From the August Grapevine

 From this month's Grapevine,

 our parish magazine.

Copies available (50p) at the back of church or why not have it delivered every month?

See Susan Warrington or contact the church office.

A Letter from Canon Rob McLaren

At the Civic Service this year, we prayed for the new mayor and the council, we encouraged those who volunteer to build up our community in all sorts of ways, and we had an opportunity to speak about love as the Bible means it.

One of the places we look to be reminded of the meaning of love is Paul's famous chapter in 1 Corinthians 13. Because marrying couples often choose it for their wedding service, I have spent 29 years preaching on 'Love is patient, love is kind...not rejoicing in wrongdoing but rejoicing In the truth'

I have learnt to think that love is helping people in an unselfish way by gently encouraging truthfulness and discouraging wrongdoing in God's eyes. For Christians, Jesus loved more than anyone else through his costly self-sacrifice, which enables others to receive the free gift of forgiveness as they turn and trust in what Jesus did so painfully and gainfully. Jesus was gentle and careful and took the pain upon himself. So love is an unselfish action which faces up to the truth and wants the best for others. Or I thought it was!

I don't hear love being talked about like that in our public spaces. The meaning of love has mutated into a description of feelings. These feelings seem rather fickle and fleeting. They seem more to do with an individual's expression of personal Indulgence rather than an unselfish action for the good of others. And feelings have only a vague relation to truth and falsehood. So this new idea of love based on individual feelings doesn't help us towards right and away from wrong.

This has resulted in a serious deficit in public discourse about right and wrong. No longer is 'loving God' and `loving our neighbour as ourselves' the framework for understanding right and wrong. Jesus said 'if you love me, you will obey my commandments', but now the definition of loving actions seems to be drifting away from its connection with love.

Instead our society seems to talking about right and wrong in the context of hate. Right and wrong in the eyes of our political movers and shakers have become inconsistent concepts apart from things which are defined as hate.

Hate preachers are wrong, we are told, but we are without a clear idea of what hate preaching is. Then what follows is a bid by determined campaigning groups to define the views with which they disagree as 'hate'. If they invent a word which sounds bad (like homophobia or transphobia or Islamaphobla) it seems they are most of the way to influencing the law to define anyone who disagrees with their campaign as a hater.

This is questionable and damaging on several levels.

For one, hate should not be about whether your views are politically correct. Hate is shown by hateful actions. If I am violent or defamatory towards someone then I have shown hate. But if for Instance I merely express the clear belief that marriage is a God-given lifelong covenant union between a man and a woman, that doesn't mean I hate anyone. The 2 billion Christians In the world who hold to the Bible's teaching on these issues are not haters, because they continue to love their neighbour as themselves. Hate is when we mean or do harm to people. In this situation, surely the ones who are hateful are the ones who call people toxic names like 'homophobic' for no good reason, but only because they disagree with their own ideas and they do wish to cause them harm by 'throwing mud', labelling them and threatening legal sanction.

For two, hate is an unhelpful context to talk about right and wrong. Accusations of hate are damaging and toxic, and can result In personal injustice which Is hard to remove from the public record. It seems to be all too simple for those who wish to make accusations of hate, but very hard for those targeted, to rebut and remove the false accusations. This way of things is toxic because it makes divisions worse not better. Talking about right and wrong is much more helpful In the context of love. When positive noble helpful (i.e. loving actions) are defined as right, it Is a lot less divisive way to have debates about right and wrong.

For three, an invented word like 'Islamaphobla' is so unhelpful. A phobia is a fear, and in particular an irrational fear. An irrational fear of Islam Is a damaging thing because it may cause us to avoid muslim people when It would be good for us to have healthy friendships with everyone. However there Is the issue of a rational fear of Islam. So many people In this world have good reason to fear Islam because of the damage it his causing In their lives. The increasing Influence of wahabi and salafi teaching means that large and growing numbers of muslims want sharia law wherever they can, and understand jihad to include the use of violence against perceived opponents. Fearing these developments Is not irrational. It makes sense. Even if It Is disturbing for the future of our world, it is totally rational. Therefore to call it Islamaphobial and outlaw rational expression is profoundly unhelpful.

For four, 'offence' is also an unhelpful concept In this area of thinking. If I feel someone offends me that does not necessarily mean they hate me. I have been called foolish and worse by people who loved me enough to point out my foolishness. My convictions need testing by people who disagree, in order to see if my convictions are worth holding onto. This I testing and proving necessarily involves what easily-offended people call offence. As long as we are not personally vindictive, or dismissive, there is surely a great need for healthy offence in a healthy multi-cultural society.

Love and hate are simple words which seem to be mutating in their meaning among some In our society. We live in strange times. Now is the time to hold to the Lord's idea of these ideas. Do you not agree?

Yours in Christ,