Terry Jones: International Marketing Guru

4 04 2011

Well, Terry Jones, you have much to teach us about how to propel yourself to worldwide fame. Who knew that simply putting the word ‘International’ in front of a parochial, minority event, without backing from the government or religious communities, would raise your profile so immeasurably?! I would never have thought to publicise a localised mock trial by the Dove World Outreach Am-Dram Group as an international event, but your superior marketing skills have once again blown me away!

I am in awe of your selfless willingness to step, once more, into the limelight! I am amazed that you can sleep at night, whilst dozens die on the other side of the world as a result of your actions? It was truly sacrificial of you to give up your beauty-sleep in the cause of truth. If there’s any way I can support your campaign, perhaps by donating a packet of Nytol, do let me know.

And Terry, if you’ll allow me, I’d like to encourage you with a little verse from the Bible. Ok, I admit, I’ve added in a few words and twisted it a little, but that’s fine by you surely? I mean, I readily accept I won’t have mangled Scripture with quite the aplomb you have demonstrated, but after all, I am no International Superstar… just an amateur blogger in a backwater village on a small island. It comes from Matthew 7 (that’s in the New Testament, in case you haven’t yet read that far yet):

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not found churches that unwaveringly denounced Islam? Did we not burn their books in your name? Did we not clearly and aggressively stir up hatred against your bride (after all, we’re meant to be a persecuted people, right?!) Did we not withhold your grace from everyone, that they might see the error of their ways? And did we not do it all in your name?’ And then I will declare to them ‘…..’” (Matthew 7:21-23)

Fill in the blanks!

See also: ‘Book burners: Give Jesus back his coat’

Faith and Film

8 11 2010

I’ve been meaning to link to a few articles on faith and film… I was spurred to action this morning by seeing the first post from a fellow Newfrontiers blogger.

Read, digest, feed back.

  • Why are Christian movies so bad? (via The Simple Pastor)
  • The Independent asked the question a few weeks ago: Can the Movies Do God? I was particularly provoked by the final paragraph. If Muslims start producing faith-based films that recommend good values, would I be willing to endorse them?
  • The Telegraph beat them to it with an article a few weeks earlier on the way films are tailored to a Christian audience, and the increasing use of film clips in churches
  • The Guardian ran an article earlier this year on the return of religious themed films, saying “Biblical themes have only ever been one global crisis away”
  • I found this interview with Michael Flaherty from Walden Media fascinating! A great discussion on the Narnia films and the forthcoming Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Very insightful and interesting. (Though I must admit I didn’t enjoy the films one bit, I appreciate very much their aims and ideals. These guys are doing it far better than most!)
  • And there was the recent saga of the demise and revival of the Blue Like Jazz film project through crowd-sourced funding. Whilst in general I have infinitesimally low hopes for Christian film, I have high hopes for this one. The book was outstanding and fresh, and I think this could be an interesting, real, positive, but not-saccharin big screen portrayal of evangelical Christianity

So, a few questions:

  • Have you ever seen a good Christian film?
  • Should we even be making ‘Christian films’?
  • (Maybe you want to step back one stage and ask what differentiates a Christian film from a film made by Christians? Sure, be my guest.)
  • Why do Christians flock to see sub-par films irrespective of personal taste just because they were made by a believer?
  • Is there danger that the Christian sub-culture of low quality, cringe-worthy movies discredits those believers who are trying to make it in the secular world?

Oh… and while we’re on the subject of Christian subculture, I received this email the other day. Somehow it avoided my spam filter!! Take a look, see what you think.  Then check out this article from the BBC Website in 2006. I shall resist commenting further for fear of saying something for which I will later need to repent…

Everything for next to nothing!

27 10 2010

I hope by now you may have heard about the Everything Conference. If not, check out the website www.everythingconference.org You may even stumble across a particularly attractive photo or two of me covered in latex and makeup.

Taking as its text Psalm 24:1, ‘The Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it’, the conviction behind the conference is that everything matters to God, and Christians should be Salt and Light, influencing culture, wherever they find themselves.

