The BBC is currently running a festival of Religion and Ethics called RE:think. As part of the festival they have released details of a poll of 585 (not that many people when you think about it, not even a school’s worth) 16-24 year olds about their beliefs. Here’s an extract from the BBC article about this:
The poll undertaken by TNS BMRB among 585 16-24 year-olds asked them to rank the most important moral issue for them, from a list of eight options. These options were:
- Paying taxes
- Having religious faith or beliefs
- Caring for the environment
- Buying ethical products
- Being faithful to a partner
- Looking after family
- Playing a part in your community
- Putting others before yourself
Fifty-nine per cent of 16-24 year olds said looking after family was the most important moral issue for them. Only four per cent said having religious faith or beliefs was the most important moral issue. The same percentage listed paying taxes and playing a part in your community 12 per cent said putting others first, eight per cent said being faithful to a partner; five per cent said caring for the environment. One per cent listed buying ethical products as the most important moral issue.
Having ranked the eight issues in order of importance, religious faith or belief was considered to be least important by almost one third (32 per cent) of the respondents. This was followed by 22 per cent who said buying ethical products was the least important, and 15 per cent who put paying taxes at the bottom of their moral list.
The head of religion and ethics at the BBC called these results ‘startling’. I can’t understand why. If I were asked to rank the statements in terms of importance I think I’d put caring for others and family first too, despite being a ‘religious person’. It’s a case, yet again, of people thinking that religion is something abstract – something that sits over in its own category. My religion gives me the motivation and desire to put others first. Anyone knows that simply holding a religious belief means nothing if it doesn’t bear out in the person’s life. As James writes in the New Testament:
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
- James 2:14-17
I don’t find the results too disconcerting. It’s true that religion is being put more and more to the boundaries of society but part of me is glad about that. It’s not religion I’m interested in, it’s the outworking of belief on our wider society that is important. If religion had come top in the poll with caring for others or family much lower down I think there would be much much more cause for concern.
This poll is the equivalent of saying ‘what’s the most important issue in society?:
- being a member of a political party
- providing free education to all
- having good roads
- having good hospitals
- building a strong economy
The likelihood is that no one would choose ‘being a member of a political party’ but those who were members of a political party would care very much about the list below that.
Still, the talks at the festival look pretty interesting anyway so I’m glad this has brought discussion of religion and ethics into the public sphere.
Purporting to possibly be their ‘last ever gig’ this was a special event for me to attend – to see Blur in Hyde Park to mark the end of what has been an incredible Olympics. After seeing Blur play at one of their reunion gigs in 2009 I just had to be there for the 2012 gig! Here I’ll include the set list and give my take on each track as it was performed. At the bottom of this post I have embedded a Spotify playlist I made of the set list (using tracks from the remastered 21 set released this year). A live recording of this gig can be purchased on iTunes.
Girls & boys
Perhaps an unsurprising choice for the first song but the right one, the crowd started pogo-ing straight away. It felt funny singing the line “love in the nineties, it’s paranoid”. The crowd was generally older than the usual gig crowd – most of us in our 30s and 40s!
Damon announced this saying that Blur loves London. Not one of their best songs but fitting for London 2012.
Funny to move from a song about being a teenager to a song about being disillusioned with your job in your 40s. The line “it’s just so overrated” was sung with gusto – I think because it described a lot of people’s lives. A bit sad really!
A nice noisy one to continue. Noise was a bit of a problem – for the first 5 songs or so the sound just wasn’t quite right. The crowd kept chanting “turn it up” until I think we all realised that we couldn’t do much about it. I think the wind took some of the sound. It seemed to improve as the gig went on and the crowd settled.
Away from the Parklife era stuff to some more downbeat tracks the gig really starts to get going.
Coffee & tv
Graham gets a big cheer as he sings this song of his with Damon on guitar. One of the best songs of the night. Segued perfectly into:
Out of time
This track featured an Iranian Oud player. Damon dedicated the song to athletes from countries who couldn’t compete in the Olympics this year.
Young and Lovely
Damon announced this as an old B-side that they hadn’t known what to do with. He said the song has made more sense since they’ve had children and dedicated the song to them. It’s a nice Beatles-y track. This was a good interlude.
I have to say, I don’t normally like Trimm Trabb but it sounded awesome!
This was a song I didn’t remember at first and had to get my companion to identify! Perhaps an unusual choice but I felt they really shared a great selection of their back-catalogue.
