Jeff Gill’s World Wide Web Site Internet Page
Go to content Go to navigation Go to search

‘We've got… music so I can exaggerate my pain and give it a name’

—U2, ‘The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)’

I like stories where stuff happens – sci-fi, children’s book, comics. The Lord of the Rings is great, except for the part where Frodo and Sam are moping around outside Mordor for half a book. All the tension drains into a puddle of tedium into which I shout that the hobbit boys seriously need to have a good long kiss and then hurl themselves up Mount Doom with a fervour fuelled by reckless loving ecstasy.

I’m not saying I must have nonstop action. I love Bill Murray films. He spends half his films doing nothing, but somehow he makes nothing feel big and important.

Last summer I read Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy pretty much without stopping, but this year I couldn’t get through Ness’ The Crane Wife. The writing was superb, but nothing that happened felt big enough to keep my attention. When I was a teenager I read the first quarter of Great Expectations, during which No Discernible Action Took Place, so I stopped reading. I haven’t tried anything Dickens since then, but I’ve read a ton of Terry Pratchett.

It’s probably because I’m immature.

I like big feels. I love Kitten because all Chaidez’s songs – even the quiet ones – manage to seem bigger than life but without slipping into pastiche. That’s what my favourite kinds of books do too. Right now I’m reading A Monster Calls, another book by Patrick Ness. It’s got a yew tree turning into a huge monster right at the beginning and a mum dying of cancer and conflict with a best friend and a bully that totally has the upper hand and an absent father who’s back on the scene and a difficult grandmother. Stuff happens in every chapter, and it all feels big. It’s wonderful.

It’s also stuffed full of great lines like these:

Quote from A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Quote from A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

The illustrations are superb.

I’ll finish with a question. Do you get excited about Dickens and small actions that feel small and lots of description? I’d honestly be grateful if you could explain to me how that works, because I’m missing that part of my brain. Only can you be sure your explanation has good pacing and feels kind of epic?

17 September 2014
tags: ,
Comment or share

Enough messing around

A cropped portion of the first page of my children's picture book

Last summer I wrote a children’s book. Then I didn’t illustrate it because I needed to finish my degree. Then— I dunno. I completed the degree in May. Since then I’ve illustrated 1.667 of 32 pages. I’m good at starting things, but not so great at finishing (e.g. Cooking tips). Two notable exceptions are said degree (BA Culinary Arts, first class honours) and a weird little bird book I made a few years ago. I want this children’s book to join the notable exceptions. And so…

Every Monday starting 21 July I will be posting a page of the book in the Secret Comics Club section of this site and on my Tumblr blog and probably on Flickr. The page will just be the raw scan, pre-photoshopping and colouring, but it will give people a chance to enjoy the story and maybe become interested in buying the actual book when it is finished sometime in 2015. It will also give people the opportunity to give feedback. I haven’t got an editor or publisher, but there are a bunch of you, and you are clever and have thoughts, and you might like to share those thoughts with me.

I’m trying to take my own advice.

UPDATE (27 August 2014): It’s going very well.

15 July 2014
tags: , , ,
Comment or share

Reading the bible

Today I gave a talk at my church called ‘How to Read Your Bible’. Here were my tips:

To go along with that here are some specific resources that I like and recommend for bible reading and study:

24 November 2013
tags: , , , , ,
Comment or share

That’s as far as this train travels, folks.

In Western evangelical Christianity there is a consistent, unsubtle pressure to be more dedicated, more radical, more disciplified, more better. This morning my inbox held an advertisement for the logical terminus of this way of thinking:

The Perfect Leader by Kenneth Boa: How would you rather lead ... by following the true leadership qualities seen in God? Or some diluted, humanistic qualities that just get you by? Discover the scriptural guidelines for ensuring that God is your pattern.

That’s right, leaders, it’s no longer good enough for you to be like Paul or Peter or Jesus. Your choice is diluted humanism (fail, obvs) or being like God. From now on, I, for one, plan to lead like God. I just need to get some omniscience, which seems like a difficult thing acquire. If only it grew on fruit trees!

