Friday, October 31, 2008

Is the Tide Turning?

Feathers are flying at Broadcasting House. The BBC top management are in uproar about the public's reaction to the obscene phone calls made by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross on the late night BBC Radio 2 show hosted by Brand. Over 30,000 complaints have been recorded and even the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have called the jape outrageous and unacceptable.

As the result of the furore both Brand and Ross have apologised publicly and in person to Andrew Sachs, the elderly actor whose telephone answerring machine received the obscene messages. Now Russell Brand has resigned from the BBC and Jonathan Ross has been suspended without pay for 3 months as a sign of the Corporation's displeasure.

Is this an early sign that the tide of public opinion about indecency on the airwaves is turning? I think it is. Both artists are well known for their wild and wacky sense of humour, and for pushing back the boundaries of what is acceptable, but maybe the licence payers have had enough.

If one effect of the outburst of national rage is that producers and editors pay more serious regard to the nature and content of their output then well and good. I have found myself increasingly sickened by the fare served up by the BBC and others broadcasters even before the so-called watershed. So much programming is built around humiliating people, mocking decency, promoting violence, murder and abusive sex. The time has come for a sea-change in British broadcasting - in fact, it is long overdue.

Messrs Brand and Ross may well have done the British public a favour. They deserve no thanks for that, but it is amazing how some good can come out of the most perverse circumstances.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Shack - a Warning

I know that by writing about the bestselling Christian novel The Shack I may possibly get more people reading it than would otherwise have done, but before you dash out and buy it as a Christmas present, I want to sound a warning.

As a writer I found the literary devices used by the author deeply dissatisfying and sometimes disturbing. The underlying idea of the kidnap and brutal murder of a Christian's little girl is distasteful. But it is in the image of God that the book presents that I have the most difficulty.

Despite the rave reviews by people like Eugene Petersen and Michael W Smith, there are those who share my deep unease with this work of fiction. A friend of mine, Pete Greasley, Senior Pastor of Christchurch, Newport, found this item on a radio broadcast from the renowned American theologian Dr. Albert Mohler, who dedicated a radio program to presenting his review of the book. He closed the radio program with these words:"...Whenever you have an issue in which you are dealing in a narrative-fictional context with theology, you need to be really, really careful. It's dangerous enough to write theology. But when you try to put it in the form of 'theological fiction,' or 'Christian fiction,' it gets all the more dangerous because you are inventing dialogue and inventing characters. And this is one of the grave, grave problems I have with this book [The Shack]. If you put God in some kind of character format-in this case as an African-American woman-you're going to be creative and create a fictional character. Now, is it responsible to do that with the God of the Bible? I have grave concerns about that, but the concerns grow more grave when you look at the dialogue imbedded within the book and the fact that this simply, by any measure, falls far short of biblical Christianity. There is very little in this book about salvation, but there is absolutely nothing in this book that would help you to understand how one comes to be made right with God through the atonement achieved by Jesus Christ, the Son. My main issue is not with the particulars of the story-in some sense a story is a story. My problem is with what is imbedded in the story and this is a danger regardless of whether the story is presented as Christian fiction or something else. Remember, everyone has a purpose in writing a story. In this case, regardless of intention (I cannot read the man's heart), I can tell you the effect of this book is deeply subversive of the Christian faith and I think inherently seductive as well."

In my view the book is not only built upon a literary device that is nothing short of trickery, but is in breech of the second commandment about creating false images of God. So - I won't be sending out free copies with my Christmas cards!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Our tiny island of Guernsey is feeling the heat of the meltdown in global finances. Landsbanki (Guernsey) Ltd was placed into court administration yesterday and all its assets were frozen. This means that savers and depositors cannot get their money out. This is particularly hard for them, as in Guernsey there is no depositor's rescue scheme such as exists elsewhere.

Bankers around the world are not yet throwing themselves out of upper storey windows but the situation is tough and getting worse. Guernsey is sheltered from the worst of all this because of the stability and independance of our financial institutions, but Landsbanki is, of course, an Icelandic bank.

Speaking to a Landsbanki investor yesterday he said to me that if I was preaching at the moment (I am not because of my recovery from surgery) I would certainly have plenty say! Well, that's not just because of my verbose nature, but because the Bible does say a lot about money. In fact Jesus himself spoke about finances quite a lot and there is some good advice in the scriptures for those of us feeling the pinch.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal." (Matthew 6:19-20)

From the Old Testament book of Proverbs (11:28) "Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf." But of course, alongside these warnings there are some amazing promises for those who trust God for their finances and honour Him with their giving. "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus"(Phil. 4:19).

So, this is a time for turning over to the Lord our worries about our financial future and choosing to trust in Him. Clearly the meltdown has not yet bottomed out, but it will do, and God's Word and His promises will remain the same.