The first conference was launched in March 2010 and was a great success. You can check out some of the talks and articles on the site, which will give you a good idea of what went on. But perhaps most excitingly, tickets for the 2011 event have just gone on sale. A limited number of tickets are available at the bargainous price of £15 – so the quicker you book, the cheaper it will be. Check it out and why not book in today?

The keynote speaker for 2011 will be Andy Crouch. Andy is the author of Culture Making, which has been a key book for people who are considering what it means to shape and influence culture. He’s a remarkably engaging speaker from the USA, and should be a great addition to the event.

So check out the site, enjoy the resources, book in… and while you’re at it, why not:

To the book burners: Give Jesus back his coat!

9 09 2010

I was genuinely shocked to read of the Dove World Outreach Center, a 50 member church in Florida planning to burn copies of the Koran on September 11th. I suppose it was only a matter of time really… But it shocked me nonetheless. The litany of hateful, inflammatory, and plain irresponsible quotes from the leader, Terry Jones, is astonishing. That he shares his name with a Monty Python cast member is apt – this is a farce! ‘Terry Jones sincerely hopes it will not lead to violence!’ Yet surprise, surprise, after receiving 100 death threats Mr Jones is carrying a pistol for protection. Those who live by the sword…

Jesus called us to be Salt and Light, not Acid and Darkness. He wanted us to be preservative and flavour-enhancing, not corrosive and bitter. Illuminating the path ahead rather than causing blindness and stumbling! The Gospel is already a stumbling block and folly, without Christians unduly dimming the lights! (1 Cor 1:23)

Already in the streets of Kabul, protestors are burning effigies of Jones at the mere rumour of the event. As they do so they chant ‘death to America.’ What kind of a messed up world do we live in where an unknown lone-ranger can plaster a  shoddy $20 poster on the side of a trailer and become a spokesman for an entire nation and a worldwide faith?! Seriously! There are plenty of other reasons why protestors in Afghanistan may want to vilify America, and I have no doubt there’s a little bit of ‘scape-goating’ going on here. But please, world, we never elected Terry Jones, and he speaks for very few of us.

Believe it or not, there is Biblical basis for the public burning of books. But does it line up with Jones’ proposed event? In Acts 19, many people come to faith in Jesus, and as a result destroy the documents that represent their past life of disobedience:

‘A number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.’ (Acts 19:19-20 ESV)

What do we learn from Acts 19?

  • Book burning is an act of personal repentance. Paul didn’t even tell them to burn their books. He certainly didn’t rally them up and say ‘hey, let’s do this to send a message to the world! It was a spontaneous act of personal contrition.
  • Book burning is not intended to incite violence. That violence came in the verses that follow is neither here nor there. It was unrelated, unintended, and in fact, when Paul is accused of inciting religious hatred, it is commented by a neutral party that he never even spoke against the rival religion in the city (v37).
  • Book burning must cost the individual. The value of the books destroyed in that street in Ephesus was around £4 million. The converts were so convinced of the value of Jesus that their old lives held no attraction for them any longer. And their repentance was costly. It put nobody else at danger, nor do we see it being repeated or required of others. And certainly nobody burnt a book that belonged to someone else!

Would Paul have endorsed Terry Jones’ bonfire? No. It is not an act of personal repentance, it doesn’t cost the individual, and it is inciting hatred and violence. It is of an entirely different category to Acts 19. It is irresponsible and hate-fuelled.

Ravi Zacharias recounts this powerful story in his book, Can Man Live Without God?

There is a magnificent story in Marie Chapian’s book Of Whom the World Was Not Worthy. The book told of the sufferings of the true church in Yugoslavia where so much wrong has been perpetrated by the politicized ecclesiastical hierarchy. That which has gone on in the name of Christ for the enriching and empowering of corrupt church officials has been a terrible affront to decency.

One day an evangelist by the name of Jakov arrived in a certain village. He commiserated with an elderly man named Cimmerman on the tragedies he had experienced and talked to him of the love of Christ. Cimmerman abruptly interrupted Jakov and told him that he wished to have nothing to do with Christianity. He reminded Jakov of the dreadful history of the church in his town, a history replete with plundering, exploiting, and indeed with killing innocent people. “My own nephew was killed by them,” he said and angrily rebuffed any effort on Jakov’s part to talk about Christ. “They wear those elaborate coats and caps and crosses,” he said, “signifying a heavenly commission, but their evil designs and lives I cannot ignore.”