7 June 2013
tags: , ,
Comment or share

If Dr Seuss wrote the bible it would be better than this, but I still think you should read this poem aloud to your children

Now Peter was Jesus’s very close friend.
He said I’ll not deny you. I’ll stick to the end.
Then soldiers grabbed Jesus, and Simon Pete ran
away just as fast as a very scared man
dressed in a dress and two sandals can.
(For that was the way that they dressed way back THAN.)
Then Pete started and stopped and he turned.
‘This is my friend from whom I have learned.
I cannot just leave him!’ Pete’s embarrassment burned.
He walked back to Jesus, twelve sixths of a mile,
till he came to the spot where his friend was on trial
He looked in the building and wanted to shout,
‘Don’t worry, Jesus! I’ll bust you out!’
But he didn’t. He went to get warm by the fire –
and right there is where Pete turned into a liar.
A servant girl saw him with clever bright eyes.
‘Aha!’ she exclaimed, ‘I recognise
your face. You’re with those travel with Jesus guys.’
Pete’s throat went all funny. He had a small choke.
He restarted his breathing, then carefully spoke:
‘I am a traveller. That much is true.
But this man you call Jesus – I don’t know who
he is. I only just stopped in here because
my toes are quite chilly, my brain’s in a fuzz
I could use a big dinner and a nice coffee buzz
You see, I travelled today from the hills of Dorduzz.’
The servant walked off, not quite convinced,
but there was soup to be served and beef to be minced.
Another guy saw Pete and said, ‘You’re with him!’
Pete’s throat got all lumpy, but he said with some vim:
‘I don’t even know him! Clear off, sonny Jim!’
The man left, but Pete’s heart was all palpitations
and his knees had gone weak with fearful vibrations
that if they found out, they might make him dead
so he went kind of crazy when the next person said:
‘You’re Galilean. I bet you know Jesus.’
Pete’s voice changed to guttural, anger-filled wheezes.
Dear children, I hate to, but really must say,
these are the words Pete shouted that day:
‘Shut the bleep up you bleep bleeping creep!
I don’t bleeping know Jesus, so bleep bleeping bleep.’
How long Peter’s swearing could’ve gone, I don’t know,
But then the dawn broke and the cock did some crows.
And Pete wept and his tears soaked his dress and his toes,
and his beard got all gunged with the snot from his nose.
He stumbled away feeling pukishly ill,
while Jesus was nailed to a cross on a hill.
Let’s pause for a moment. Now fast forward two weeks
Pete’s been fishing all night and totally reeks
of sweat pooling in pits and dripping down cheeks,
and all that he’s caught is a bad case of the bleaks.
For what fish would swim into the net of a jerk
who abandoned his friend then thought he could work
at his old job on a boat back in north Galilee?
‘Even that shouting man on the shore’s mocking me,’
Thinks Pete. Then he hears that it’s kindly advice:
‘Throw your net on the left of the boat once or twice.’
Now everyone knows that you fish on the right.
You fish on the right when you’re fishing all night.
But Pete reached the point where he just didn’t care,
so he threw to the left with a casual swear.
And the fish! Oh the fish! The fish in the net!
You’ve never caught this many fish I will bet.
Peter’s friend John said, ‘Pete, it’s the Lord!’
Without even a thought Pete jumped overboard,
and the foul-smelling sweat on his cheeks and his pits
was washed away as he swam (and so were his nits).
When he got to the shore Jesus hugged him to bits
and served him forgiveness, fresh fish and some grits.
And if you think that this poem is ending, yes, it’s.

14 April 2013
tags: , , ,
Comment or share

Books, you guys

Here’s a bit of the abstract of some big deal research titled ‘Family scholarly culture and educational success: books and schooling in 27 nations’. It is authored by MDR Evans, Jonathan Kelley, Joanna Sikora and Donald J. Treiman, and it comes from the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 28 (2010) 171-197 (for those of you with access to a university library). Michael Rosen quotes it on his blog and has spiced it up with his own comments in square brackets.

‘Children growing up in homes with many books – [ later defined in the research as around 500 books ] – get 3 years more schooling than children from bookless homes… [ Yes, yes, yes, we might say here, of course they do. We know that. Children from homes with 500 books are middle class homes, with at least one parent who has had a university education who sits and reads to their children every night and goes to museums every weekend. Yes, yes, yes tell me something new… ] …independent of their parents’ education, occupation and class. [ What? Seriously? Are you saying, Evans et al, that a home with 500 books, with both parents having no education beyond 16, both working in a factory as production workers results in children getting 3 more years schooling than children from similar homes but without the books????!!!! ] This [ 500 books in the home ] is as great an advantage as having university educated rather than unschooled parents and twice the advantage of having a professional rather than an unskilled father….

