Thursday, 14 February 2008

A House Divided

"Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand." ( Matthew 12:25 )

These words were spoken by Jesus to the Pharisees following their comments about casting out devils. But they seem to fit the bill in many modern day situations. Most recently, they have become a metaphor for the Church of England.

I speak of the latest gaffe perpetrated by Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, who has shocked the world by calling for parts of Sharia law to be introduced in Britain.

"Sharia law in the UK is unavoidable." These were the actual words he used.

Dr Williams is not an unintelligent man. He must, undoubtedly, have satisfied the higher echelons of the Church of England as to his ability and acumen to be the best banner man to lead the church into the twenty-first century. Really?? Surely, he has failed to look deeply enough into the thoughts behind these words and the repercussions they would have on society.

My view is, he has fallen into the old but ever enduring pit of apologetics where it is always fashionable to give deference to the 'away' team at the expense of the 'home'. Sadly, we have turned it into an art form in Britain. We do it ad nauseam.

Why did he not realise that by advocating fundamental forays into state law, he is attempting to undermine the whole structure of society? This could only lead to unrest and division on a gargantuan scale.

As I write, I learn that Dr Williams has now faced the synod, the church's governing body, and has staunchly defended his words. Already, I detect the stench of yet another schism. Is there a hidden agenda? Time will tell. Interestingly, though the Archbishop has plenty of supporters, his predecessor, Lord Carey has just said "Acceptance of some Muslim laws would be disastrous for Britain."

Perhaps Dr Williams needs to look more closely at the above scripture. The words of Jesus should ring loud and clear. For any invasion by Sharia law would indeed make the church, and the country, a house divided.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Sacrifice: Blind Obedience or Obsessive Barbarity?

Question: What kind of god requires sacrifice? Compare and contrast the moral implications of sacrifice with regard to human rights, with the principles of ritual and appeasement.

This question may never appear on a college paper but I would like you, the interested reader, to imagine you are the student and you have been given this assignment. How would you tackle it. Of course, I'm taking for granted the fact that you have done extensive research on the subject and your essay writing skills are beyond question. Feeling generous, I'm disposing with the normal time constraints. Go can do it!

However, just in case you don't feel too confident I shall endeavour to offer some assistance by going over a few salient points. For starters, let's have a dictionary definition, or two, to get the juices flowing.

Sacrifice: n. (1) The slaughter of animal or person, surrender of possession, as offering to a deity.
v. (2) The giving up of a thing for the sake of another that is higher or more urgent.

You have probably learned from past teaching that sacrifice is synonymous with archaic religious rituals. That much blood was spilled and many innocents died. When you think of the word 'sacrifice' you think of ancient civilisations like the Aztecs and the Incas who practised the art frequently. That such offerings would appease angry gods or guarantee a good harvest next year was the natural expectation of the people. But you might say that these civilisations were godless in Judaeo-Christian terms, and that men of God such as Moses, Joshua and Abraham would never get involved with the idea. Wrong! In fact the principle of sacrifice is prevalent throughout the bible right into the New Testament.

The Bible sets the Scene

The original plan was to sacrifice animals. Most of the book of Leviticus is taken up with the ritual slaughter of birds and animals 'to cleanse lepers'. Can you believe this?

"And the priest shall command that one of the birds shall be killed in an earthen vessel over running water."

(Leviticus 14:5)

"And he shall slay the lamb in the place where he shall kill the sin offering and the burnt offering in the holy place."
(Leviticus 14:13)


In most cases the blood of the animals was sprinkled over the people. For what purpose? In Genesis, Abraham's obedience was 'tested' by God who demanded that he should offer up his beloved son Isaac as a burnt offering. The killing didn't take place as it seems that Abraham had passed the test by placing his son on the altar. But instead of everyone packing up and going home, Abraham felt it necessary to offer up an animal. Why waste an altar? It so happened that a ram was "caught in a thicket by his horns" and this poor animal was offered up to God in place of Isaac. I'm pleased for the sake of Isaac but why needlessly destroy the animal? This slaughter was not for food.

The New Testament

"And almost all things are by the law purged with blood. Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins"
(Hebrews 9:22)

Here, St Paul is referring to the crucifixion of Christ who was regarded as the ultimate sacrifice to atone for the sins of man. Whose idea is this? First of all, you have to believe in the principle of sin. If like me, you don't, there is no need for senseless, ritual slaughter. Do you imagine for one moment that a sane, intelligent, all-seeing and all-knowing God would stoop to this barbaric level? No way! But then if you think about it, all down the ages, man has anthropomorphized deities. He has endowed God with human characteristics. He does it to animals and inanimate objects. And he has certainly done it to God. This is why God is seen as judgemental one minute and merciful the next. This is why God is called "a jealous God" who is easily angered.
This is why the God of the scriptures must be appeased and prayed to by penitents who need to suffer some form of deprivation so that there will be a change of mind, so that disaster will be averted.

Man has projected his feelings and emotions on to something on the outside. He has created a means whereby an outside entity can take all the blame for his own shortcomings and problems.

What am I saying here? That man has invented God? I think that will have to be another question paper.

I look forward to receiving your answer sheet with interest.