Monday, 16 July 2012

Getting Married in Church?

As the Church of England had it's price hike on weddings vetoed (, it is still a natural option for many to get married in a church regardless of their religious beleifs. The CoE is still a place for the people of England to get married in their local communities. Obviously the Catholic Church will still insist of detailed catechesis. An article in the Huffington Post decided to put together some of the good reasons to get married in a church and some of the not so good reasons... it's a slightly tongue in cheek article but most likely, there are some who, if they were really honest, would own up to a number on the second list!

On the one hand, if people want to get married in the eyes of God, who should be stopping them? On the other, should all churches be demanding that people deomnstrate their intentions are on the first list?!
10 Good Reasons to Get Married in a Church
  • I want God to be at the center of this momentous event.
  • I desire God's guidance in my married life.
  • I love this church and I am an active participant in it.
  • I was once an active participant in this church, and I miss it.
  • I trust that this church community will support me and my new family.
  • I have moved away, and I have a church home where I live now but this was once my church home and I treasure the ways in which it has shaped me.
  • This was once my church home, and while I don't have a spiritual community now, I long to find one soon.
  • This has never been my church home but it was my partner's and I treasure the ways in which it has shaped my future spouse.
  • My partner and I have two different religious traditions, but we have agreed that this place can be sacred for both of us on our wedding day.
  • This seems to be a holy place, and we want to find the Spirit here.
10 Bad Reasons to Get Married in a Church
  • I have always wanted to walk down the aisle.
  • I love the way this church looks in pictures.
  • I love the way I look, in this church, in pictures.
  • My parents/grandparents/relatives would kill me if I didn't.
  • This was once my church home and if I don't, people will be disappointed.
  • This was once my church home and I have not missed it; in fact, I resent it, so it's about time they did something nice for me.
  • This was once my partner's church home and while I can't see that it made or makes any difference in my future spouse's life, the family wants us to get married here, so whatever.
  • It is conveniently located nearby the site of the wedding reception.
  • It has good parking.
  • It's cheap.

Original article here:

Friday, 13 July 2012

Top 10 Pop Songs About God (?!?)

The other day I came accross this brilliant article by Michael Rossmann ( He looks at the often thought to be meaningless pop songs and finds a spiritual depth to them....

Have you got any songs to add to the list? Please add in the comment section!

The “This Is Too Easy Because I Already Imagine God Singing Them To Me” Division

10. OneDirection – “What Makes You Beautiful”

Best Line – “You don’t know you’re beautiful. If only you saw what I can see…”

I really don’t like OneDirection, and this song seems both too sappy and manufactured for pre-teen girls. That said, I can’t fight a good message, and this is one we simply cannot hear enough. We are loved into being by God, and yet we can hate ourselves for our flaws. If only we could see what God can see, we’d know that we actually are beautiful.

9. Drake ft. Rihanna – “Take Care”

Best Line – “I know you’ve been hurt by someone else. If you let me, here’s what I’ll do: I’ll take care of you. When you’re ready, just say you’re ready.”

Understatement of the year alert: not all of Rihanna’s songs are easy to pray with. But I have to admit that a few of her songs lend themselves to ruminating on messages I have to think God wants us to internalize. Because we have been hurt. We have built walls to protect ourselves. Without coercing us God simply whispers, “You are precious; you are mine. Just say you’re ready and let yourself be loved by me.”

The “Did They Steal That Line From Scripture? No, Really, Did They?” Division

8. Taylor Swift – “Eyes Open”

Best Line – “The night goes dark. Keep your eyes open. Everybody’s waiting for you to break down. Everybody’s watching to see the fallout. Even when you’re sleeping, keep your eyes open.”

Was Taylor meditating on the Gospel of Matthew while singing this song for the Hunger Games soundtrack? Because she sounds an awful lot like Matthew 25:13, “stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Taylor also might be discovering Ignatian spirituality, because there are some odd parallels between her admonitions about what to do when “the night goes dark” and Ignatius’ instructions for what to do when we’re in desolation and feel far from God. Whenever we’re immersed in desolation and tempted to give up on God, that is exactly the time to “keep [our] eyes open” and to fight such a temptation.

7. Fun. – “We Are Young”

Best Line – “Tonight we are young, so let’s set the world on fire. We can burn brighter than the sun.”

I sure as heck hope there is some sort of Gospel message in this song considering that I (and the rest of the country) have spend the last few months having these words tattooed onto our ear drums. Fortunately, I think there is. Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount, “You are the light of the world… Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:14-16). Ignatius thought this was so important that, legend has it, they were the last words he ever spoke to his close friend (and fellow saint) Francis Xavier as Xavier was leaving for the Indies. “Ite inflammate omnia,” Ignatius is to have said, or, “Go, and set the world on fire.”

Let’s have some Fun. setting the world on fire.