My opinions:

1. This makes me feel like I’ve done at least one bit of parenting right (humble brag).

2. Digital books don’t count. Since Apple brought out the retina display I’ve read a lot of books on my phone, but my kids have no idea about those books (although my daughter read Winnie the Pooh on her iPod). They aren’t stuffed into our bookcases or left laying around the house. Unlike our family’s paper books, my ebooks aren’t available for discovery. I doubt my kids would have wanted to read Kester Brewin’s Mutiny, but if they had seen it in paper book form, they probably would have asked about the pirate book I was reading, sparking a really good conversation about pirates, the commons and church.

Bother. Now I wish I had shelled out a few more pounds for the real version.

Digital books readers turn books from things available to be discovered by everyone who lived in or visited a house into private things that belong only to an individual. When we replace paper books with digital books we are literally stealing education from our kids. Yes, you can share iTunes and Kindle accounts. Yes, you can give your kids access to your digital books and buy digital books for them. Yes, sharing is improving and will continue to improve. But right now, while our kids are growing up, paper books in our houses give them a life advantage that they won’t get from books on screens. Books hidden behind an app button can’t call to us like books shouting from a wall of bookshelves.

Buy real books. Fill your house with them. Read to your kids. It’s worth three years of education.

14 July 2012
tags: ,
Comment or share


If you are a person aged 30+ Christian living in the western world and have started to seriously think thoughts along the lines of: Maybe I haven’t got things quite as figured out as I thought, Richard Rohr’s book on spirituality for the second half of life Falling Upward might be a good book for you. Really good.

It was nearly perfect for this 38 year-old.

Now that I have finished it, I’m done with American spirituality and politics until the end of 2012. It feels good, a lot like when I shut down my Facebook account. Who knows what it will feel like tomorrow when my feed reader is empty.

5 June 2012
Comment or share

On leaving America

11 years ago Christine and I with our 2.5 year-old son left the United States to live in North Wales. We set out to make a fresh start, and we did. But I sort of failed at something. I never really left America. I blame the Internet.

While Christine and I were starting fresh and getting healed up from a full term stillbirth and some whacked out ideas about God and the response of a church that didn’t know what to do with an unhealed dead baby, I sort of stayed in America. I kept up with American politics and Christianity via the Internet. Being the Internet, it was kind of a cartoon version of American politics and Christianity.

It was fine for a while. Some bits were very good: I found Greg Boyd, Rob Bell, John Michael Greer, Shane Clairborne and Larry Shallenberger. Other bits were bad. My evolving views made my wonderful sister and brother-in-law angry and lost me a really good friend.

Lately, America has just been making me mad. I’m cheesed off that American Christians are still debating whether or not women can do the same jobs as men or be considered their equals. I’m cross that they are still trying to decide whether or not LGBT people get to be counted as fully human. I cannot endure one more pastor with perfectly reformed theology expounding ad nauseum why a different conclusion than his is Dangerous. I’m sick of the fake miracles and the politics of fear. (‘AMERICA IS DOOMED!’ Of course America is doomed, not because it has a black liberal president but because America is an empire and all empires are doomed.) I don’t have the stomach for this presidential election. I don’t need to hear the latest pronouncement by the church’s prophets of Baal about what kind of prayer and fasting we need to do for the next 40 days to make sure God doesn’t lightning bolt the country. I have no interest in what the evangelical pope has to say about anything. I’m sick of the megachurchcorp CEOs and their obsession with their big numbers. I’ve had it with the whole thing. I have no grace to offer.

I realised a couple days ago that the problem isn’t America – okay, actually the problem is America and its stupid paranoid greedy consumer religion. But that’s not my problem. My problem is that I’m making it my problem. I live in Wales, UK. My job is to serve and love people in Wales. Raising my blood pressure over what the Americans are doing is stupid and dumb. I’ve been stupid and dumb.

I’m going to stop.

