So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, sort of

I vowed that I would never write this piece. I always felt that writing a blog detailing why you’re taking a break always seemed a little self-serving to me; yet here I am, writing a piece about why I’m taking a break.

3 weeks ago, I sat down to watch Rush with Sarah. I love this movie, best movie of 2013 by a country mile (not sure how that’s different to any other mile, but I like the expression), and one of my all time favourites. Something struck me during the closing monologue. The 2 main characters, Nikki Lauda and James Hunt, both have very different approaches to racing and life, but totally sure in who they were and they never compromised on that. Last night I posted on Twitter My thinking tonight has gone from “do I still have a relationship with Christ” to “do I even want one?” I think I may be lost. One of the responses I got was from Tom Price, and it was a talk given by Michael Ramsden. I love Michael Ramsden, he was very influential in my early Christian life. The general gist of the talk, is that being a Christian is about following Jesus; that our identity is in Jesus. That no matter how confused or wrong we are about our theology, we are still Christians because we follow Jesus.

That’s great, if you know what that actually means. I currently don’t. I used to, or at least I think I used to. I used to have a very clear idea about who I was. I was me, I was a hardcore raving, dart playing, IT working Christian who attended conventions. I didn’t care what people thought about me, you either accepted me for who I was or you didn’t, I wasn’t going to lose any sleep over it. Jesus took all that and embraced it. Sure there have been changes, I have made changes for Sarah but she accepted me who I was first before that came. I’m not the same person I was 5 years ago, but I was accepted first. Now though…….I don’t know who I am or what changes I have to make to get back to that, or even if I will be accepted again. I keep trying to remember back to that night at my friends house, when I had no idea which way was up and felt Jesus grab me and tell me everything is going to be OK, that he loved me. I feel I have to change, I have to get back to that.

If you look back at some of my posts of the last 6 months, this has been a recurring theme, being lost and tired. I’ve had major issues with the church over their attitude towards women, the LGBT community, the poor. Most of these have come from very right-wing Christian fundamentalists on the internet but not all, I’ve seen these traits in more “liberal” Christians. The need to draw lines and cast out those not on the right side filled my Twitter feed daily. I tried to work my way through it by blogging and making a FaceBook page to share it to others who might have been interested, but I lost the ability to separate the failings of the church with Jesus which is why I stopped going to Church. 6 months on, I’ve still been faced with seemingly endless onslaught of being told I’m going to hell, that I’m a heretic, the crushing of other people because they’re different, all trumpeted as being in the name of Christ. There’s only so many times you can hear that whilst questioning before the hints of you starting to believe it set in. I blogged against it, but I became tired of being negative. That’s why my last blog before this was about Halo and the XBox One; I just wanted to write about something that made me excited.

I’m tired and drained, my temper has no fuse, I’ve had a lot of personal issues to work through and I miss my friend who moved up north. I so want to be able to point at one thing and go “you’re the culprit”, but if the problem has been a slow burn then the recovery will be slow. Everything has become to mixed in and entangled that I don’t know what being a Christian means, and because I’ve lost that I’ve lost the sense of who I am; knowing this is an improvement on 2 paragraphs ago. This is logical though, if you lose the thing you’ve put your value in, you lose yourself.

My natural tendency is to retreat into myself, and some will argue that’s what I did with not going to church, and that’s what I’m doing now; sometimes retreat is the best option though. I have my martial arts which I enjoy and have a grading coming up at the end of the month, I have my darts which I love, I’ve started tap dancing again, and I lead my first discussion group as part of the Great Men Project so I have lots to do. I do have some XBox games I want to complete and get done, because I’m determined to do it, plus want a fresh start for the XBox One. I don’t do sitting in silence very well, I don’t do sitting around doing nothing very well, which is going to make curling up reading a book very interesting. I may only manage 5 minutes but small steps an that. Before all of that though, I need to get away from the messenger of the news that’s grieving me; the internet. I won’t be tweeting articles, maintaining the FaceBook page, or blogging (ok, the blog may stay). I can’t handle the amount of news, I can’t handle the type of news, I can’t watch people destroy others in the name of Jesus. I may not know what being a Christian is, but I know a little bit about Him.

Thank you to everyone who has followed me on Twitter and FaceBook and read this blog for your support and encouragement. I hope you will stay. This blog occupies a small amount of Gb on a shared WordPress server somewhere in the world, always has been small but it’s been a lifeline for me, and I hope others as well. A blog may well appear after Monday when I’ve finished with the school group. Maybe this just won’t be a blog, or Twiter/Facebook account about Christianity anymore. I don’t know, I’m just rambling at this point.

If anyone wants to get in touch, I’m more than happy to answer questions or chat. I can be reached at frontlinexian@gmail.com

Until then, be you.

