When Faith and Politics Collide

One of the biggest obstacles according to Brennan Manning that unbelievers have from engaging with Christians is Christians “who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle …”

And I have to admit that as a Christian that loves the church and loves being a part of a community of followers of Jesus I also find myself struggling to believe sometimes. Continue reading

The Identity Crisis of LAD and Jamie Bryson

Yesterday morning as I opened up my twitter feed to see what latest wacky method someone had employed for their Ice Bucket challenge, I soon found myself reading through another twitter discussion between Northern Ireland’s two greatest parody twitter accounts, LAD and Jamie Bryson. Only one of which is actually a genuine parody account believe it or not.

For those who don’t know and who maybe don’t even care let me explain briefly who LAD and Jamie are.

LAD are a satirical twitter account, who under the guise of a quintessential Loyalist seek to highlight the absurdities of those cultures in Northern Ireland (both Unionism and Republicanism) which from the outside must look like parodies in themselves. The obsession with flegs and culture and parades. They bring to light the contradictions that many in the political world of Northern Ireland seem to have no problem in portraying. Using twitter as their main tool as well as occasional parody videos (where they are strongest), they for the most part are successful, while being hilarious. Think, a sort of Stephen Colbert type character, that is employing the beliefs they obviously don’t agree with in order to highlight their absurdities. But with bad grammar (intentional) and an ironic love of flegs.

They are not however perfect. More on that later.

In the other corner we have Jamie Bryson. A young (at least I assume he is, his baby faced features make it truly difficult to tell), proud, Loyalist who was seen as a spokesperson of sorts for the fleg protests of November 2012, after Belfast City Council voted to fly the Union Flag on a select designated number of days, rather than the entire year. And yes, this did warrant country wide street protests and violence. Want to fight about it?

Jamie is passionate, of that no one can deny (is this a lyric?) but his own contradictions are his downfall. Like continually lambasting LAD for their “hateful” and “vile” attacks on those in his culture, while being caught on camera in a crowd of people throwing missiles at another community. D’oh!

But they both have something in common which may just be the last thread of hope for reconciliation between the two.

They both have an identity crisis.

With LAD, I’m never quite sure of who they are supposed to be. While they make a very good go at using humor to view the political situation in Northern Ireland, they often find themselves being sucked into petty twitter disputes with the likes of Jamie Bryson. They break out of character, which weakens the power that their satire has, as rusty and as rough around the edges as may be sometimes.

Compare this to earlier in the year when someone from the aforementioned Stephen Colbert show, tweeted from his characters account something which was deemed racist. It wasn’t. It was a use of satire to highlight the ignorance of racism. He wasn’t really being racist.

Rather than personally taking to twitter or social media to get angry or annoyed, he and his writers took a breath, stayed in character and delivered this amazing response on the next edition of the show.

This is what LAD need to perfect if they are to truly shake up the political landscape of Northern Ireland.

They need to understand that Jamie is someone who has a limited voice in politics and since many of his ideas would have been embarrassing at the height of the troubles, they should seek to make fun of them without getting personal. This only gives Jamie more ammunition and also distracts LAD from what they do best. Making fun of those who have outdated and harmful views on how Northern Ireland should be run.

Lately, Jamie has threatened to expose the real faces behind the LAD account. He says he knows, and he may well do. But LAD should put an end to this and expose themselves (simply their identity that is, nothing illegal). This would take the one trick Jamie could possibly have up his sleeve and would give LAD the chance to concentrate on doing what Northern Ireland politics is crying out for them to do.

Jamie’s identity crisis is just a little more sinister.

As someone who claims to be a Christian but sees no problem in attacking his fellow Christians, he fails to understand the life that Jesus came to offer everyone. Concepts like, loving your enemies, forgiveness, caring for those who face injustice (and no, having your flag taken away doesn’t count Jamie), and turning the other cheek. His faith is one based on fear, fear of the unknown, fear of what would happen if his identity, one held together by a tradition that is famous for it’s role in dividing communities not building it, was placed in something much larger, much more beautiful than “For God and Ulster.”

This is only important because the Gospel that Jamie believes in is far removed from the life that Jesus led where He challenged His own tradition and most pertinently for Jamie, one that is unrecognizable from the call to love His enemies.