American Christians are on their own journey. My meddling in it displays a serious lack of faith in the Spirit’s work in those Christians and an unwillingness to fully concentrate on the work I’m doing here. It’s time for me to leave America – for real – and keep my face pointed in the same direction as the plough.

This is what I’m doing. Until the end of 2012 anything to do with American spirituality or politics is out of my life, the good and the bad. (The exceptions are family and friends, of course. And I’m keeping Josh Garrels in my playlist.) Basically I’m cutting out a bunch of podcasts, books that I may have read, blogs, Twitter accounts and all their links and link and links. Here’s a list for people who like lists:

This will give me space to clear my brain. Once I get to 2013, I’m not sure. My goal is not to pretend that America doesn’t exist or has nothing spiritually good to offer. Rather, I want to return (metaphorically) full of grace and love and no longer fighting against a bunch of rules and ideas that haven’t actually applied to my life for years. It may take me more than six months to get there.

This is obviously a big overblown statement full of broad brushstroke characterisations. It says more about me than it does about the United States. That is the point. I want to expose my own dysfunction so that it is clear (to me probably more than anyone else) why I am doing this. It also makes me kind of accountable. If I announce something on the Internet, I am a lot more likely to do it. Also, I tend to make big overblown statements about things that don’t need big overblown statements.

If you are an American reading this blog, you are welcome to keep reading and to comment. I’m not going into hiding.

Finally, thank you, Greg Boyd, Rob Bell, John Michael Greer and Shane Claiborne and so many others. You have helped me to become a better person. I’ll be back listening to you again, maybe as soon as next year.

I start as soon as I finish my last book on spirituality by an American author for now. (The book is Falling Upward by Richard Rohr. It is the perfect book for where I’m at right now.)

4 June 2012
tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Comment or share

Creativity #28

Read the War of Art and Do the Work by Steven Pressfield.

9 May 2012
tags: ,
Comment or share

Maurice Sendak died today

I love what he says about illustrating:

An illustrator, in my own mind – and this is not a “truth” of any kind – is someone who so falls in love with writing that he wishes that he had written it, and the closest he can get to is illustrating it. And the next thing you learn, you have to find something unique in this book which perhaps even the author was not entirely aware of. And that’s what you hold on to, and that’s what you add to the pictures – a whole other story that you believe in, that you think is there. When you hide another story in the story, that’s the story that I am telling the children.

It may not be a ‘truth’, but it is certainly applicable, not just to illustrators, but to any creative work that involves communicating what other people have said or created.

Watch the whole video:

Thank you, Mr Sendak

8 May 2012
tags: , , , ,
Comment or share

I made a Christmas gift for the kids in my class at church: a book of advice

17 December 2011
tags: , , , , ,
Comment or share


‘… speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.’ (Ephesians 4:15, NIV)

The very best thing I’ve ever read on telling the truth and why it is so important is a little Kindle book called Lying by Sam Harris. Yes, that Sam Harris. It is short, well-written, persuasive and, at £2.16, well worth an hour of your time.

(You don’t need a Kindle to read Kindle books. There are kindle apps for most every computer and mobile device.)

15 October 2011
Comment or share

Untranslate 2

This year I am reading through the bible for the first time in very very long. I’m reading as a real book. In the past my bible reading has always started with me putting on my Evangelical Theology Glasses, but my pair broke and I haven’t replaced them. It’s so much better this way! The stories come alive. The people are like actual people. There is grit and confusion and mess. I highly recommend reading the bible this way.

Untranslate 1

29 March 2011
Comment or share

We all get Flock

I’m pretty sure that everyone who is going to buy my book Flock just because I’m a pretty swell guy has done so already. So in a completely crass attempt grab more of the unsuspecting public’s spare change I am serialising Flock. on my Tumblr blog. Starting next week, I will post one story each week for 36 weeks. Today you get the preface. You can follow all the serial action here:

18 March 2011
tags: ,
Comment or share

All that you hate, all that is wrong – I can put it right.

The lying voice of the gonne (gun) from Terry Pratchett’s Men At Arms

13 March 2011
tags: , ,
Comment or share

Success of imagination

While we are all still feeling impressed with the fall of Mubarak it is a good time to read Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea. It’s short, jaunty and good fun (unless you don’t enjoy Founding Fathers being raked over the coals of truth.)

