Books & Blogs from Adrian Hawkes Blog
I like words, actually trying to speak French gives me great frustrations as I know my vocabulary is incredibly small, which it is not in English. I remember telling a story to a young lady in French, and at the end I said do you understand me, “yes” she replied, and then I asked “then why are you laughing?” She replied, “Because it’s like listening to a five year old!”
I used to think that words where just how you expressed things, and so got irritated by those in the equality lobby who wanted to change expressions like chairman to chair person or manhole to person-hole. It seemed to me to be picky and stupid. I no longer think that way. I recognise that our words come from our thinking and actually re-enforces our actions. So if we are sexist, using sexist expressions just enhances our bias.
For those of us who are followers of Jesus language is such an important element, words are important. The great thing is that John, in his book in the New Testament part of the Bible, in the very the first verse says a very interesting thing about words; he says ‘The Word, became Flesh, and dwelt amongst us’. He is of course talking about Jesus, and powerfully presenting the fact that God puts his words into action, in flesh and bones, so that we can really understand what is being said by a physical being in a historical setting in our time/ space/ world.
So then we as followers of this Word go on using words wrongly, and though we profess to say we think/believe something we, usually because it’s easier, use words that say the opposite. Let me give you some examples. We say we believe in the Priesthood of all believers but then refer to clergy and laity, which sort of in action tell you the opposite to what we have said we believe. We say where you go to church, implying that church is a place or building, yet we profess to believe that we as people are the body of Christ, i.e. church. I know it easy shorthand, but it is actually in action saying something opposite to what we say we believe. People get irritated with me when they ask where do you go to church, and I reply, “You can do that?” Puzzled look, what do you mean? Well you can’t go to church you can only BE church – sure lots of the church can gather together, but you cannot go somewhere when you are it.
A friend used to ask me with a smile when I used to ask what time is the Service, do you mean for the car or do you need a service station. What do we think ‘divine service is anyway’ I guess if it is as scripture would have it ‘present your body a living sacrifice’ then I can understand?
Of course we use words in language to cover up the seemingly unacceptable don’t we so ‘Collateral damage’ ‘Friendly fire’ what we are really talking about is dead people, people who have been killed, but that sounds a bit harsh doesn’t it.
Words are important, let’s try and say what we mean and mean what we say.
Edited By Gena Areola.
The Good Samaritan
Some time ago, before the tribal troubles in Kenya I was speaking at a conference. I was using for my talk the story of the Good Samaritan. Knowing a little about the tensions of the area I used as my illustration one of the tribes, who in the area where I was, was not very popular to say the least. I chose this least popular tribe and used the tribal name instead of a Samaritan.
At the end of my talk, and the meeting over I was taken on one side and told how dangerous it was to speak thus. Much better to tell the story with the Samaritan as the good neighbour, as I did not understand the culture of tribal enmity, and by putting one of the ‘despised’ tribes in place of the Samaritan I was living dangerously, and people would not like it.
I wondered how we might tell the story today, maybe in the streets of London or New York perhaps, and some poor Christian guy has been mugged and beaten and is lying in the gutter.
Along comes a good Charismatic Pastor, who knowing that he has to preach to his good congregation hurries by on the other side of the Road, must protect himself to deliver the sermon.
Then along comes a worship leader par excellence, boxed instruments over the shoulder, ready to lead the people in Praise and Worship, very necessary that he was on time to tune the sound and check “1,2, 1,2, 1,2”, shame for the man in the gutter but there are people to lead, to stand, to raise holy hands; Very important that he was early to get it all ready.
Finally, a young Muslim guy saw the man from his nice new car, he stopped and lifted the mugged young Christian and put him, dirt and all, on the back seat of his new car and drove very quickly to the nearest hospital, phoning the police on his mobile. He then visited the poor guy every day he remained in hospital until he was well again. Which one I wonder was the man’s neighbour?
