Is it possible for people, and even for a whole society, to lose faith in God? ... [If] it happens, [it is] not primarily because something they used to think existed does not after all exist, but because the available language about God has been allowed to become too narrow, stale and spiritually obsolete ... the work of creative religious personalities is continually to enrich, to enlarge and sometimes to purge the available stock of religious symbols and idioms ... (The Sea of Faith, 1984)



... people of different periods and cultures differ very widely; in some cases so widely that accounts of the nature and relations of God, men and the world put forward in one culture may be unacceptable, as they stand, in a different culture ... a situation of this sort has arisen ... at about the end of the eighteenth century a cultural revolution of such proportions broke out that it separates our age sharply from all ages that went before (The Use and Abuse of the Bible, 1976)

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Render Unto Bush
by Paul Walker

In the film Life of Brian a leading Jewish revolutionary, angry at Roman domination, asks the question, "What have the Romans ever done for us?" There is a pause, after which somebody cries, "Sanitation."

"Aside from sanitation, what have the Romans ever done for us?" continues the leader. Gradually an enormous list is shouted out including straight roads, peace, aqueducts and so on.

The Romans brought enormous benefit to the whole world. Their Pax Romana created a civilisation throughout Europe which, it can easily be argued, led to the world we live in today.

Yet that civilisation came at enormous cost, most particularly to individuals who got in the way. One of those was Jesus of Nazareth. The Romans considered him a troublemaker and executed him by their off-hand, viscously cruel method of crucifixion. Jesus, like many of his Jewish contemporaries, did not accept the domination of his country by Romans. Instead of rule by Caesar he had a vision of a kingdom of God. Traditional power relationships were to be turned on their head.

As in those days, our world today is dominated by one country. Like Rome, the USA has brought enormous benefits to the world, not least a passionate belief in the freedom of the individual. The American Constitution is rightly seen by many, myself included, as one of the greatest political documents ever written. Today people even speak of a Pax Americana.

And yet this power comes at a high cost to individuals who get in the way. Many more Afghans died post-September 11th than Americans in the Twin Towers attack. Today millions of Iraqis find themselves in more fear for their lives than they did under an evil dictator. Similarly, global warming accounts for countless famines and droughts. Yet America refuses even to countenance reducing its carbon dioxide emissions.

Ironically America is one of the most "Christian" nations in the world - if by "Christian" one means church-going. If we are to keep the message of Jesus alive we have to ask what his message might be today. Would he concern himself with the individual salvation of Americans? Or would he associate himself with poor peasants struggling to survive at the edge of America�s power?

There is currently a war on terror. We might well want to misquote Jesus in this:

Render to Bush the things that are Bush�s
and to God the things that are God�s.

People�s lives and livelihoods belong to God and not Bush. Or, as it says in another document,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

If these words have any meaning they are as true for the people of Iraq and the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay as for any American citizen.

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