22 February 2011
tags: ,
Comment or share

Have you heard of this whole non-violence thing?

Guys! Guys! There’s this guy called Leo Tolstoy and he’s written a book* about Jesus and non-violence and resisting evil. Apparently it’s a huge influence on these other guys called Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Anyway, it’s like a Christian anarchist thing, and it’s a bit dodgy in some places, but also super-good. Also, there’s this theologian guy called Walter Wink. He’s written a book too.** It’s called The Powers That Be, and it’s got this whole thing in it about The Myth of Redemptive Violence that says good must use violence to defeat evil. He thinks that’s totally the opposite of Jesus, and I think he’s right or whatever, but the implications of that are like, whoa! So that’s the latest from me, Jeff Gill, your source for everything on the bleeding edge of the zeitgeist.

*in 1894
**in 1999

17 June 2010
tags: , ,
Comment or share

Greg is at it again

In the book I’m now working on (Jesus Versus Jehovah?) I’m offering an alternative interpretation. Over and against their polytheistic ancient Near Eastern neighbors, ancient Jews emphasized that there is one sovereign Lord over all creation who rules all of history. They thus tended to view God as a supreme ancient Near Eastern monarch king who had ultimate authority over all subordinate angelic and earthly rulers. As a good monarch king, Yahweh takes responsibility (though not moral culpability) for all that transpires within his “court” (the world), including events he himself abhors.

I’m not very widely read, but I know that a number of people have written books to address the apparent contradiction of the violent, angry God of the Old Testament compared to Jesus in the New Testament. It may just be that I am a fan, but I think that the book Greg Boyd is working on now could turn out to be one of the more important Christian books. The way we understand God and God’s character has massive implications for the way that we relate to the world and the gospel that we share. This book might even revolutionise our understanding of God’s ways and God’s plan. Greg is an excellent teacher with the ability to help us ordinary folks understand complex ideas without our brains hurting.

Unfortunately, the book isn’t done yet, so for now, go read the whole article

19 March 2010
tags: , ,
Comment or share

Beware of bold pronouncements

Over the last few months I have enjoyed some serious world-rockage thanks to Surprised by Hope by Tom Wright, Starting a House Church by Larry Kreider and Floyd McClung, and The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch, plus a bunch of podcasts from Greg Boyd and Rob Bell. Now it’s the bible’s turn.

Over the next three to five weeks I plan to read the New Testament. I will be looking specifically at what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus, both individually and as a community of Christians on a mission. The purpose of this is not to know more stuff, rather, I want to make whatever changes are necessary to orient my life around God’s mission on Earth (John 3:16) and my place in that mission through the new birth (John 3:3).

This is more of a read-and-reflect than a study, so I will be using my handy dandy TNIV Books of The Bible. I plan to write about what I read here. And I’m off…

10 February 2009
tags: , , , , , ,
Comment or share

Alan Hirsch explains what church does to people

The following excerpt is from Mr Hirsch’s book The Forgotten Ways:

Jane is an average churchgoer. She loves God and wants to grow in him. But her problem is how to bring all aspects of her life together so that is makes sense of her faith. How does she experience church?

She spends most of her time in the ‘godless’ secular space called ‘the world’. On Sunday she goes to church. Church fellowship offers her a neutral kind of space filled with like-minded believers. She feels safe and reassured when she is around them, because the tension she normally feels when ‘in the world’ is temporarily alleviated. After a bit of ‘fellowship’, she goes into the chapel area in response to the call of worship. [i.e. She goes into the main room because the meeting is starting.] The music kicks in, the worship starts and she is drawn up into a form of ecstasy as she begins to engage her heart in the worship of God. And all of a sudden it is as if God ‘bungee jumps’ into the deal. The worship rocks and Jane begins to feel that the sermon really ‘fed her’. So in taking communion she recommits herself to Jesus as personal saviour. The church then sings a few more rousing songs, and the pastor pronounces the benediction, and whoooop! It is as if the bungee cord draws God up again, returning him into heaven. And Jane finds herself back in the middle circle having a coffee or soda with her Christian friends.