Don’t underestimate the Chief

Courtesy of Giantbomb.com

Image from GiantBomb.com

 

So this week has been the E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo where developers and hardware manufacturers announce what they are releasing in the coming months and beyond.  The last few years have been about Microsoft and Sony, XBox and Playstation and this year was really no different. I was only interested in one thing though; Spartan-117 aka Master Chief. Last year Microsoft announced that Halo was coming to the XBox One (despite 3 years ago saying that a new Halo trilogy would be coming to the 360 when they announced Halo 4) and there had been leaks about not only a Halo 2 anniversary edition coming, but all 4 Master Chief Halo games coming to the XBox One. Microsoft did not disappoint.

I am so excited about this, I have booked the week off work just to play this (much to the amusement of Sarah and my boss). I bought the first XBox because of the 1st Halo, I cued up outside Game in Cheltenham at 11pm in November for Halo 2, I bought an XBox 360 because of the 3rd Halo, and I planned to buy an XBox One once Halo 5:Guardians came out. This has accelerated that. It’s no secret that Microsoft is trailing Sony in the next-gen console sales, and some commentators don’t think this will help boost XBox One sales. I disagree. As I said, it’s why I’m buying an XBox One and looking at a couple of forums, there’s a lot of people saying that they will now buy one. Halo is the biggest game on the XBox, it’s protagonist Master Chief is arguably one of the most iconic characters around. There are books, figurines; everything you’d expect from a franchise. Microsoft know this, but they also know that the Halo 4 multi-player was not widely received by the Halo fan-base. I loved Halo 4, especially the campaign. The graphics were mind blowing, the story was up there with the best and the ending……I think I may have shed a tear. I’ve never been too fussed about multi-player, but Halo 4 got me back into it, and got me back into getting achievements. Not everyone feels this way and Halo 4 has less people playing online now than any of the other games at the same stage of the product cycle. This does not go un-noticed. The Halo fan-base is quite a passionate one, most seem to be, and Halo 2 seems to be regarded as the best of the series and so giving them what they want (Halo 2 with all the maps) is a smart move. Add in the 3 other games, beta access to Halo 5: Guardians and access to the new digital services, and it’s an almost irresistible package.

The excitement is because it’s Halo though. Master Chief is coming to the next-gen world, a new chapter in the 117 story is coming. All his adventures on one disk, all running at 1080p, 60 fps with dedicated servers and a teaser for his next one. If this doesn’t boost console sales for Microsoft, nothing will; and I suspect they know it.

Me, myself and theology

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I am not a Theologian or a Scholar. I do not have qualifications or training in Theology or Biblical Scholarship. My qualification, aside from the GCSE’s and A-Levels I left school with at 18, is in Digital Forensics, and I have  just over 10 years experience of working in various fields of the IT industry. I mention this because despite no formal training , I have to have an understanding of Theology and Biblical Scholarship to even begin discussions about Christianity and the Bible, and to even be a Christian. Subjects like atonement, justification and the Trinity are incredibly complex, yet seem to form a core basis for the Christian faith (aside from the resurrection, obviously). This is why organizations like RZIM and Premier Christian Radio  host training days to help people to understand these subjects. But even for organisations such as this, communicating these topics are no easy feat. A cursory glance through different books and articles quickly shows the breadth of opinions on any given subject, so how do we decide who to listen to? If the experts are divided, what chance has the layman got?

Often on social media sites, there will be a post from someone asking about peoples top 3 books/authors they’d recommend. The logic seems to be that if the recommendation comes from someone they trust, they’d be more willing to read it. Plus, time constraints means that they can’t read absolutely everything. Makes sense. Depending on the subject that they’re interested in, my response would vary, but most of the time, my recommendations are as below:

  • Healing the Gospel by Derek Flood
  • Lost World of Genesis One by John Walton
  • Inspiration and Incarnation by Peter Enns

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that I refer to Derek Flood a lot.  I can say that his book helped to save my faith. In the early days of my faith, I was influenced by people like Ravi Zacharias and Michael Ramsden, but their interpretation of the cross, (that it was about the pouring out of Gods wrath onto Jesus) really didn’t seem to settle with me; it didn’t sound like the God I knew. I was wrestling with it a lot as well as issues regarding Genesis (Lost World of Genesis One helped me with this), and the whole inerrancy issue (which Inspiration and Incarnation helped me with). But it wasn’t until I read Flood’s book that I began to understand that the cross was about restoration, not wrath. Until that point, what I was coming to understand about heaven (courtesy of NT Wright’s work), were just words that sounded great, but I had no idea what they meant or how to apply them. Flood’s book acted like a pen joining up the dots, not just about the cross, but about virtually everything that I couldn’t reconcile. It blew away my fears, and I felt a freedom and a peace that I hadn’t had since that night at my friends house. Now, any time that Flood posts anything on his website or anything about the organizations that he writes for, I’m there reading and sharing it. I have on one occasion sent him an article just so I could get his views on it…and he has very graciously responded.