You can read the original story in Luke 10:25-37 I have put some of it here for you from the New International Version (NIV)
Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind ‘and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Edited by Gena Areola
A few of my friends have commented on this subject of late, which has set me thinking. Every so often we have this flash of how progressive we are today, how clever we have become and how sorry we feel for those older or past that did not have our knowledge and so progress, and oh how civilised we have become.
I think that was the sort of zeitgeist around 1913 particularly in Europe and then of course came World War One 1914 – 1918 with all the civilised countries of Europe and then the world trying their best to annihilate each other.
Then of course the talk was that this was the war to end all wars, we would then become civilised. The progress of the humans could continue, we know so much better than those throughout history our forefathers and the like. The dream was of course shattered by World War 2 1939 to 1945 with its mayhem and destruction and inhumanity to mankind by very ‘civilised progressive humans’.
It doesn’t take long for things to settle down, and I would guess that there was positivity in the 50s and certainly, there was ‘peace and love man’ in the 60’s and we are back were we started, the accident of the universe allows us to get better and better, we after all know so much more than those who went before. Yes we have access to information at the touch of a button, we can get it on the internet, not that we always remember what we learnt or even had the wisdom to use what we know, but surely we are getting so much better, so much more civilised? Perhaps we should not mention the Stalin regime, or Pol Pot or maybe Iraq, Syria, Rwanda, Kosovo, Bosnia Herzegovinian, do I need to say more?
As I think about the propensity to think that we are so much cleverer, wiser, knowledgeable than those who have gone before us, they didn’t know much did they, very superstitious, often using God to explain those things that they did not understand, at least that is what some would have us think. I am reminded, as I think about this ‘clever us now’, of an argument or was it a discussion between C. S Lewis that he relates in one of his essays. The question is put that how silly it would be to imagine that if there is a God he would be interested in this tiny place Earth, of course the argument goes, in history they looked up and saw the sky and they did not know how large it was therefore it could seem that the Earth was the centre of the universe, now of course we know better. I imagine Lewis pulling a book off the shelf and reading as follows, and perhaps saying “is this the sort of thing you mean?” and reading from the book he has pulled “in relation to the distance of the fixed stars Earth must be treated as a mathematical point without magnitude” “is that what you mean?” I am sure the protagonist would reply “yes, that’s just what I meant, that’s what we now know”. Then Lewis checking, as if he needed to, saying “Oh this is from Almagest, Book one Chapter five and it was written by Ptolemy 2,000 years ago, so they obviously knew that then!”
I can hear the protagonist saying, “Well what about the nonsense of the virgin birth then? We certainly know how children are produced, and maybe Joseph didn’t understand”. “That would be strange,” Lewis may have replied, “for then I wonder why if Joseph did not know the normal course of pregnancy he would record that on discovering his wife’s condition he was ‘minded to put her away’ Mathew chapter 1 verse 19.
We really must stop thinking that those ancient people did not have knowledge were stupidly ignorant of normal processes of life and therefore were duped by what the Bible would list as miracles.
So are we really progressive humans, infinitely more knowledgeable, wiser and definatly more civilised?
Edited By: Gena Areola
Culture – challenge – change – conform
One of the things that I ask audiences who say that they are Christians is, if you are one have you changed and what methodology do you think, you or God uses to change you.
I get lots of answers usually things like:
- · The Bible
- · Prayer
- · The Holy Spirit
- · Meeting with other Christians
- · Love
- · And others sometime a bit more obscure
Of course all of those things have a bearing on change, if change is necessary, however that is not actually how we change. In fact the funny thing is that the Bible does tell us what the method of change is, and more than that it tells us how to maintain and continue with the relevant and vital changes that are needed to become a new kind of person. The Book of Romans starts us off…12:2 Don’t be conformed to this world (allow the world to squeeze you into its mould), but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.
