A thousand years ago, Europeans clubbed together in search of a common mission to defeat an enemy. And in doing so, through their Crusades, through wa...
The shepherds went and worshipped. Herod sought to kill. Today's Herods, ISIS and the like around the world in so many faiths, propose false apocalypses. But you and I are called to respond in worship and transforming, world changing obedience, both as individuals, and together, to this revelation of the baby that defines God, for it is our response to Jesus that defines us.
We can all be truly thankful that demand for foodbank parcels has, over the last year or so, begun to settle, though only after climbing to a figure of around a million three day parcels a year. It's an extraordinary high level compared with only a few years ago, and one that I would never have imagined we would reach. What seems bizarre though is that some commentators are suggesting this plateau in demand means that the problem of food poverty has gone away. It hasn't. It's too many, and there's no guarantee that it won't rise again soon.
British Muslims would be far better off if only they invest in knowledge and turn much of their energy into reading, learning, thinking, reflecting and reasoning. Revisiting the history of a pluralist Spain would be useful, as that would help them in comparing their better past with the thorny present.
By now, we all know that murder is wrong, theft is seriously frowned upon, cheating is repugnant, and that we should be kind to our parents. The old religious based 10 commandments are now firmly rooted in our minds, so it's about time we had some new ones relevant to the more secular society we have become.
Christmas is at our door, a religious festival which for most Brits has lost its religious grounding, leaving behind only its cultural, family-orientated traditions. Many outspoken atheists of today argue that we as a society should leave all our religious grounding at the door when raising our children, allowing only secular rituals to survive onto our next generation.
Today there is still plenty of brokenness around the world. Conflicts have escalated to the point where hundreds of thousand refugees are forced to travel all the way to Europe in search for safety, whilst millions still remain in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
Can we improve the education of true Islamic values in Muslim countries? What drives extremist interpretations of Islam in the first place? And how should we tackle the socio-political causes of radicalisation?
I would not have voted in favour of bombing Syria. ISIL/Daesh is a source of evil, of this I have no doubt. But for me the case for bombing is not proven. Some, including some I greatly respect, say that the traditional Christian criteria for a Just War have been fulfilled. But I cannot agree. Across the world I see the the political reflex to seek quick popularity through warmongering talk, and I abhor it. I believe there is a better way. In the season of the coming of the Prince of Peace let's try and find it together.
At the heart of Christmas is the Bethlehem babe, who later went on to preach that we are to love our neighbours as ourselves. Not instead of ourselves or despite ourselves but as ourselves. The all-inclusive love Jesus was teaching, therefore, includes the call to each of us to look after "number one", too.
There already seems a lack of expertise among some of those who commission TV programmes about religion and ethics. In a recent video aimed at programme-makers which claims to explain the BBC's Religion strategy for BBC One. It doesn't mention religion until 25 seconds from the end!
Ceasing to look ever backwards in that way, coming to terms instead with a very different present reality, and planning for a more cohesive future society on the basis of that will take us all - religious and humanist alike - well out of our comfort zones. But it is an essential task. The strikingly diverse Commission that produced today's report has taken that first step forward. Hopefully public authorities and governments across the UK will continue that journey.
Religion and belief are driving forces in society today. Although there is some divergence of opinion over the extent, there is unanimity that the UK is becoming less Christian, less religious and more diverse. Whilst we are not about to return to a time when religion and religious authorities dominated, these changes raise issues that have to be urgently addressed.
You see, I grew up in a church for most of my life, apart from a few 'wilderness years' that all Christians seems to wander through in a Pilgrims Progress kind of way. Having always been in a church or Christian environment I have an idea as to what I think a Pastor should look like. Kind, patient, wise, understanding, slow to judge etc.
our elected representatives want and that's how democracy works. We are already bombing. Maybe it's the 'right' thing to do; I don't know. But I do know that if you support this, then you can't call yourself a Christian. It's as simple as that.
The Sun's front page poll last Monday claiming that one in five British Muslims have sympathy for Jihadis was widely scorned and ridiculed, and rightly so, for its dubious methodology and all round misleadingness.