Until Jamie, sorts this muddled view of His faith then His identity will always be confused.

For Jamie, this will diminish his great passion that he could direct at building a Northern Ireland where we make the next leap from peace to one where we trust those on the other side.

Perhaps even, to a time when there is no other side.

But for now, as Jamie threatens and promises to finally expose the faces behind LAD, maybe there is one possible explanation for why he keeps stalling.

One that no one would see coming.

What if Jamie Bryson is LAD?!

Now wouldn’t that be amazing?

How Twitter Hid Joseph Kony.

In the world we live in today it is easier to put your voice out there than in anytime in history before. Anyone can publish their opinions as a blog or as a tweet. We can share pictures instantly with anyone, anywhere around the world. It is pretty amazing when you think about it.

One of the ways that social media has been particularly beneficial is through the spreading of ideas. More so, the spreading of ideas that can change people’s lives for the better. Sometimes, something comes along that goes viral. Not since the invention of the television have we seen anything with quite the same effect as the internet has had on news and media.

You may remember two years ago when Invisible Children launched their Kony 2012 campaign. Continue reading

Peter Robinson, Racism and Ducks.

If a group of local people were to make a man from a racial minority feel intimidated and discriminated by erecting signs reading     “local housing, 4 local people” outside the home he was about to move into; most people would assume this was a racist attack.

Most people in this case it would seem, do not include the Northern Ireland first minister Peter Robinson.

For the DUP leader, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a goose. Continue reading

How NOT to disagree with Jamie Bryson.

If you follow politics in Northern Ireland and are on twitter you will most likely have heard of Jamie Bryson. Jamie is a Loyalist activist who was an early member of the Protestant Coalition and a leading light in the Flag Protests that began in December 2012 after the Belfast City Council voted to only fly the Union Flag on designated days and not all year round, which until that point it had. Continue reading

Pastor McConnell, racism and the Good Samaritan.

When I read my friend Gemma’s tweet asking her followers how they felt about Northern Ireland, I was hard pressed to think of anything positive to say.

Her tweet, coming off the back of remarks by a Pastor in Belfast that were derogatory to Muslims and Islam, left me wondering if there was anything good I could say about my home country. Continue reading

#BringBackOurGirls Part 1(Or #Let’sendcynicism)

bring-back-our-girls-anthony-kiedisIs it a good thing? How much impact does it really have? Does it do more damage than good?celebs bring back our girls_0

When there is not much more we can do, surely it’s all we can do and it’s better than nothing, right?

All good and important questions.

Cynicism from some people is part and parcel when something positive grows. People like this are normally just cynical. It’s in their DNA. They don’t offer any useful, positive alternative. They want something to be angry about and this is simply the latest. Tomorrow it will be something else. We can’t change people like that. So we shouldn’t listen to their voices.

(This is why I have chosen not to give links to tweets or blogs from people like this here. It won’t change their opinion, and it will just make me more like them).

They are the grownup who tells you that your dreams aren’t realistic. They are the High school guidance teacher who says that things like that don’t happen to normal people like you.

girls1They are closed. And the door’s locked.

Maybe they are right. My voice alone can’t persuade the Nigerian Government to act but our voice together can make our Governments sit up and take notice. Maybe, some who have tweeted their support have done so for selfish reasons. I don’t know all our motivations but I do know that I’m not sure it matters so much. They are making their voice count for something positive and I’ll take that over trying to cut something down just for the sake of it any day.

This is why #BringBackOurGirls has been so powerful. Not because we think a hashtag can change anything, rather we know that making a noise can.

And if you have a voice (or twitter, or a Government you can appeal to) then you can make a noise too. 

 

Identity, forgiveness and Peace (Ourselves and themuns)

We want to be perfect now? Why? Because we want to be able to experience God fully now in these moments, because we want to be used by God somehow?

Or because it sucks to be you right now? Because today you are acutely aware of who you are not and how far you are from who you want to be? And it feels horrible.

Grace is difficult to offer other people sometimes. But not nearly as hard as it is to offer ourselves. We constantly point to our sin rather than to the freedom that is already ours. You wouldn’t even imagine doing this to someone else (or maybe you would) but yet it’s so easy to beat ourselves up.

Why is this? Why do we choose to live this way? Continue reading