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When the 'Queen of Peace' is not listening

culture death lent ukraine Mar 02, 2022

By Barry Taylor

Last week as the crisis in the Ukraine was unfolding and tensions were increasing, Pope Francis called for people to fast for peace on Ash Wednesday, praying that “the Queen of Peace will preserve the world from the madness of war.” The Queen of Peace seems to not be listening at present in spite of the desires and prayers of much of the world. Whether we fast or pray this Ash Wednesday is a matter of personal choice and conscience, but it might not be a bad idea to spare a moment to reflect on the state of the world at the moment.

The sense of liberation that filled us all at the end of the pandemic lockdowns is suddenly tempered by the sobering and tragic events unfolding in the Ukraine. The pandemic gave us many insights (whether we wanted them or not) and chief among them was the somewhat contradictory revelation that our isolation also revealed how interconnected our world is. And now a conflict in one part of Europe spreads fears and...

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A Faith Without Illusions?

By Barry Taylor

When Freud published his landmark book Civilisation and it’s Discontents in 1930, it became one of his most important works. The original German title translated more literally  as, Uneasiness in Civilisations and perhaps captures the central issue of the book, which was the tension between the human desire and pursuit of individuality and the pressure of social conformity. How we solve this dilemma is central to Freud’s work.

'Life is difficult' was his starting point and as humans we create a number of ways to deal with it. He called these palliatives and named four key ideas by which we attempt to find peace or calm or respite from the challenges of life. Sexual love, art, intoxicants and religion were what he termed the four main palliatives. The book examines how these ideas play out in our lives both positively and negatively. We need relief from life’s challenge, Freud argues, but there are dangers when palliatives become the dominant...

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The Art, Theology and Emancipation of Lil Nas X

By Maria French

Yesterday on our podcast we had a conversation on all the controversy the Lil Nas X video, “Montero (Call Me By Your Name).”  The conservative community, both Christian and Political, have been up in arms about it since it was released on Friday.  The satanic panic from the 80’s and 90’s seems to have been resurrected amid Holy Week, Satan Shoes and a lap dance in hell (literally).  Not only do we think the narrative Lil Nas X portrayed in his video was profoundly theological, but it was also deeply artful, full of courage and done with a poignant clarity into a culture of purity and anti-LGBTQ sentiment that the conservative church has long claimed.  

In any case, Inside Edition picked up on our podcast and some of our commentary on the video and what we think might be happening in the culture it is provoking.  Our sentiments are heavily quoted up against some really negative voices in American Christianity and...

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Christian Conversion Disorder and Change

By Barry Taylor

Our latest culture course is about deconstruction but not so much the philosophical theory of deconstruction, as much as the umbrella term being accessed by a number of people and groups around the world, who are grappling with problematic religious experiences and re-thinking their faith. In our last week’s discussion, we put forth the idea that perhaps there was an underlying issue that wasn’t being addressed which we called, Christian Conversion Disorder, the idea being that somehow the idea of conversion in Christianity had somehow come to mean a desire for a change that would preclude the need for any further change. The problem with this being that change is a natural part of life, and our ideas often change as we are exposed to life and accumulate experiences that might contradict or challenge previously held beliefs, and the certainty of a thesis is suddenly questioned. We have also heard the word ‘trauma’ used a lot in these ongoing...

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Emperors of One Idea

By Barry Taylor

“When Darwin or Einstein proclaim theories that modify our ideas, it is a triumph of science. We do not say that there is another defeat for science, because its old ideas have been abandoned...Religion (should) face change in the same spirit...”

A.N. Whitehead

Whitehead’s quote taps into an important question that we need to ask ourselves: Why in the face of such an evident need for reframing the way we speak about religion is it so difficult for us to let go of old ideas?

Part of the answer might lie in the fact that many people don’t think they have ‘ideas’ about God. They think they’ve happened upon an unchangeable truth and therein is the challenge. It is a difficult notion to overcome. Many of us have been schooled in forms of religion built around crystallized dogmas that are presented to us as the truths we need to embrace in order to be the ‘right kind’ of Christian.

But as the writer Adam Phillips...

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Hack to the Future

By Barry Taylor

Whether it’s Star Wars or Star Trek, Mars Attacks or Minority Report, 2001 A Space Odyssey or Dr. Who, film and television has long been enthralled with a future shaped by science, technology and visions of the future. Using incredible technologies and great stories, imagined worlds are made to look believable and real and have shaped so much of the ways we think the future might unfold. But as the philosopher Slavoj Žižek has noted, even though we know that something is fiction, that it is not real, it still fascinates us because there is something real in the illusion. We choose the things we watch because they trigger our desires even though we aren’t always aware of what we are desiring for when we watch a film or tv show. Žižek also said about cinema, the ‘ultimate perverts art’ because visual media doesn't simply give us what we desire - it tells us how to desire.

What those illusions are, what cinematic desire looks like and...

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More Than Lip Service: Is the Church Essential Work?

By Maria French

What makes the church more than a self-help option?  In the name of ‘essential work,’ what are the categories of community the church provides for its congregants that are integrally Christian?

I don’t ask these questions because I know the answers. 

I ask them because I think they must be asked and deeply considered. 

If you are keeping up on the news across the U.S. when it comes to church openings (or non-openings) you will find that many pastors have fought against the continued government mandates not to assemble for the purposes of worship.  There has been outrage, citing infringement on their first amendment rights, calling for churches to be seen as essential work as well as an invoking of mental health statistics among church goers who no longer have the comfort and community of their in-person Sunday gatherings.

There has been a distinct ‘us vs. them’ narrative when it comes to churches re-opening and...

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Digitally Disrupted

By Barry Taylor

In 1922 the Swiss artist Paul Klee produced an enigmatic artwork called The Twittering Machine. Against a bluish-purple background, four crudely drawn birds cling to a wire. There is a handle attached to the wire the birds are on and you can work out that it probably represents some kind of mechanism to move the birds up and down when it is cranked. Beneath the birds is what looks like some kind of pit, or bath. What the painting means is hotly debated as Klee was an intuitive artist who liked to explore the role of the subconscious mind in inventing and interpreting the world and then left the interpretation of his work up to the viewer. But over the years consensus has centered around the relationship between humans and technology, and the questioning of the issue of progress.

Are we really progressing with all the technologies we employ or are we being manipulated by an invisible hand cranking the crooked wire upon which we all cling whilst hanging over a pit of?

...
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What LIEs in BeLIEf

By Maria French

           “What do you believe, Maria?” is a question I am asked more than you can imagine. 

Only the question sounds more like this…

            “Do you believe that Jesus Christ literally rose from the dead?”

            “Do you believe in hell?” 

            “Do you think Jesus was kidding when he said, ‘I am the way, the truth

             and the life’?

There was a time in my life when I took the bait; hook, line and sinker!

I’ve learned the hard way, more than once, that these are questions I will never answer for people.  And I don’t mean theologically.  I literally mean that I will not physically open my mouth and attempt to answer them.  

In reality, we need to take the...

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