The Preacher as Antichrist: a sonnet

The Preacher as Antichrist To seize the flesh and make it word instead, Dissecting lived perfection to display Cold concepts, or trite lessons—mere cliche— I block th’ incarnate Word in printer’s lead, Make husk and dry chaff of the living bread, Turn laughter, tears, and blood, to an essay— Mere cleverness—affront to those who pray. To those who come, desiring to be fed And given hope, is all that can be said A worthless, weak, and cheap call to obey? Alliterated numbered points convey A dreary discourse, dull as it is dead. I look up to the Spirit that me owns, And ask, can life be given to these dry bones?   (Certainly not a theorised criticism of preaching; more a confession that, too often, this is what it feels like I am...

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A ‘Larbert Statement’ (memoirs of a gift of grace)

Yesterday morning I left home early, apologising to a neighbour for the state of one of the children I was leaving with her, and drove to a nondescript dormitory community in central Scotland called Larbert. I had agreed to spend a couple of days there in a confidential meeting with a group of church leaders helping them to talk about sexuality. I traveled with a heavy heart. My ears and mind were full of deadening words and shrill responses that had echoed across the Atlantic the day before. I knew just one of the people I was going to meet—liked and respected him, to be sure—but wondered if I was going into another blue-on-blue battle that would leave us all exhausted, wounded, and discouraged. I prayed as I drove, parked, pushed open a dark wooden door, and...

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Reni Eddo-Lodge on understanding race and white privilege in the UK

I have been involved in several social media conversations over the past couple of weeks which have started with someone in the UK sharing a helpful US perspective on understanding and responding to racism/white supremacy, and have gone on to ask where the equivalent British analyses were. I received Reni Eddo-Lodge’s new book, Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race (London: Bloomsbury, 2017) yesterday lunchtime, and finished reading it before lunch today. It is at least one answer to that question, and a compelling one at that. I want to write a decent summary, but here are the quotations I took down as I read: [On slavery] ’…unlike the situation in America, most British people saw the money without the blood.’ (5) ‘…many Brits lived...

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On Charlottesville and home again

The horror of Charlottesville for American friends was the visibility of things they had believed and hoped were confined to history. Is there anything similar in recent UK history? Unfortunately, yes. Do we have examples in recent times of people introducing explicit Nazi language and images into our political discourse? Yes. Katie Hopkins, a journalist who has written for many of our most popular press outlets, casually tweeted about the need for a ‘final solution’ recently—it was too much for one of her media employers (LBC), but she still writes for the British press. In a very similar vein, this week Trevor Kavanagh, the former political editor of our best-selling daily newspaper, wrote an article depicting ‘The Muslim Problem’. Kavanagh is a very...

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On Charlottesville and home

Today was the first day of the new school year here in Fife. Two of our daughters attend a school named ‘Madras College’, where our church congregation also happens to meet of a Sunday morning. It is a very ordinary state-funded Scottish high school which, like many thousands of British institutions, owes its odd name to an old connection with someone involved in the Empire. Most of its buildings in desperate need of replacement, although there is one fine quadrangle of great architectural merit and real note. I have forborne from commenting much in public on the—horrific—scenes enacted last weekend in Charlottesville, VA, scenes sparked by the intention to remove a monument to someone who was revered by his contemporaries, but has been judged more harshly by...

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