But then she has to go out into the world. Labouring as she is under a dualistic worldview and experience, this space in Jane’s perception is a somewhat caustic context for Christians, because God is not perceived as being ‘in the world’. And so it is a somewhat harrowing experience, and she barely makes it to mid-week cell group (home group/connect group), where she undergoes a similar experience to that of Sunday (but not on the same scale). Yes, she has her quiet times when sometimes God ‘turns up’, but other than that she feels that she is rather alone in a spiritually precarious place.

If you will forgive the slightly satirical oversimplification, I’m sure that many of us can recognise ourselves in this story. The tragedy is that everything in this medium of church sets Jane up to experience her life as fundamentally dualistic and therefore divided between the sacred and the secular. No one has necessarily intended it to be this way; it’s just as if a virus somehow got into the system, a nasty sucker that has lodged itself in the fundamental programming that underlies the Christendom software. So no matter how seeker friendly one might wish to make the service, it still communicates this sacred-secular dualism that has plagued the church. The net result of this is that God is experienced as a church-god and not the God of all of life, including church.

9 February 2009
tags: ,
Comment or share

Jeff gets a curriculum

For the past few weeks I have been using an absolutely amazing curriculum. I’m not usually a fan of curricula, but this one has transformed the way I think about and do my class for students in years 6-8 (ages 10-13).

This thing is just plain inspiring. It is built around the story of a hero and his adventures. Kids love heroes, and this one is so well-written that he grabbed my imagination from the moment I started reading. More important, he is grabbing the kids’ imagination. They are connecting with this character. They are connecting with his adventures. Watching them for the past few weeks, I am convinced that this connection with the story in the curriculum is starting to lead them to a real connection with God.

I’m using the curriculum with a pretty small group, about 15. The discussion points are great. The ideas for hands-on learning are brilliant. And it is all amazingly scalable. This curriculum would work for large groups too. And for young children. And for teens. I think even adults could get something useful out of it. I know one-size-fits-all solutions usually aren’t, but I honestly believe this is different. The content is rich, both in breadth and depth.

The only real drawback that I have come across so far it that because the curriculum is not brand new, it is only text. There is no audio or video – or even Powerpoint slides. I think that could put some people off. For me it hasn’t been a problem. I have been so inspired by the content that I have found it easy to find my own media. This is the age of Web 2.0 after all. Almost everything in the world is available in about six clicks.

There are several modules. Not all are stories, not all are heroes, but if they are anywhere near as good ad the module I’m using at the moment, this is the curriculum I’m sticking with for the foreseeable future.

You can buy new favourite curriculum in book form here. And it is available for instant download here

20 November 2008
tags: , , ,
Comment or share

The way it actually is

The power of the gospel lies, not in the offer of a new spirituality or religious experience, not in the threat of hellfire (certainly not in the threat of being ‘left behind’) which can be removed if only the hearer ticks this box, says this prayer, raises a hand, or whatever… but in the powerful announcement that God is God, that Jesus is Lord, that the powers of evil have been defeated, that God’s new world has begun. This announcement, stated as a fact about the way the world is rather than an appeal about the way you might like your life, your emotions or your bank balance to be, is the foundation of everything else. Of course, once the gospel announcement is made, in whatever way, it instantly means that all people everywhere are gladly invited to come in, to join the party to discover God’s forgiveness for the past, an astonishing destiny for the future, and a vocation in the present.

—Tom Wright in Surprised by Hope

It is said that people generally listen to things that reinforce their own points of view. Surprised by Hope by Tom Wright is that kind of book for me. It has reinforced and invigourated the theology that I grew up with. It has reassured me that the things that are in my heart to do really are at the heart of the gospel. It has inspired me to do the work of God’s kingdom like almost nothing else. It has also challenged me to know what I really believe about God and God’s kingdom, because everything we do flows out of what we really believe. (The apostle John said something like that in one of his letters.)

READ THIS BOOK! (maybe even if you don’t think it will reinforce what you believe).

15 November 2008
tags: , , ,
Comment or share

Sunday evening reading

Tia Lynn has started a very promising series on God’s design for women at Abandon Image. She starts here with good definitions of egalitarianism and complementarianism. Her second post speaks brilliantly about NOT glorifying the consequences of the curse of Genesis 3. And I love the fourth post about Deborah. It shows the things you can find in the bible when you are willing to put aside your grid and read what the text actually says.

