Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Advent in Samoa

Advent in Samoa

(Written at the end of the Diocese of Polynesia Year of Youth Event in Samoa)

Hot days

Sun blazing

Water dripping

We wait

Here I am

Here we are

In Samoa

3 candles lit

All saints we gather

We wait

Listening for an infant’s cry

Looking for glimmers of hope

Here we are

Send us

Christ is being born among us

Christ is being born in us

And in the moana

Do we just sing a carol

Pray a prayer

Or clap our hands?

Or do we live this birth

Leaving footprints sprinkled with good news?

God waits

In Samoa

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Plastic Virgin Mary

There has recently been a lot of news coverage about the billboard put up by St. Matthews in the City. I want to make two comments.

The first is about the criminal who vandalised it. How dare Arthur Skinner and the Catholic Action Group portray Christianity in this light. How dare he deliberately vandalise other's property. Has Christianity now sunk to the level of agressively enforcing it views on others, as Arthur is suggesting. I have no problem with him protesting, although I suspect his theology is really dodgy, but to destroy others property because he disagrees with it is wrong. I wonder if he sees the irony that in his defence of a “traditional” understanding of the birth of the prince of peace he uses non peaceful vandalism as his medium. He has done more damage to an understanding of Christianity than this billboard ever has. I wonder what those who know little of Christmas and Christianity will now think of us who seek to follow the one whose coming we celebrate in the next week.

Secondly, I find his conception of the Virgin Mary bizarre. The importance of Mary in Christian theology is that she is the means of the Incarnation. Because God chose to enter our lives in the person of Jesus who was given birth by Mary, we can be confident that Jesus was not only fully divine, but was also fully human. And as a fully human being he had the whole array of human desires and emotions. For that to have validity, Mary needs to be human. To say that Mary would simply be filled with joy portrays her as some kind of plastic semi human, and immediate brings the whole concept of the incarnation into question, and undermines what we celebrate at Christmas. I don’t think that is traditional Christian doctrine Arthur.

As these “traditionalists” say, Mary said yes to God. But that yes could have meant condemnation from her family and community, ostracism, removal from her community and family, shaming for her family, even death. It was a bold and brave choice to say yes. And she would have been terrified at it. Even being pregnant with her first child as a very young woman would have been scary enough. But pregnant with the “Son of God”!! A significant number of people died giving birth. This was no easy undertaking. Despite that she said yes. The billboard simply portrays this array of real human emotions that she must have had if she were human. And that magnifies her faith, not diminishes it. Yes there would have been joy, much much more so, awe. It seems Arthur likens what Mary did to buying a nice gadget. I stand in awe of Mary. But a real Mary, who despite all the risks, and all she felt, with faith said yes to God. Arthur’s statements and actions belittle her, and for that I am deeply saddened.

Arthur Skinner, through your words and actions you deface the Christian story and Christianity, you belittle Mary and the immensity of her choice, and you bring into question the very theological truth we celebrate at Christmas. May God have mercy on your soul.