Derek Webb- Stockholm Syndrome…

Emily and I have been enjoying this album over the past few days- turned up loud in the car, driving around in the sun like spotty kids in lowered hatchbacks. I suspect it is not a good look in a people carrier, but the music is great-

It is not my usual sort of listening- but I really like this blokes thinking- there is an edgy, restless, even angry edge to it that I have loved since I first heard Mockingbird.  It is thoughtful protest singing by a man with intelligence and individuality…

Here is a track from Stockholm Syndrome-

He seems to have done some stuff with Sandra McCracken too- which looks promising…


Football, Faith and Scotland…

Who was it that said something like ‘Football is not life and death- it is more important than that’?

World cup mania is upon us. All over the world ordinary people are seized by a kind of quasi-religious madness. National flags are being festooned on cars and out of a million bedroom windows.

Apart from Scotland it seems. Here the national tone is driven by the fact that our national team did not qualify for the competition- through perennial inconsistency and an ability to snatch defeat from the brink of victory.

But the other overwhelming feature that dominates Scottish football is sectarianism. It is only possible to worship our team if we hate our main rival. And hate has a full spectrum- from a kind of fixed sneering prejudice right through to outright nasty violence and murder.

At club level, this has become mingled in with religion in an overt way- the Rangers/Celtic Protestant/Catholic stuff, which is a shameful stain on both football and faith.

At national level, this same process can be seen in the vitriol reserved for that old enemy- England. It is an instinctive, self perpetuating and self sustaining reaction- constantly re-enforced by repetition and peer pressure and sanctioned by school teachers, politicians and ministers of religion.

Of course, this is not just a Scottish phenomenon. After all, most great religious movements require the dual polarity of good and evil to drive passion and zeal. However, there is something particular Scottish about its application. It has becomes mixed with a thousand years conflict, of wounds both felt and dealt and of a kind of selective history that nurtures old enmity and perpetuates the possibility of more blood being spilt in the future. Is it possible that football has allowed us to ritualise these divisions in our national make up? Has it become a vehicle for the passing down of prejudice to the next generations?

Does this matter? Well I think it does. I believe that we Christians are called to bring blessing and healing to our communities- to be the embodiment, the  demonstration and the very channels of peace.

Because we believe in the power of forgiveness.

And the call to love our enemies.

To be in this world, but not of it- which means that we are prepared to go against the cultural flow.

And the challenge to confront our own motives and motivations honestly before the God who knows all.

So here is a provocative challenge to those of us in Scotland who ascribe to this way of being. (I hope it does not get me into too much trouble!)

I want to invite you to participate in the spiritual discipline/practice of…

Supporting the English football team during the next world cup.

(If you are English- substitute ‘German’ for the word ‘England’.)

And if you think I am just being provocative and English- know this. I am simply not that much into football. My first allegiance is not to a flag, a country or a democracy, or clan. It is to a King and Kingdom.

War- those who objected…


One more post about the Great War…

I have often wondered what would have been my fate if I had been born about 60 years earlier. The Sherwood Foresters Regiment, raised around where I grew up, were decimated in several of the huge battles of the First World War- including the Battle of the Somme, where they were almost wiped out.

Eight of these men and boys were court marshaled and executed for cowardice and desertion (check out this record here, which seems even sadder than the names on war memorials that I grew up with.)

What drove men to walk towards destruction? It is a strange testament to the fragility and contradictory nature of humanity that we regard such a thing as noble, admirable whilst still valuing life (at least our own) above all things.

It is interesting to note that even in war-drunk imperial Britain in the middle of the war, there were those who were able to show a different courage, and protest.


This protest, attended by a future Labour Prime Minister, Ramsey MacDonald, caused a near riot.

Then there were the conscientious objectors- according to the National Archive, about 16,000 of them, who refused to fight. Many spent time in prison- particularly the 1500 ‘absolutists’, who refused to participate in any activities that gave any support whatsoever to the war. Prominent in this group were the Quakers, and other Christian groups who saw the taking of human life as wrong (more info here.)

These people were loathed by the society that they were part of. They were branded as cowards and traitors. Could I have been strong enough to stand with them?

Or would I have joined up in 1915 along with my pals, answering Kitchener’s call to arms? And would my name then have been entered on a monument after the pointless slaughters of 1916?

Historical hindsight is a rather indulgent pastime, but I hope I would have been able to protest.

And I hope too that in this new and very different age, I will also be able to find inspiration in the story of 16,000 people, whose names are on no monument. What would they have made of the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq?

These are not simple issues. I am not sure that there is nothing worth fighting for, but I am sure that there is no such thing as a just war…

In the words of Derek Webb, from the song ‘A man like me’ from the Hummingbird album.

I have come to give you life
And to show you how to live it
I have come to make things right
To heal their ears and show you how to forgive them

’cause i would rather die
I would rather die
I would rather die
Than to take your life
’cause how can I kill the ones I’m supposed to love
My enemies are men like me

So I will protest the sword if it’s not wielded well
’cause my enemies are men like me
Peace by way of war
Is like purity by way of fornication
It’s like telling someone murder is wrong
And then showing them by way of execution

Because my enemy is a man like me

Derek Webb and hope for the New World

I have been listening to Derek Webb’s album ‘Mockingbird’ today in the car, at high volume.

It gave me some hope for the world, that an American can write words like this;

Who is your brother?  Who is your sister?
You just walked past him. I think you missed her,
As we’re all migrating to a place where our father lives
Because we married into a family of emigrants.

So my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man
My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood.
It’s to a king and kingdom.

There are two great lies that I’ve heard.
The day you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will not surely die.
And that Jesus Christ was a white middle class republican
And if you want to be saved you have to learn to be like him.

So my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or to a man.
My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
It’s to a king and a kingdom.

But nothing unifies like a common enemy
And we’ve got one, sure as hell.
He may be living in your house.
He may be raising up your kids.
He may be sleeping with your wife.
He may not look like you think.

Derek Webb, ‘King and a Kingdom” from the Mockingbird album.

Here is another song from the album…