loving #jianghomeshi — from the presbyterian record

Presbyterian Record - December 2014 copyA piece I wrote about Jian Ghomeshi a few weeks back, now published in The Presbyterian Record. Reflecting on the demands of love when the public narrative pushes in a very different direction…

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How do you love a guy whose sex life and personal life are marked by instances of abuse and violence toward women?

How do you love a guy who took a Public Relations approach when his abusive behavior threatened to blow up publicly – deploying the best lawyers and publicists money can buy to “get out front of the story” and to “control the narrative?”

How do you love a guy who seems to think it is more important to protect his image and career prospects than to be honest and seek help and express regret? Continue reading

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saying goodbye – with grace in Christ

How do you sign off your emails? How do you say good-bye in the age of electronic communication?

It’s a surprisingly complicated question.

Traditionally, of course, when you write a letter by hand to someone, you might sign off by saying “sincerely,” or perhaps by saying “with love.” Ending a letter with those words was almost like ending a prayer with the word “Amen” – it was intended to show that we are invested in the words we have written or spoken.

But in the world of email – in the world of back-and-forth electronic communication – it’s complicated. Ending an email by saying “sincerely” feels too heavy and formal – saying “with love” would often be way too substantial.

Some people will sign off an email with the light sounding “cheers.” And in a way that word works because it’s quick and light – it matches the not-too-significant nature of most of our emails. But on the other hand, if you’re not the kind of person who would say “cheers” in everyday conversation, it may feel odd to sign off an email that way. Continue reading

boasting and foolishness – taking the cross seriously

President Barak Obama got into trouble a couple of years ago for something he said in a campaign speech. Obama was visiting Roanoke Virginia during the long 2012 campaign season and he was speaking off the cuff about how community and government support is important to the success of businesses. Speaking off the cuff, here’s what he said:

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me—because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t—look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own… If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

Almost immediately, of course, Obama’s words were ripped out of their context and used as a weapon against him. Almost immediately his political opponents accused him discounting the hard work of business owners and entrepreneurs in building their businesses, by saying “You didn’t build that.” And almost overnight his words became what’s today called an internet meme. People took Obama’s words and applied them to all kinds of different situations – playing with his words and making fun of the whole idea. Continue reading

this table – the shape of community

Over the next weeks and leading all the way up to Advent, we are going to be exploring Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians on Sunday mornings. It’s a remarkable letter in so many ways – it explores a huge swath of questions about what it means that we are followers of the risen Jesus. As you can see, I’ve entitled the series faith and body – I think the appropriateness of that title will become pretty clear over the coming weeks.

So this morning we start into this series, but this morning we aren’t going to begin at the beginning. We aren’t going to begin with chapter 1 verse 1. And we’re also not going to begin with an historical sketch of the city of Corinth or even with a sketch of Paul’s life up to the time of writing.

Rather than beginning at the beginning – and rather than beginning with the history and context of the letter – we are going to dive right into the middle of Paul’s letter. We’re going to start in the middle of chapter 11, which is where our New Testament lesson comes from this morning. Continue reading

Who would choose to live without friends?

Who would choose to live without friends? Who could live without friends? We all need friends. This is an assumption that has shaped the lives and thoughts of so many throughout history. From the greatest philosophers to your so-called average Joe, the vast majority of people have believed that we need friends.

The ancient philosopher Aristotle makes precisely this point in his ethical writings. He points out that even if we had all other goods imaginable – wealth and honour and accomplishments of every kind – even then, no one would choose to live without friends.  The philosopher asks: If we don’t have friends, to whom will we show generosity? If we don’t have friends, how will we guard our prosperity? Without friends, how will we survive misfortunes and poverty? Without friends, who will stir us to noble action?

There is a wide literature on friendship. Relationships between friends have been portrayed in so many different ways, and our need of friends has been re-iterated in so many contexts. In Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein gives us the shadow side of this assumption. Victor Frankenstein (the doctor who creates the great monster) writes these words to his confidant, Margaret Walton Saville: “I have no friend, Margaret. When I am glowing with the enthusiasm of success, there will be none to participate in my joy; if I am assailed by disappointment, no one will endeavour to sustain me in my dejection.” Continue reading

say thank you (or not…)

What does gratitude look like?