Greg Boyd has written a very good (and long) review of Chuck Colson’s latest book God and Government: An Insider’s View on the Boundaries Between Faith and Politics. Okay, the review is actually more of a device to allow Greg to groove (he’s a drummer too) on his vision of the kingdom of God. It’s very much worth reading.

9 March 2008
tags: , , , ,
Comment or share

Eight subversions of Christianity

Greg Boyd, my favourite pastor that I don’t know, wrote in his blog earlier this week about a book he read called The Subversion of Christianity by Jacques Ellul.

In his review Greg writes that the church has been subverted by success, money, morality, religion, pragmatism, violence, politics, power.

Every one of these things is realised in the kingdom of God, just not in the way or the timing that we humans necessarily want it to be. That’s what makes us so susceptible to temptation. We are so easily like Abraham with Ishmael, Saul with the pre-battle sacrifice. But we can be like Jesus when satan offered him easy shortcuts to everything God was giving him.

Have a read of Greg’s post, then come back here for a quick look at the good things that are subverted by each of these eight things and what implications they have for a life of following Jesus in our time.

Success God’s dream for the world has always been for the whole world – from Adam (fill the earth) to Abraham (all the nations of the world will be blessed in you) to Jesus (my house shall be a house of prayer for all nations; go into all the world…) to the apostles (God desires all people to be saved). The temptation is to try and make it happen by dumbing down the good news: Say a prayer, buy a T-shirt, you’re in the club. Salvation is transformation and that rarely happens while being swept along in the emotion of a giant crowd. The good news is for the whole world, one real connection with God at a time.

Money The bible talks so much about money. It is full of promises about our needs being met, about us having an abundance. But ‘all these things’ are added as a side-effect of seeking God’s kingdom, and we freely receive so that we may freely give. The temptation is to make the side-effect the goal.

Morality Living a moral life is not the aim. Living a life abandoned to God is the aim. The Kingdom of God is a return to eating from the tree of life. Goodness is a by-product of God’s kind of life. The temptation to base life on ethics and morality looks so good. It is so safe and easy. But it has no power to enable us to live a life that is truly good. The rules are a wall that separate us from really knowing the source of goodness. That brings us neatly to…

Religion Paul writes about people holding on to a form of godliness but denying its power. That’s a good definition of religion. There is this urge in people to be like God. That makes sense; we are made in his image. Religion gives us a set of boxes to tick in order to be like God. It gives us a feeling of accomplishment. Except that it doesn’t in the long run. Religion grows and looks for more and more behaviours to control. Look at God’s original terms of covenant with Israel – three chapters in Exodus. Look at what it turned into by the time Israel got to their land – Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Religion’s promise of making us like God or pleasing to God is a false one. Jesus said once that the one necessary thing was sitting and being with him. Fact is, it is a lot easier to try and define life with rules.

Pragmatism God has been at work to fix the world ever since sin came into it. We humans have a natural desire to join him in it. The problem is that we stink at fixing the world. The thing that fixes the world is the spread of the kingdom of God. That doesn’t make sense to our natural minds though. What makes sense is: I see a problem; I’ll try to fix it. And then it gets more broken, giving us more to fix and so on, leaving us completely distracted from the real answer. Living and spreading the Kingdom of God causes the world to be fixed without all our clever efforts

Violence See my upcoming post Hooray for violence.

Politics It’s religion, it’s fixing the world, it’s being willing to be bought (even though we’ve already been bought by God for an infinite price), it’s playing by the rules of this world’s system (which guarantees we lose*), it is ultimately a quest for…

Power Jesus says, you shall receive power. Paul writes about God’s power working mightily within us. People want power. It’s one of those built-in things that goes with our God-given mandate to take care of the earth. Once again, the temptation is to try to seize power. But the power that God promises is the power to be his witnesses, the power to lay down our lives for others. It’s funny how unpopular that kind of power is. Nevermind that it is the same power that Jesus had, the only power powerful enough to reach the world, to remove the fear of lack, to make us good like God, to connect us with God, to fix the world, and to defeat evil.

We Christians, if we are willing to let God change our minds about almost everything, could actually be the kind of humans God designed us to be.

*for an example of how to win by not playing by the rules, look at David fighting Goliath.

17 January 2008
tags: , , ,
Comment or share