Damon asked ‘what day is it?’ we all went mad shouting “Sunday” knowing what was coming next! One of my all time favourites and it didn’t disappoint!
This set us up for a brilliant run of Blur classics:
Phil Daniels came on stage to do his bit and very randomly Harry Enfield wandered around the stage dressed as a tea lady with a tea urn. It made no sense but raised a smile!
Here’s a fan’s video of this moment:
I was delighted another track from Modern life is rubbish was played. I think this threw a few people who clearly only have Blur’s Greatest Hits album! Good!
This is a live favourite and always goes down well with the crowd. Absolute stomper!
Damon commented that we’d had two weeks of watching telly but with no adverts. An interesting observation.
Woo hoo! This was dedicated to Mo Farah by Damon and the whole crowd chanted ‘Mo!’ whilst doing the mobot! A brilliant London 2012 moment!
No distance left to run
After the riot of Song 2 Blur changed the pace entirely with a very moving performance of Damon’s most personal song. There was almost a sacred hush as Damon bared his soul. This was the highlight of the gig for me.
The crowd took no persuading to start the chant of “oh my baby, oh my baby, oh why? Oh my!” Beautiful.
This is a low
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better they play what is a lot of people’s and my favourite song!
This was an inspired choice for the come-back and a total surprise. Really stunning.
Under the Westway
Damon explained that this song was written in February for this precise moment – for the end of the Olympics. He dedicated the song to the Hyde Park crowd.
Lots of la la las from the crowd!
And then a beautiful trilogy of anthems to close:
End of a century
At the end Damon stared out at the crowd, looking rather stricken and sad and the boys disappeared – for the last time? I hope not!
Other reviews of the gig:
I decided that in our small group this week that it would be good to do a bible study with an Olympics theme. Apologies if you’re sick of all the Team GB mania but I figure, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!
There are a surprising number of bible passages that I could have used for an Olympic themed bible study. I asked some friends on Twitter and also did some keyword searches on Bible Gateway and I came up with this (not comprehensive) list:
Ecclesiastes 9:10-12 – ‘the race is not to the swift’
1 Kings 19:2-4 – Elijah runs for his life
Judges 16: 28-31 – The strength of Samson
1 Samuel 17 – David and Goliath
1 Corinthians 9:23-25 – ‘Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?’
2 Timothy 4:6-8 – ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race’
Hebrews 12:1-3 – ‘Let us run with endurance the race set before us’
2 Timothy 2:4-6 – ‘An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.’
The passage I have decided on, however, is Philippians 3:4:14.
Here is the plan for the evening, feel free to adapt it to your own context. At our church we use the structure of the ‘4 Ws’ – welcome, worship, word and witness so that is how I have laid this out here.
Discuss what you liked the most about the London Olympics opening ceremony and why. What was the most inspiring thing for you?
Read Psalm 19 together – spend some time in the quiet reflecting on the daily display of God’s glory we can see all around us.
If you wish you can read this poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins:
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oilCrushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soilIs bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;And though the last lights off the black West wentOh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —Because the Holy Ghost over the bentWorld broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus. – Phil 3:4b-14
Questions to discuss:
1. What sort of things do you put your confidence in? (v4-6) Are they what the world sees as important?
Paul’s attributes made him a model Jew in every sense, he had every reason to trust that he’d got ‘everything sorted’.
2. Paul uses a strong word in v8 to describe the things he and his world used to pride – rubbish or, in the KJV, ‘dung’! How does it feel to describe those things you put your confidence in as fit for the bin? Can you do that? Why do you think Paul uses such an extreme image?
3. What’s the purpose of dismissing what the world puts confidence in?
4. Why do you think, in verse 10 that Paul mentions the resurrection first and then suffering? Is this a prayer you can pray?
5. The goal that Paul describes in v14 is the finishing line that the athletes in the ancient world had to focus on and reach in order to win the prize – which in those days was a wreath crown like those given in the Athens 2004 Olympic Games:
If the athletes didn’t aim for the mark, they were disqualified and wouldn’t gain the prize of the crown. Paul uses this imagery elsewhere;
“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” – 1 Corinthians 9:25
With this in mind, what do you think the goal or mark is? What do you think the prize or crown is?
Watch this film:
This clip was featured in a run down of the ‘top 50 Olympic moments of all time’ on TV this week.
How do you watch this film in the light of the bible passage we’ve looked at tonight?
How is this clip reflective of your own life experience?
How might you encourage a friend with this story?
