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Protected: Difficult Decisions February 4, 2010

Posted by Chris in Blogged, Youth Work.
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Martin Luther King Jr. on Church August 24, 2009

Posted by Chris in Blogged.
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I was intrigued to read an article on a blog I have recently started following that reviewed a letter from Martin Luther King Junior. I was even more intrigued when I discovered his analysis of church, and compared it to our present reality. Below is an excerpt:

Disturbers of the Peace

There was a time when the church was very powerful in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide. and gladiatorial contests.

Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Par from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom, They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment.

How does this compare to the churches in the UK, or indeed anywhere in the world today? Do we still cause a stir, or are we more status quo than the band themselves?

The Problem With Emotions January 8, 2009

Posted by Chris in Blogged, Youth Work.
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God does some weird things. Well, I mean, they seem pretty weird when you’re in the middle of them. I guess they shouldn’t really, as I do believe in a God that raises people from the dead, walks on water and created some pretty spectacular special effects. A few mind games isn’t too much for him. Let me explain…

I’ve been thinking for a while about emotions. I’m a very conceptual person, and I love to think I ‘understand’ something, so I can put it in a box on a shelf and leave it, and so I try and do that with everything, and everyone. It drives my wife potty!

Emotions don’t work that way though, and so you can’t pigeon-hole them, or the people within whom they reside. This rather scuppers my nice filing system for people, and I keep meaning to get around to ‘understanding’ emotions. Which would be fine, except I don’t think that’s going to be possible. Emotions have this nasty habit of not staying in the holes I put them in. I guess that’s why I ignore them as much as possible.

So last night, round someone’s house with some friends from church we were discussing our hopes and plans for 2009. Without too much thinking, I put down on the paper I was writing on, ‘developing emotional realities to attach to logical concepts I already understand’. Sceptics may say I was just thinking it, but I think God’s in it, because it links so well with many areas of my life currently.

And that brings me to my point. I finally got around to opening a Christian youth work magazine I’ve been carting around for the last week, only to find the main article was on realising we are emotional beings, and working that out. I wasn’t sure whether to be happy, excited or just plain annoyed at God for being right, just when I wanted a bit more time off to mope and be lazy. Either way, finding the article left me frustrated, and I ran from one end of the apartment I live in several times in frustration, and much to the confusion of my wife. (Actually, I don’t think she was that concerned, she carried on watching a DVD and didn’t even look up, so perhaps she’s got used to my unusual ways). I must start studying and get to know how to express these emotions more ‘normally’…

Second Life Sociology January 4, 2009

Posted by Chris in Blogged, Sociology.
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I’ve been writing my dissertation for my BA recently and in the process of researching I came across an interesting blog entry on Second Life and the sociology of it. It described the interactions within Second Life as role-playing, which makes a lot of sense, if you follow through the article. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a lot of academic weight or references, so using it for my work is pretty hard, but it was an interesting read, and has given me a few more ideas for words to try typing into Google…

My Space in Second Life December 18, 2008

Posted by Chris in Computers, Sociology.
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Today I decided to install the Second Life client and try it out. I didn’t really know what to expect, but once I’d got to grips with the controls and interface I was away. Problem is, it didn’t seem too exciting. Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty impressive, a 3D online world created by many users, with the ability to build your own buildings, objects, gestures, games, clothes and more. In some ways it has the characteristics of MySpace profiles – easily customisable and with the potential to create add-ons. However, this is in a very different context – that of a virtual world, rather than a web page. It is a 3D highly interactive visual reflection (all be it a fantasy one) of real life, as opposed to the 2D and less interactive images and text of a web page. Obviously the lines are somewhat blurred in this distinction – Second Life has textual elements, and MySpace has some interactivity.

That said, there are some similarities between the two. They both reflect real people’s interpretations of themselves, and leave the user completely in control about what they reveal about themselves, true or made up! But they both have their limitations too, they’re both run by companies who have made a lot of money from them, and are eager to continue to do so, so they are commercial tools. They both have numerous users and companies also trying to make money from them – in the virtual currency of Linden Dollars (in Second Life) or real money directly from MySpace. Often these users are the most obvious, but also the least creative, as once someone discovers a way to use a tool to make money, it’s never long before it is cloned across the network, with a monotonous originality.

Ultimately, MySpace will probably never truly be ‘my space’, it’s limited far beyond what I could create if I were given a real space and some creative tools. I wouldn’t put adverts in my space, but I might need a budget to incorporate any level of multimedia into an empty room, which of course is free and easily possible on a website. Second Life, I believe, is equally unlikely to become ‘first life’, not because graphics or connection speeds are an issue, and not even because it lacks the vibrancy or variety of people and services available in real life. Simply put, I don’t think it will ever be more interesting than real life because, well, it isn’t real life! I might be able to create and decorate my room (without adverts) in Second Life, but I can still only interact with it through a screen and keyboard. I can’t taste, smell or touch anything in it, and even if I could, I’d know it wasn’t real. Don’t get me wrong, I think the development and progress made with these networks is a great feat of technology, and invaluable in many scenarios, but if we’re talking about what it does for society? Well, I’d rather meet real people in real life than virtual characters on a screen, because virtual characters will always be limited in one way… their ability to be real.

So for now, I’ll stick with creating ‘my space’ in ‘first life’, although I will still talk to my ‘real’ friends on Facebook…