Thinking is what changes us, what we think. So often we don’t, think that is. When I was a teenager I used to hang out in what was euphemistically called coffee bars, the place where young people could legitimately go. You went there before you went out, and came back there after you had been out, if you see what I mean. It was the place you met your date before you went on the date… Bit more like a house front room with frothy coffee and the very required juke box.
One of the things I noticed is, and that hasn’t changed much in 50 years is that the music had to be very, very loud. In fact so loud that you couldn’t think, I asked a few of my friends back then why they like the music so loud? Most of them answered the same, well they said “It saves me from having to think”!
The trouble is there are many times that we think we are thinking but we are not; rather I would say we are conforming. We conform to our culture our peers, those we feel we need to impress, be the same as, want them to like us, feel part of the crowd, and be accepted. All of those things going on inside of us but often without much thought.
I have been to a lot of parties of late, most of which I have to say not my age group, but even when occasionally it was my age group I note the attempt to conform to the group is very strong. Our cultures, that we don’t think about puts us into a box where we act, do, be, just like everyone else but without much thinking.
Let’s be honest it’s hard to change culture, not that we shouldn’t try particularly when culture has it wrong, which often it has. When you change your thinking you can change your behavior, but changing others thinking is not that easy, even if your thinking is right and their’s is wrong. Think about Ignaz Semmelweiss, don’t know him, well in 1847 he discovered that if doctors washed their hands before attending women in childbirth it dramatically reduced deaths from puerperal fever. His views were ridiculed and eventually drove him insane – not that he was wrong but it took some 15 years for Pasteur and Lister to develop their germ theory of disease which explained why Semmelweiss was right.
Going back to those parties, why is it that we have to have so much Alcohol, so much ‘same’ music, so much ‘same dress style’ so much conformity. Are we thinking or just culturally conforming, and if we are just peer pressure conforming, are we right to do so? Are we that different to my coffee bar era, ‘well it saves me from having to think?’
To quote Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in ‘The Spirit level’ they said, It is a remarkable paradox that, at the pinnacle of human material and technical achievement, we find ourselves anxiety-ridden, prone to depression, worried about how others see us, unsure of our friendships, driven to consume and with little or no community life. Lacking the relaxed social contact and emotional satisfaction we all need we seek comfort in over-eating, obsessive shopping and spending, or becoming prey to excessive alcohol, psychoactive medicines and illegal drugs.
So why am I going on. Well because I want to provoke you to THINK! Think what about?
- · Why are you here in this world?
- · What is it that needs changing?
- · What is it that you could do to effect change?
- · Why are you just being one of the crowd?
- · Where are you going anyway?
- · When are you going to do something constructive?
Sometime the problem starts by what you think about yourself, again to quote the Bible it says in Proverbs 23:7 Paraphrasing “as you think in your heart so you are” So what do you think about you, are you insecure, unsure, do you think of yourself as not so good. Well to start with that would need to change if you are to tackle the thinking above. And of course it can and should change.
What should you be doing? Shouldn’t you be the person to change things, by first of all changing your own thinking? Why be a ‘samee’ why not be a change agent? You could be a world changer, but first you probably have to change, personally I do that by firstly becoming a follower of Jesus, then trying hard to ‘not conform’ and putting on the mind of Christ, thinking about good things rather than bad, in fact seeking to renew my mind. Not got there yet, but trying and on the way.
How about you, wouldn’t you rather be here to change things rather than just be one of the crowd? Think about it! There’s a challenge!
Edited by Technicolour Text
I don’t usually write anything about Politics, but the recent elections at which I did vote, seem to me to be setting a trend that require lots of us who, maybe think differently, to say something.
An Iraqi friend of mine recently said to me, maybe there is a problem with democracy in that stupid people get to vote; perhaps we should have an exam before people are given the franchise?
