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Stephen Holmes On The Church And Social Media

I’m not sure who I saw refer to this recent video, it might have been Vicky Beeching. This is an interesting seven-minute interview with Dr Stephen Holmes of St Andrew’s University. I’d be interested in your views.

A couple of the points for conversation that struck me were these:

1. Dr Holmes says that the church is often slightly behind the curve when it comes to adopting technology. This is my experience, too. We cannot adopt things as wholeheartedly as people like me would like to, because inevitably several of our older members do not have access, and we don’t want to treat them as second-class. However, that also means we lag further behind in contemporary means of communication. And like it or not, one of the things the Christian church is about is communication.

Furthermore, I even find among many Christians who are connected to the web that they are reluctant to embrace a lot of social media, with the sole general exception of Facebook. Sometimes it seems we are only using electronic technology as a new form of typewriter.

2. What about his point that it’s only in recent times that our culture has been so private? There is a lot of nervousness about the way privacy is broken down in social media, but Dr Holmes suggests near the end of the interview that we are merely reverting to the way society once was, and that such openness is a good thing. What do you think about that?

Here is the video:

Christmas Is Really For The … Er, Politicians?

More and more this year I’m hearing people say that Christmas is really for the children. Which always seems odd to me, however much I enjoy seeing the festival through my children’s eyes. Didn’t Jesus come for us all, and for all creation?

Many years ago, the poet Steve Turner identified this in his poem ‘Christmas Is Really For The Children‘:

Christmas is really
for the children.
Especially for children
who like animals, stables,
stars and babies wrapped
in swaddling clothes.
Then there are wise men,
kings in fine robes,
humble shepherds and a
hint of rich perfume.

Easter is not really
for the children
unless accompanied by
a cream filled egg.
It has whips, blood, nails,
a spear and allegations
of body snatching.
It involves politics, God
and the sins of the world.
It is not good for people
of a nervous disposition.
They would do better to
think on rabbits, chickens
and the first snowdrop
of spring.

Or they’d do better to
wait for a re-run of
Christmas without asking
too many questions about
what Jesus did when he grew up
or whether there’s any connection.

Yet if Easter is political, so is Christmas. In an article published ten days ago in the Telegraph, Dr Stephen Holmes of St Andrew’s University argues that the Christmas story is irreducibly political.  And while some may moan, even – especially! – in the same publication, surely Dr Holmes is essentially right, even if some might query certain details. The criticism to which I have just linked ludicrously puts Dr Holmes in the same categories as those who have previously poured sceptical waters on the supernatural elements of Christmas. Dr Holmes would be rather surprised by this, as someone theologically conservative enough to have been engaged at times by Spring Harvest and serves on the Council of the Evangelical Alliance!
He is right to protest against Victorian sentimentality that removes the contemporary force of the Christmas story. Mary was a single teenage mother, even if the circumstances were different. Joseph and Mary with the young Jesus were asylum seekers in Egypt. The politicians oppose Jesus. The religious establishment doesn’t get it. Power is inflicted ruthlessly upon the poor in the mechanics of the census.

Of course, some of the politicians will try to own Christmas, but they will do so with trite and inane clichés, if past form indicates anything. They too will seek to empty the story of its force.

There’s an N T Wright quote doing the rounds among Christians on Facebook right now that seems to get it right, in my opinion:

Christmas is not a reminder that the world is really quite a nice place. It reminds us that the world is a shockingly bad old place… Christmas is God lighting a candle; and you don’t light a candle in a room that’s already full of sunlight.

As the old slogan puts it, if Jesus Christ is not Lord of all, then he is not Lord at all. That includes politics, and the whole shebang.