How should gratitude be expressed in our lives?

For most of us, one of the earliest things we were taught by our parents was to say “Thank you.”

When someone paid you a compliment: “Did you say thank you?”

When someone was giving you a gift: “Remember to say thank you.”

And of course there was always also the right posture in gratitude: “You’ve got to look at her when you say thank you. ”

From those earliest days of learning to say thank you, there have been so many instances when gratitude has made sense to each us – so many times when we have expressed our thankfulness to others.

But as we have grown up – as we have put some distance between our childhood selves and our mature selves – the question of thankfulness has also gotten more complicated. I’m sure we’ll all agree. I’m sure that all of us can think of situations where thankfulness wasn’t at all straightforward. Continue reading

as surely as…

This morning we want to start out by saying a bit more about the city of Philippi. We’ve talked a little bit about the experiences of Paul – we’ve talked a little bit about Christian community in Philippi and about their experiences – but we want to say a little more about the city of Philippi itself.

The city of Philippi was founded about 400 years before Christ, and the city got its name from the king who founded it. His name was Philippos – he was king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia, there on the northern shore of the Agean Sea. Philippos founded this particular city for the typical kinds of reasons – there were gold mines in the area, and he wanted to control the gold mines – there was a well-travelled road passing through the region – and he wanted to control the road, too.

Now king Philippos was a relatively successful and powerful king within the wider context of Ancient Greece – and he had grand plans to expand his rule and his kingdom. It so happened, however, that Philippos was assassinated before he could implement his plans. But his son Alexander became king after Phillipos and pursued his father’s expansionist plans. The son of Philippos turns out to have been none other than Alexander the Great, who established one of the largest empires in the ancient world – from Greece in the West – to India and the Himalayas in the East. Continue reading

responding to rivalry

Sibling rivalry – it begins at a pretty early age, doesn’t it.

A couple of weeks ago I watched a documentary on CBC television’s entitled Sibling Rivalry: Near, dear, and dangerous. I watched it again this week on the CBC doc zone website. In every relationship between siblings there is a natural rivalry that comes to expression. In some cases that rivalry might only ever be a very friendly and constructive rivalry. In other cases, the rivalry might be more intense and difficult, but the siblings are able to get beyond the rivalry as they move through adolescence into adulthood. But in some cases the rivalries are or become downright destructive – taking a toll on lives and on families.

In that documentary, Peter Hitchens talks about his relationship with his older brother Christopher Hitchens. And he recounts the story Christopher used to tell of once releasing the brake on his little brother’s stroller at the top of the hill – hoping it might just take his brother away down the hill. Sibling rivalry – it can begin at a pretty early age.  Christopher and Peter had, in fact, a lifelong rivalry – one a celebrated author and atheist, the other a celebrated author and person deep faith in God. Continue reading

getting personal – in a letter

In a file at home, I have a stack of hand-written letters I received back in 1997 and 1998. From way that I’ve filed them, you can tell I was kind of neurotic about those letters – they’ve always been in a neat pile, and each letter has its original airmail envelope stapled neatly to its back left corner. Back in 1997 and 1998, email was taking off as a communication tool. At that time, particularly given where they were coming from, letters made the most sense. I can remember the feeling of anticipation as I check the mail each day during that time period. I can remember the happiness in receiving a letter in my hands. I can remember sitting down to read those letters with care.

As you might suspect, those letters were sent by Becky – this was before we were married and when she was living in West Africa. Those letters were an expression of our deepening relationship – an expression of our interest in each other’s lives – of our desire to know more of each other. I should say that there was an equal number of letters traveling in the other direction, from my pen to her hand. To look back at those letters now is to look back onto an earlier stage of life. Memories and experiences have been preserved through ink and paper.

Thinking about those letters makes you wonder what’s going to happen to all of the communications of this new era. Already historians are worried about it. What happens when Facebook goes bankrupt in 15 years – and people lose all their status updates and their timeline is wiped clean? Or what happens when the old emails clogging up your system are thoughtlessly wiped away with one stroke of the key. Or what happens when we pack away that old computer in the basement, all those old messages locked in an inaccessible technology tomb? Continue reading