When you’re in the middle of working through something, and you have all these voices telling you conflicting things, having people you trust who you can go to can really help you to find a path, but in the end, you have to work it out for yourself. When relying solely on other peoples opinions, you run the risk of simply being blown about in the direction of whatever author you happen to be listening to at the time. Also, your understanding isn’t really your own – it’s your understanding of somebody else’s understanding. Your faith is effectively somebody else’s. It is a fine line, but there is a difference between being influenced by someone and saying “this is true because they say so”. It isn’t wrong to listen to others, it’s how we learn, and it certainly gives you a great starting point. It may even result in a massive breakthrough like Flood’s book did for me.

I don’t have it all worked out, but that’s OK. We’re not all fortunate enough to be able to go to university or seminary to study theology full time, and even a qualification doesn’t guarantee that it will all make sense to you. But in turn, that doesn’t mean that you can’t help others by sharing what you know and who’s influencing you.

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If you, like me, are interested in exploring theology but aren’t sure where to start, my advice would be to read a wide range of authors, not just from this century, but previous too. Some of the greatest theological writers were born years before social media, and still managed to get their voices heard. Do your research; look up current theologians on the net, go google crazy! Read blog posts for and against the subjects you’re interested in, because the more rounded your research is, the better your understanding will become. And if you’re feeling particularly geeky (no offence meant, I am a budding geek myself, just ask my fiancée), go further and see which sources and people your favourite theologians favour, and research them. The more you discover, with each piece of information you gather, your foundation for decision making will become firmer and firmer. And don’t put pressure on yourself or compare yourself to others who are passionate about the same field – go at your pace! Like Sarah is often telling me, slow down to enjoy the journey, you’ll reach your destination whether you walk at 10 or 100 miles an hour. But if you rush, you may miss important things that could trip you up later down the line. But with all of this knowledge should also come open-mindedness; I have come across too many Christians who refuse to have their minds changed, and that creates an instant wall. How are you supposed to grow in your faith if you can’t ask questions and see things from other people’s point of view? If you’re prepared to be challenged and to accept new points of view, the world is your theological oyster.

Why I got involved

When talking to a friend of mine about volunteering for the Great Men Project, (to go into schools to talk to teenagers about gender equality) she had 2 questions for me: “Why are men getting involved and why only speak to teenage boys?” These are 2 very good questions, and actually get to the heart of why I’ve got involved; but first, a little backstory.

Debating theology and the Bible as I often do, the subject of women bishops is one that comes up fairly often. The resistance to women bishops came largely from men and I slowly began to realize that this was just one small problem in the greater issue of how women are seen and treated in this world. From all things pink to page 3 to porn, all give the message to women that they are to simply look pretty, play with dolls and when they get older, and be viewed by men as little more than objects. They’re just supposed to do what the men say and accept that they have their place (which is usually in the kitchen). Those views are demeaning enough, but when reports of women getting beaten and killed appear in the paper, the question that gets asked is “what did the woman do to provoke the man?”

But the fact that this goes on wasn’t the gut punch for me; the realization that I was oblivious to it being right in front of me and have joined in with it, was. The question became, “what do I do about it?” Social media can be a fantastic tool to raise awareness, but I wanted to do more than just join in with the latest hashtag that would soon be forgotten a week later. I wanted to help people talk about these things because discussing them helps with understanding, which I think is much more important. But having discussions with people already benefiting from the status quo is like putting flames out whilst the gas tap is still on fire. Prevention is better than a cure, so having these discussions with teenagers would seem to be the best approach.

I volunteered because I felt that if the problem is the way women are seen by men, then speaking to men about it would be part of the solution. It’s a mans problem which women suffer the consequences of. When I went to the training days for Great Men, I got hit with some facts that hit a bit close to home. The vast majority of assaults against women are carried out by men, the vast majority of assaults against men are carried out by men, and men in their 30s, 40s and 50s are more likely to commit suicide than women. Men are more likely to end up in jail. Again, the question became, “what can I do?”

It appears that there is a whole host of other issues that are mixed in; how can a man get help if he’s told that to be a man is to just “deal with it?” How can a man avoid committing rape if he doesn’t know what it is? The focus is on the men, not with a view to justify actions but to prevent them. This is not saying we don’t need women, this work cannot take place without them, now, in the future, or without the groundwork that’s been laid down by them, in their work and sacrifices. This is also not saying women shouldn’t be involved in discussions about the issues they face, but I have to start somewhere and this seems to be the most pressing need.

I’m going to be working things out as I go, which works great when encouraging people to ask questions and discuss issues, as I will be on the ride too.

 

The views expressed above are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Great Men Project