My prayer life has developed a new rhythm over the past year. I’ve been reading the Anglican ‘daily office’ – Morning Prayer and Compline each day, when I wake up and just before going to bed. Morning Prayer and Compline include the reading of different psalms, short passages of scripture and some set prayers (which are largely based on scripture). I already really like liturgy and I’m finding that this pattern of prayer is becoming a part of me – I’m starting to really miss it if I don’t get around to it.
This has made me wonder more about what prayer is. In the evangelical settings in which I’ve spent most of my adult life, there has been a lack of ‘set prayers’ – all prayer has always been extempore and usually informed by a list of ‘prayer points’ – specific things to pray for. There is nothing wrong with this kind of prayer – it’s good to pray specifically for things – particularly as it helps you to be more aware of answers to prayer. However, it’s not the only kind of prayer.
These are some of the other types of prayer I am discovering:
Just sitting in silence with God (even if you can’t feel his presence) is a form of prayer. In some ways it can be a kind of offering. I tend to surround myself with noise – I nearly always have some music on or the tv. Setting aside some time to be completely silent is a way in which I can say – “God, this time is yours now”. Some years ago I went to the Taize community in France. In each service there, they have a 10 minute period of silence. When I first arrived I decided to go through my ‘prayer points’ list in the 10 minutes silence. After a couple of services I realised that the silence was not there for me to fill, more that I was there to be filled by the silence, by the peace, by the presence of God.
Praying the psalms
Reading the psalms each day is interesting. Sometimes the sentiment of the psalm exactly matches how I feel. Sometimes it doesn’t at all. As I say the psalms I seek to make them my prayer – either for my own situation if it is reflective of how I feel or for others if it is not. Praying the psalms helps me not to plough the same furrow every day with my prayers – left to my own devices I often find myself praying the same things. Praying the psalms ensures that I am constantly reorienting myself towards God and His praise and that I am also acknowledging those more negative feelings I might have.
Some of the prayers that are always part of the daily office become a kind of comfort. I can even pray them at other times because I have learnt them by heart. When I can’t think what to pray, I can draw on one of these, like this beautiful prayer from Compline:
Visit this place, O Lord, we pray,
and drive far from it the snares of the enemy;
may your holy angels dwell with us and guard us in peace,
and may your blessing be always upon us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Recently we were in a church that offered healing prayer during communion. My friend went to be prayed for and began describing his situation, the things he felt he needed prayer for – interestingly, the team pretty much ignored him and simply laid on hands and prayed a blessing over him. I think it can be a bit of an evangelical hang up that we feel the need to list our requests before receiving prayer from someone. Of course, the Lord knows our situation even better than we know it ourselves, so why do we feel the need to describe it in detail? It’s a good lesson in humility to simply ask for a blessing and receive it, knowing that God will give us what we need, whether we’ve articulated it or not.
Sometimes prayer is just that: a tiny, perhaps even pathetic, gesture. A nod to God of our need for Him. And that’s ok.
Yesterday I shared my pre-college reading list here asking advice of friends on Twitter and Facebook as well. Thanks to everyone who responded.
I thought it would be good to try and summarise the advice I got here – I’m sure I’ll end up adding to this over the months to come but I hope it serves as a resource for others and also a tribute to how fabulous all my friends on Twitter and Facebook are!
Further recommended reading
So far, from the list I had been given I have had Steven Croft & Roger Walton’s Learning for Ministry recommended but actually ended up having some other books recommended which I have put on an Amazon wish list here.
Here are the recommendations, an ‘alternative’ reading list, if you will:
Wild: An Elemental Journey by Jay Griffiths (Author)
Honourably Wounded by Marjory F. Foyle (Author)
The Bible Makes Sense by Walter Bruggemann (Author)
PROPHETIC DIALOGUE by BEVANS (Author)
TRANSFORMING MISSION (American Society of Missiology) by BOSCH (Author)
Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale by Ian Morgan Cron (Author)
A Little Exercise for Young Theologians by Helmut Thielicke (Author), Charles L. Taylor (Translator)
A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology by Kelly M. Kapic (Author)
Can These Dry Bones Live? by Frances Young (Author)
Reading the Bible with the Damned (Interpretation Bible Studies) by B Ekblad (Author)
What They Don’t Teach You at Theological College: A Practical Guide to Life in the Ministry by Malcolm Grundy (Author)
Thanks to everyone who’s contributed so far. I’ll keep this post updated so feel free to keep adding your thoughts and suggestions.