Jakov, looking for an occasion to get Cimmerman to change his line of thinking, said, “Cimmerman, can I ask you a question? Suppose I were to steal your coat, put it on, and break into a bank. Suppose further that the police sighted me running in the distance but could not catch up with me. One clue, however, put them onto your track; they recognized your coat. What would you say to them if they came to your house and accused you of breaking into the bank?”

“I would deny it,” said Cimmerman.

“‘Ah, but we saw your coat,’ they would say,” retorted Jakov. This analogy quite annoyed Cimmerman, who ordered Jakov to leave his home.

Jakov continued to return to the village periodically just to befriend Cimmerman, encourage him, and share the love of Christ, with him. Finally one day Cimmerman asked, “How does one become a Christian?” and Jakov taught him the simple steps of repentance for sin and of trust in the work of Jesus Christ and gently pointed him to the Shepherd of his soul. Cimmerman bent his knee on the soil with his head bowed and surrendered his life to Christ. As he rose to his feet, wiping his tears, he embraced Jakov and said, “Thank you for being in my life.” And then he pointed to the heavens and whispered, “You wear His coat very well.”
(Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God, pp. 101-102)

Reverend Jones, please, for the love of God, give Him back His coat!

Over-exposure to liberalism causes high blood pressure.

7 06 2010

Blood Pressure - Topgold

A title worthy of the Daily Mail! But fear not, there is neither science nor substance behind this claim, merely a moment of reflection on some of my recent reading.

Every so often, perhaps due to a particular subject I’m considering, I find myself reading a selection of books by authors I’m not usually given to trusting! Sometimes, writers with whom I disagree on one or more major issue, or who I feel are on slightly dubious theological trajectories. Reading them, critiquing them, and learning from them keeps me sharp. It keeps my thinking fresh, as I have some of my jagged edges smoothed by exposure to a different point of view. But it can also raise my blood pressure.

It takes effort to be critical. It requires hard work to stay focussed and objective; neither accepting what you read unthinkingly, nor casting it aside without giving it a fair hearing. I want to keep an open mind; just open enough to take in nuggets of truth, but not so open that the things of worth tumble out. I constantly find myself having to fight the temptation to act on impulse and brand things as ‘dubious’ the moment I come across buzz-words like ’emergent’, ‘postmodern’, ‘conversation’… I have to remind myself that the flipside of the slippery spectrum of:

dubious > liberal > downright heretical

is not always

generally sound > truthful > 100% orthodox

but sometimes

mildly arrogant > unteachable > totally entrenched

I have as much disdain for the immovable, unthinking, closed-minded, ‘what would Calvin do’-bracelet-wearing, self-appointed guardian of truth as I do for the question everything, quasi-relativist, blown by the wind, new kind of Christian magpie who goes after any philosophy that glitters.

I know which way I naturally lean by inclination. I don’t look good in trendy, thick-rimmed glasses.

I’m not always good at remaining humble and teachable. It takes discipline to read things that make you feel uncomfortable and know where to draw the line. It requires you to know yourself; your tendencies and prejudices. I regularly have to fight my propensity toward rash, knee-jerk rejections based on my own unfounded presuppositions rather than serious, Spirit-filled theological reflection.

I see through a glass darkly, with eyes full of timber! It does me well to remember it…

Study that induces a sense of discomfort can be wonderfully medicinal, or a fruitless pain. Iron sharpening iron, or nails on a chalkboard. Personally, I try to keep it to seasons. Short bursts. A brief dive into murky waters, before coming back up to take deep lung-fulls of fresh air.

Reading books that require you to take them with a pinch of salt is all very well, but too much salt leads to high blood pressure! I have no doubt that in the long run I’d be better off cutting down my salt content and feasting on something more nutritious. As Jeremiah testifies, ‘Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart.’ (Jeremiah 15:16)