most of the time we read the Bible as if it is a guide on how to not swear, lie, murder (ok not everyone struggles with that one) or look at naked pictures. But if we’re really going to treat the Bible like a how to for not sinning let’s look at some of the people in the Bible who we hold up as the epitome of Holiness. King David, a man who sent his best friend off to the frontline to die, just so he could get cozy with his bf’s wife. Or Judas one of Jesus closest friends, who sold him out for 30 gold coins which come on, even taking inflation into account can’t be worth much. Then of course Moses, who got so pissed he couldn’t remember who he was and even fell for the riddle about how many of each animal Moses put into the ark.

The Bible is really just like an episode of Coronation Street or Eastenders but probably with a lot sexier characters.

We need to read the Bible for what it is. A vast library of books written over thousands of years by different people in different styles, who all flawed just like us, but in no ways examples for how to live healthy lives. It seems to me the main reason we have to read the Bible then is to see ourselves in these stories, learning about hope, grace and love. To put ourselves into these stories of redemption with the sole purpose not to make sure we don’t screw up majorly today but can bring light to the world.

3. The more the merrier.

One of the reasons we like the Bible as Christians is because it hasn’t changed in thousands of years. The words are still the same and so we don’t feel like we need to face that most uncomfortable reality of change. We don’t like it. We don’t like when someone comes along and suggests a new reading or understanding of a passage or that we maybe stop singing “Blessed be Your Name” for just one week in church (seriously, we’re still singing that?!) But change is good, it’s healthy and it creates life.

It’s kind of ironic because the Bible is full of people who changed their views on God and who decided to try it a different way.

Once we get into a groove with quiet times, we like to stick with what we know. Maybe we don’t like to be challenged or even worse, believe that “this way” is the only way that God can speak to us. When God created the world he said it was good but he didn’t say it was finished….that came in the sequel.

The point being that creativity is in the essence of all humans and the times we seek to interact with God shouldn’t be exempt from that creative spark we are all born with.

Life comes from change, from creativity, from a new freshness. It’s not that the old ways are always inherently bad. They may just be past their sell by date. Then other times we realize that it’s actually us who have changed the way things are done. I mean, this idea of reading the Bible on our own is a pretty new and novel way to read. It’s not actually that Biblical. Reading and interpreting with other people on the other hand.. What would happen if we began to read the Bible with others? Praying the words over and over, letting the Spirit guide us into a meaning and to find a truth much deeper and richer than just the literal?

Of course there is a place and an important one at that, for us to carve out time to allow that part of us that wants to be involved in something bigger than ourselves, speak to us. Just sometimes the manner we go about it gets stale, and needs something new and fresh injected into it.

Coming up in my next post, a couple of things I have been trying that have changed how I view connecting with God.