The first that caught my eye was this one about a controversial new Bible from the Western Bible Foundation that cuts out all the passages that are difficult for Western Society to handle relating to economic justice, possessions and money.
Says the chairman of the foundation, Mr De Rijke:
â€œJesus was very inspiring for our inner health, but we don’t need to take his naÃ¯ve remarks about money seriously. He didn’t study economics, obviously.â€?
â€œWhat if all Christians stopped being anxious, for example, and started expecting everything from God? Or gave their possessions to the poor, for that matter. Our economy would be lost. The truth is quite the contrary: a strong economy and a healthy work ethic is a gift from God.â€?
However all is not as it seems, for Dutch speakers at least – ‘De Rijke’ means ‘the rich’ in Dutch. The book is making a serious point, but not the point that it seems. Mr De Rijke doesn’t really exist, and the book is actually published by a network of Christian Students and young adults called Time to Turn, and is making a point about the parts of the Bible often ignored:
â€œMany Christians accept the Western lifestyle, including the degradation of creation and the injustice of our trade, and they only take the easy parts of the gospel. But it isn’t until we publish this gospel with holes, that they get confused!â€?
They are soon to follow up the Western Bible with a set of bible studies looking at what was left out, thereby examining the issues that western Christians have so much difficulty with. Unfortunately the book is currently only published in Dutch – I’m sure an English version would be popular.
Secondly, today there was also news that the UK Christian Handbook from Christian Research are being selective about who they include. After previously offering the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) valuable advertising space, the offer has suddenly been withdrawn, with the editor of the handbook citing purely ‘commercial concerns’, although of course those commercial concerns are that they believe that certain elements of the UK Christian community would not buy the handbook if it had such an advert. Having said that it is sad that yet again, one particular branch of UK Christianity is, in this case succeeding in dictating what the rest of us read, watch or listen too.
That leads neatly on to a third story that caught my attention, the recent vote by the student Guild at Exeter University to rename their Christian Union back to being the Christian Union, after they had earlier been forced to change it to the ‘Evangelical Christian Union’.
To some extent at it’s core this is not a new problem, and precisely the reason that I avoided the Reading University Christian Union, that they are very narrow in their Christianity – indeed you only need look at the doctrinal basis for both Exeter and Reading. Like many of the other Christian Unions at universities they are part of the national Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship, which provides the doctrinal basis, and only people who sign up to that basis can be members. In the case of Reading, as in other universities there were other Christian groups that operated separately from the Christian Union, that covered the broad range of Christian denominations and groupings.
What has happened at Exeter, as has happened previously in Birmingham and Hull, is that the student body as a whole has objected to the narrow view of Christianity as espoused by the Christian Union holding a monopoly of the term Christian. Following a complaint made to the student guild in May, the student guild forced them to change their name to the ‘Evangelical Christian Union’ to reflect their actual position. They have now, unsuccessfully tried to revert to the original name, but have been beaten by a vote amongst the students. The report on the Exeter web site quotes the leader of the campaign to retain the ‘Evangelical Christian Union’ name:
â€œThe referendum result is a significant victory for democracy and human rights, and a hammerblow against religious bigotry and intolerance. For years, this society has deceptively marketed itself as the â€?Christian Unionâ€œ while systematically silencing and discriminating against Christians who are not evangelical.â€?
â€œToday, this cynical ruse has finally come to an end. The result of the referendum and the GSA motion passed yesterday represent the first two steps towards a future in which every Exeter student will have their beliefs accepted and welcomed. We sincerely hope that all religious societies â€“including the ECU â€“ will be willing to work together to achieve this goal.â€?
Both the LGCM/Christian Handbook story, and Exeter story have a lot in common with my favourite Christian pressure group Christian Voice as they represent one group of Christians trying to portray their particular brand of Christianity as representing all Christians. What is pleasing is that at a University level at least, there are increasing indications that the term Christian is being reclaimed from the fundamentalists – unfortunately in the wider world they are still doing things like dictating the contents of the UK Christian Handbook, and still periodically appearing on TV and radio claiming to represent the whole of Christianity.
Anyway, if all this Christian Fundamentalism is getting you down, a couple of links to make you smile – how about Christian Voice: The Opera, or this quite terrifying new vicar from Mitchell and Webb? 🙂