Recently listening to the debate in a ladies’ hairdressers, waiting for my wife, who had just commented on the problems for the kidnapped girls in Nigeria, I was staggered to discover from about 10 plus people there, she was the only one who knew that girls had been kidnapped. They moved on in conversation to various other world shattering events, but it seemed to me that my wife was the only one who had a TV that showed any news programmes. The world affairs, local and national politics seemed at such a low level of interest to them I wanted to scream argh…
It isn’t that this stuff isn’t out there it is, but as most of the main three political parties are saying the message has not got through, perhaps that is because they shy away from the real facts to try and be popular to those who don’t listen to them anyway.
Negative – Lukewarm – Self Obsessed
I don’t like to be negative but it is my imagination that in the UK there are lots of people who are living in a small bubble.
Isn’t it great to be with passionate people? People who have vision, enthusiasm, Mission, concern for the big things? Such people are attractive to be around, they draw like magnets they are not boring they are challenging, inspiring, and usually ‘life full’ and often fulfilled people. None of that is negative is it?
Yet around me I see lots of the alternative. Conversation, both in person and of FB is of the small talk kind. Latest dress, shoes, entertainment; usually fairly inconsequential, never going to change the world much less the small space where they dwell. Often the pressure of life is the things that affect them personally, the things that they believe will bring them happiness. Joy would not be something understood here. Sadly the things they want are usually the ‘me’ kind I guess that is the spirit of the age ‘you are number one’!
I have thought about this a lot. It is one of those words that the English have borrowed from the German, but which in its usual dictionary explanation does not express all that the word implies. Some words are just like that, aren’t they?
The dictionary definition of the term is; “the spirit of the time and general trend of thought or feeling characteristic of a particular period of time”. Well yes, but the thing is when you go into the background of the word from a German perspective, it has many layers to it. This is perhaps why we don’t have a good feel of its translation or its common English usage. The word in German carries the idea of being in a fog, so the ‘spirit of the age’ is not recognised by you or me, because we are so influenced, affected, controlled by, engulfed by, our eyes covered by the fog of the spirit of the age that we do not know there is such a spirit nor can we see any alternative. From a German perspective you can only assess zeitgeist in retrospect; looking back or, better translated, the ghost of the past age. Then we can see what it was and know where they went wrong or how they could have done better. Hind sight is a wonderful thing.
Nutty Newspaper Nonsense
I reached the ultimate in surprise this week when I was asked if I knew that black people are able to receive a free oyster (bus and tube pass) if they live in London. Come on all my black friends if you did not know this – get one – problem is I do not know where from.
The young lady who was telling me this story went on to tell me that the person who had told her this great piece of news, when told, “No, that is not true”, looked at her with that knowing look that says “Oh, that’s what you think”.
It really is nutty nonsense from people who read certain types of newspapers that come out with this stuff, and then when you tell them no it’s not true, prefer to believe their fairy tale rubbish rather than any real facts.
Some of the other apocryphal stories I have been told are as follows, usually by wide eyed people who when, like my friend who told me the story of free travel, are told “no, it’s nonsense”, look at you as though you are the stupid one. Here are just some of them. ‘Did you know that they now give foreigner’s free cars’ ‘It’s terrible that you can only get a house on the council if you are not English’ ‘Did you know that immigrants get £120.00 per week unemployment allowances’ and so on, I have heard lots more, I must admit that I had not heard the one about black people getting free travel until this weekend. Nutty stuff or what?
Pick and Mix
Follower of Jesus
I am slightly puzzled by various people I meet up with of late, and some I hear speaking publically, who seem to want to stress to me that they are ‘people of faith’, that they ‘love God’, that they ‘are Christians’ or that they ‘are followers of Jesus’. I suppose some of those statements could be understandable, but ‘follower of Jesus’, seems a bit harder for me to swallow.
Is it the Jesus who says ‘do whatever you like as I don’t mind’? I don’t know that one. Is it the Jesus who says ‘whatever values you think fit you, that’sok, as long as you say you are following me, that’s fine’? I don’t know him either. Is it the one who says ‘we are all going in the same direction and it does not matter what you believe’? I’ve never met him.