6. Katy Perry – “Firework”

Best Line – ” ‘Cause baby you’re a firework. Come on, show ‘em what you’re worth. Make ‘em go oh oh oh as you shoot across the sky. …You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine. Just own the night like the 4th of July.

While Katy has strayed far from her Christian music beginnings, she nails this Gospel message even better than Fun..  If Jesus were around today, he likely would not talk about covering one’s light under a bushelbasket but instead “own[ing] the night like the 4th of July”… for your heavenly Father.

The “Unintentional Catechesis” Division

5. Rebecca Black – “Friday”

Best Line – “It’s Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday. Partyin’, partyin’ (yeah!), partyin’, partyin’, (yeah!), fun, fun, fun, fun, lookin’ forward to the weekend. We, we, we, we so excited. We so excited. We gonna have a ball today.”

Okay, okay, I know saying that “Friday,” arguably one of the most hated songs ever created, helps explain part of the faith is a bit of a stretch, but hear me out. And, no, I’m not going to say that listening to this song makes me miserable thereby putting me in a space to pray with Good Friday. That would just be cruel.

Nope, this was yet another of the songs that got lodged in my mind during that recent retreat. While I was initially agitated that a song with lyrics as profound as “we, we, we so excited” was distracting me from trying to pray with the Resurrection, I baptized it, turning Rebecca Black into an aid to prayer. “It’s Easter, Easter, gotta get down on Easter” I found myself singing (hopefully, for the sake of my fellow retreatants, not too audibly).

But wait, the possibilities for Rebecca-angelism don’t end here! If we change it to Sunday, can you think of another pop song that better illustrates the importance of the sabbath? Thanks to Rebecca, now “I, I, I, I so excited” for the Lord’s Day.

4. Hanson – “MMMBop”

Best Line – “MMMBop… It’s a secret no one knows. Can you tell me? Oh no you can’t ‘cause you don’t know. Oh yeah you say you can but you don’t know.”

Since the age of twelve the question has haunted me: what on earth is an mmmbop?! Finally, after yet another “well, the Trinity is a mystery” homily on Trinity Sunday, I thought, “That’s it! What if they were singing about an Mmmystery!” We can write books – or songs – about the Trinity. And yet on some level, Hansen will always be right, we just don’t know.
As if tackling the mystery of the Trinity wasn’t enough, Isaac, Taylor, and Zac seem steeped in Scripture and full of wisdom for those in ministry. They sing:
Plant a seed, plant a flower, plant a rose
you can plant any one of those.
Can you tell me oh which flower’s going to grow?
No you can’t ‘cause you don’t know.
Keep planting to find out which one grows.

Hansen, like Paul and Apollos before them, know that no matter how hard we work ultimately God causes the growth (1 Cor 3:6-7). I certainly am never sure whether my efforts will produce anything good, all I can do is keep planting and trust that I’ll eventually discover what has grown.

3. Rihanna – “We Found Love”

Best Line – “We found love in a hopeless place. We found love in a hopeless place.”

Christians do the impossible: see a dead man hanging on a wooden beam and call it love. We find the depth of God’s love for us in one of the cruelest ways humanity has figured out how to kill each other. We have found love in a hopeless place, indeed.

The “This One’s Got It All” Division

2. Adele – “Make You Feel My Love”

Best Line – “I can offer you a warm embrace / To make you feel my love. When there is no one there to dry your tears / I could hold you for a million years / To make you feel my love. / I know you haven’t made your mind up yet / but I would never do you wrong. / Go to the end of the earth for you / To make you feel my love.

I know this is a Bob Dylan original, and I’m admittedly tired of the overwhelming amount of Adele on the air, but there’s no denying that this is a wonderful song to pray with. Seriously, pull it up on your browser and imagine God is singing to you for four minutes and seven glorious seconds.
Almost every retreat director I’ve ever had has started off the retreat by inviting me to pray with Psalm 139, but maybe they should have just asked me to listen to Adele. “Where can I hide from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee? If I ascend to the heavens, you are there… Even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139 7-10). God will go even to the end of the earth to offer us the kind of warm embrace that can make us feel God’s love.

1. Whitney Houston (R.I.P.) – “I Will Always Love You

Best Line – “If I should stay, I would only be in your way. I hope you have all you’ve dreamed of. And I wish to you joy and happiness. But above all this, I wish you love.”

Just like #2, Whitney’s “I Will Always Love You” is actually a cover (this one’s actually a Dolly Parton original). But, honestly, can anyone top Whitney? That note in “I Will Always Love You” – you know, that note, the epitome of a money note – is perhaps one of the closest experiences to the beatific vision we have in this earthly life.  Whitney is one of those performers whose life didn’t always match the transcendence of her talent, and after she died, there was much discussion. But that note always sounds to me like it came right out of the brokenness of her life.

