Twitter, taking the fight offline and the death of self awareness.

There is a line that I sometimes don’t know which side to sit on. One on side I decide to close my mind, eyes and Twitter feed off voices that I think are bringing division to the world. Even just people who believe wholeheartedly that theirs is the correct stance.

Sometimes these people are evil, racist and led by fear. Sometimes they are genuinely good people but who are missing a significant part of the puzzle or just can’t see it. Or don’t want to.

Then I remember that the people I view in this way, definitely have the same opinion of me. Continue reading

Not all ______.

Sometimes there is an extremely wrong thing to say in a situation. For example, you probably shouldn’t say “When are you expecting?” to someone unless you were absolutely there when they peed on a stick.

You should also never say, “maybe Trump has some good points” to anyone at any time, any where because lying makes baby Jesus cry.

Similarly you shouldn’t ever respond in discussions around “Me Too” with phrases, “yeah, but not all men” or when you hear someone lament the road that Evangelical Christians have taken with their support of Trump, there is no need to quip that, “not all Christians are into egomaniacal, narcissistic, lying leaders”.

Most likely the people that you are responding to already know that it is not the entirety of the group in question who are like this or that. The only purpose in stating “not all ______” is to make ourselves feel better.
Continue reading

Who are the real heroes?

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A black sportsman made an advert with Nike and some white people are pissed. So pissed they’re burning their shoes. Some even while wearing them. They’re so mad there is no time to waste removing their shoes first.

They’re being applauded but of course, protest is only good when you agree with the method of protesting. Quietly taking a knee is deeply offensive but burning something that could easily be donated to a homeless person or a charity working with veterans is entirely appropriate it seems.

We are deeply divided.

Continue reading

How Trump’s America Demonstrates Christianity’s Unconscious Pain.

They say the greatest gift of all is Love. Whitney sang it, Jesus said it. The Beatles thought you didn’t need anything else.

But I don’t agree. At least not entirely. What I think is the greatest gift of all can actually be the greatest act of Love that you can give anyone.

What is that gift? Continue reading

Detroit Vs Everybody. What a slogan can teach us about our need to hide from fear.

There is a famous slogan here that you can wear proudly on t shirts that declares “Detroit Vs Everybody”.

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If you ever bring up the fact that you live in or work in Detroit to someone who hasn’t visited the city recently you get either a sympathetic “That must be very difficult for you” or a look like you’ve just declared how your are to live in a hole in the ground, eat scotch eggs and support Arsenal for the rest of your life. Continue reading

The Grace of Martin McGuinness.

It’s not going to come as much surprise to anyone that the passing of Martin McGuinness has divided opinion. One of the highest ranking members of the IRA during the height of the troubles but equally  as instrumental as anyone of bringing it to an end.

Had you asked anyone at that time, whether Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness would be sitting beside each other, laughing and working together just a few decades later you would be considered insane at best.

Sworn enemies, completely at odds with the values of the other. Yet here was one of the greatest examples of Grace and reconciliation in the Western world, written into our history books.

These days following the passing of Marin McGuinness will be a difficult time for many. For some his death will bring no joy but perhaps a type of closure. For others it will be considered great news.

Grace is a word that everyone struggles with. It makes us feel uncomfortable and angry. Confused and frustrated. It is completely illogical. And there in lies it’s strength. That’s why it works.

The fear of Grace is that people will get away with whatever they want and in that tension most of us err on the side of caution and refuse to offer it. (Or for that matter, accept it). Many will have been skeptical that Martin McGuinness ever truly changed and are convinced he turned to political means when it became clear that violence wasn’t going to work. It’s little wonder that we cling to this cautious approach when we view the person we hate as someone still deserving of hate.

What do we do with our enemy who has turned around and changed their ways especially when we are still struggling to forgive?

There are no easy answers to this and we can not wrap this up in a way that everyone can feel comfortable with. I’m fortunate to have grown up during the end of the troubles and beginning of the peace process in Northern Ireland and I am even more fortunate to have grown up without losing someone close to me through the actions of any of the terrorist organizations that existed.

But if I had, could I still believe so deeply in the power of Grace? I’m not confident I would.

When the first images emerged of Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness sitting together at two tables in Stormont, strategically placed so not to look like either were too comfortable with the other; it was a moment of great significance. I remember watching the news that day and being excited and amazed that something was about to happen. As the years passed and the two grew from cautious colleagues to good friends who genuinely got on well with each other it was a great example of the power of Grace.

A shared anger turned into a shared joke.

It gave us hope that no situation is too far gone to be saved.

Grace takes a leap of faith. Both men took that leap in those days. Having seen the other as an enemy it must have taken great courage fully knowing the backlash they would inevitable experience from their prospective communities.

The leap is even greater for those who have suffered at the hands of violence. It’s an abyss too wide for many.

Healing takes time and maybe it will never come and as much as I believe in the power of Grace, many will not be able to give their enemy the benefit of the doubt. They should never be judged for that but rather given examples of Grace that in time could provide enough light for them to step forward.

Grace doesn’t wait until everyone is ready. It doesn’t wait for an apology or for justice. The time for Grace is now not tomorrow. You can’t justify Grace. You can’t make it fit your agenda. It doesn’t work because you feel good about the situation, it just works. It’s the only things that truly changes you.

The alternative then is to grow weary and for hate to become the undercurrent under which everything else shakily stands. It may feel comforting for a while but it never leads to healing, just bitterness. This is why Grace is not just for the one receiving forgiveness but for she who delivers it.

For millions the Lord’s prayer has become a familiar liturgy, the power of its words having been somewhat lost over time. “Forgive us, as we forgive those who trespass against us” is not simply a nice rhetoric to monotonously recite during school assemblies or Sunday morning church services, but a  challenging call to live differently. It’s a reminder that there is no “us” and “them” but just “we”.  Lord, offer my enemy, the one who has murdered and stolen from me, as much Grace as you are willing to offer me.

Nothing less will do.

That takes courage and a prophetic vision into what is possible when everything inside you or everyone around you tells you to run. Only a few will ever fully experience Grace but those that do will change the world. I believe that is the cornerstone of which the work of Martin McGuinness will be remembered.

A couple of years ago Martin McGuinness appeared on a stage as hundreds of young people prayed for him. Thousands of teenagers, many who were not old enough to remember the worst of the troubles praying for a man who was responsible for much of it.

What a young, fiery and angry Martin McGuinness would have made of this idea is one that only a few people are privy too. But I will take a guess that he could never have even begun to imagine such a scene.

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This is a stark image and one that I believe we must return to over and over and over. It’s a vision for what can happen when we take a risk. When we invite into our home, the one who broke up our home. When we offer security and Love to those who seek to bring us harm. When we decide that our anger and hatred is not allowing us to experience life and Love and Hope then it is time to allow Grace to do it’s work.

Grace has nothing to do with what is fair. It is bigger than any of us and can’t be easily argued against or understood. But it can most definitely be felt. That is the only way we will know it is real. Not when we try and understand it.

So may Martin McGuinness’s legacy be one of what can happen when we take risks and let Grace do it’s work.

Because tonight Big Ian and Marty will be hoping we follow their example.

It’s up to us now, to not let them down.

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.