Friday, 1 April 2016

Escaping Frestonia

In 1977, squatters in Freston Road, Notting Hill declared independence from the UK, after facing eviction by the Greater London Council (GLC). The squatters lobbied the UN and established a 1.8-acre microstate - "The Free and Independent Republic of Frestonia" - complete with its own postage stamps, visas and passports.


The 100-odd citizens of Frestonia varied from actors, artists and addicts to normal working class Londoners. Playwright - and one of London's first graffiti artists - Heathcote Williams was Ambassador to Great Britain. Actor David Rappaport was the Minister of Foreign Affairs. A two-year-old child named Francesco Bogina Bramley was the Minister for Education.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Movies and the Gospel

Editor's note: A very helpful article by Gavin Ortlund (via Gospel Coalition) on ways that movies are searching for the gospel. I have replicated the article below for preservation. (Note: Probably one caveat to note is that what the article is very correct with respect to most movies, except some of the Eastern ones. A lot of Chinese stories don't necessary have fully "happy endings" e.g. Curse of the Golden Dragon). 
I love movies. I always have, but for some reason I've grown more and more fascinated with movies in the last three or four years—the massive industry that stands behind them, the intricacies and subtleties that make for good acting and good narration, and most of all, the power of stories to communicate at such a deep, complex, emotional level. I loved the new Star Wars.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Born Crucified!

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
Isaiah‬ ‭53:2‬ ‭

At one level this is simply telling us two contrasting truths. On the one hand we are being told Jesus was an average human being physically. He was not any more beautiful or ugly than people we meet around. If we met Jesus on the train we would not notice him. If he sat opposite us in a meeting at work we may even ignore his view.

On the other hand we are told Jesus had a very extraordinary beginning. He is likened to a plant growing in a dry ground or concrete. Is this a metaphor for the virgin birth? Possibly. But it is probably better to see it as referring to the entire vulnerability and improbabilities of his birth - the virginal conception, Herod's plot and the flight to Egypt.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Hard Truth!

Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
ISAIAH 53:1

The first question is answered by the second!  Our message = the arm of the LORD! Who has believed = those it has been revealed to. The arm of the LORD is helpfully translated by VOICE as the "awesome power and plan of the LORD in action". This power and plan of salvation unfolds in Jesus the Suffering and Exalted Servant.

The first question is rhetorical - who would possibly ever believe what we've been told? The answer is that only those to who it has been revealed or enabled to believe. This amazing power of a God who becomes man and is crucified for our sins is not for everyone to believe! It is a hard truth. But thanks be to God that God has not just become man and died on the cross, he has revealed his saving power and plan for us to believe in Him!

Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2014

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Collapse in Shared Culture

Will Hatton writing in the Guardian on the "collapse in shared culture" makes some interesting observations :   
"....an all-encompassing big-tent culture to which we all belong and which has the power to stigmatise and make individuals shamed is fragmenting into mini subcultures, defining themselves by loyalty to their own and opposition and hatred of the other. Arsenal and Tottenham fans define themselves by mutual detestation; men define their masculinity by objectifying women. Generosity and respect for political opponents grows weaker......Parallel, and reinforcing this cultural fragmentation, is a social fragmentation: the ties that bind communities and neighbourhoods are fraying. Long hours and long commutes make civic and social engagement harder. Our crowded lives offer less chance for friendship, association and the creation of a social life that you would not want to put at risk by being stigmatised for bad behaviour. Together, this collapse in a shared culture, along with weakened social bonds, makes the capacity to shame ever reduced"
Interestingly, he puts this "cultural collapse" to the triumphant notion "that nothing matters except individual fulfilment achieved in unregulated markets, and that all public institutions are essentially inefficient and valueless, the ties that bind are systematically undermined." The idea that what what happens in the economic sphere affects how we live in other areas is one that I have touched on before. The Darwinian notion of "everyone for himself" has led to the falling apart of so fabric. Markets have consequences. And so do ideas! 

But what is the answer? Hatton's answer is that "We need a better public space, and philosophy, than [privatisation and personal enrichment]". In short the government needs to help us realise that we are all society together. This human centred solution ignores the depraved nature of man and the fact that what society needs is an objective grounding. In the end Hutton's view of salvation is still man centred and therefore no better than the social Darwinism that drives the market ethos. So it does not move us an inch.