More than just an experience of beauty, notes like that describe God and God’s love, they describe the Jesus who wishes for his joy to “be in you that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). God offers us unconditional love while giving us the freedom to respond to this offer of love however we will.

And with YouTube at our fingertips we’ve got even more freedom to experience The Note – or any of your other favorite songs that might (secretly) be about God.

Origianl article appeared here: and

Monday, 9 July 2012

Muslim Heroes: A Response to Islamophobia

Too often the image of Islam we get from the press is a series of labels. Negative labels.

Saud Inam, founder and executive director, started Muslim Heroes as a blog in response to rising Islamophobia in New York in a post-9/11 world. He found that Muslim were having to give constant explanations of who they were not, rather than who they were.

As such, he started to answer the question “If Muslims are not terrorists, who are they?”

Inman wanted to focus and highlight the inspirational work and contributions of ordinary Muslims from diverse backgrounds. He firmly believes that the average person can make a great difference in the community.

Islamophobia is a problem in the UK too. Would a blog help promote the good work of Muslims here? Is other more visible work needed to help change the image of Islam to some members of the public?

Read original article here:

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Circumcision = GBH?

A court in Cologne has ruled: the "fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents... The religious freedom of the parents and their right to educate their child would not be unacceptably compromised, if they were obliged to wait until the child could himself decide to be circumcised"

This could set a precedent in an area which has been debated in Jewish and Muslim bioethics for a long time: should parents be allowed to circumcise their children?

The case came about after a 4 year old Muslim boy was admitted a week after his circumcision bleeding heavily.

The doctor was charged with GBH, a charge that was dropped on appeal on the grounds that the parents had given permission. A further regional court also dismissed the case, but on the grounds that the law was not clear.

However the court went on to add that: "The body of the child is irreparably and permanently changed by a circumcision... This change contravenes the interests of the child to decide later on his religious beliefs."

This does not change the law, and it will remain legal for boys to be circumcised (unlike for girls). Yet it does set a precedent that could be followed by other German courts, and further afield, in a similar case.

Dieter Graumann, head of the Central Committee of Jews, said the ruling was: "an unprecedented and dramatic intervention in the right of religious communities to self-determination... [It is an] outrageous and insensitive act. Circumcision of newborn boys is a fixed part of the Jewish religion and has been practised worldwide for centuries."

In the United States, the World Health Organisation estimates that nearly one in three males under 15 is circumcised, usually for hygiene reasons.

Many thousands of young boys are circumcised every year in Germany, with many belonging to the Jewish and Muslim communities. The court specified that circumcision was not illegal if carried out for medical reasons.

Do you think circumcision amounts to GBH? Do you think families should be allowed to circumcise their children on religious grounds? What do you think the effects on the child may be?

Read more:

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

100 Years of Legal Rights for Muslims in Austria

Muslims in Austria are celebrating a 100 year law which is seen as a model for other nations. It has guaranteed the same rights for Muslims as other officially recognised religions in Austria, such as Catholicism, Lutheranism, Judaism and Buddhism.

However in its history Austria has made the headlines with the 1683 Siege of Vienna, when the Muslim Ottoman army's advance on Christian-controlled Europe was halted. As well as more recently when the anti-Islamic rhetoric of some Austrian far-right politicians featured in the news.

The law (1912) states:

Article 1: The adherents of Islam shall be granted recognition as a religious community in the kingdoms and crown-lands represented in the Imperial Council in the meaning of the Constitutional Law of 21 December, 1867... The religious community of the adherents of Islam according to the Hanafite rite shall... enjoy the same legal protection as is granted to other legally recognised religious communities. The doctrines of Islam, its institutions and customs shall enjoy the same protection too, unless they are in contradiction to state law.

I think one of the key components here, is that they enjoy the full protection and full rights of the state unless they contradict state law. In my understanding of Shari'a jurisprudence, the law of the land must always be obeyed first.

The BBC quote a Vienna City councillor, Omar Al-Rawi. He says the law does much to integrate Muslims into Austria, giving them a sense of being accepted:

"Austria is a model in Europe in dealing with Islam, but the Austrian Muslims are also a European model," he said.

"The Muslims know that with rights there are also obligations and duties. And if you have a lot of rights and benefits, you also have something to lose," he said.

"Austrian Muslims go all over the world saying we are Austrians, we belong to this country that gave us respect and recognition and gave us a lot of benefits that even some Muslim countries don't enjoy. And that is why they are very proud saying that they are Austrians."

This seems to go against the calls in some countries to reduce the rights of other religions, and particularly Muslims. In Austria, Muslims can exercise their wide-ranging rights including religious education in state schools, administration of internal affairs and public worship.

Perhaps this gives a different model to encourage cohesion within our communities? Does it take a country to give more rights in order to help integration? If people are equal and their beliefs and practises equally valued, are they not more likely to feel part of the country where they live?

Original article: