Homeless at Christmas

The following is a guest post, sharing the work of the Church Urban Fund.

For most of us in the UK the cold days and colder nights of winter are a chance to don our woollen hats and scarves and hurry from place to place without much risk of getting seriously cold.  For some of us though, indeed for an increasing amount of people, the cold of winter brings with it a very real risk – a fatal one. Recent statistics state that on any one night there are over 4,750 people sleeping rough in England. For these people who live on the streets,  winter is remorseless. Last year over 450 people died on the streets, from various causes, including acute hypothermia.

The numbers of people who sleep on our streets are rapidly increasing. Since 2010 the UK has seen a rise of nearly 170% of rough sleepers. The two main causes of homelessness in this country are the end of a private tenancy (the number of households evicted from a privately rented home has accounted for 78% of the rise in homelessness since 2011) or a life event (such as a relationship breakdown, a redundancy, or leaving prison or the armed forces).

It’s not just the cold that reminds us about homelessness at this time of year, but the familiar Christmas story also helps us to reflect on the issue. After the annunciation Mary, a pregnant teenager, leaves her home to stay with her cousin Elizabeth – is this a biblical version of sofa-surfing for this soon-to-be young mum? When the census forces her and Joseph on a dangerous journey to Bethlehem where they find inadequate lodging in a stable for Mary to give birth. Jesus is born into homelessness and then, with his parents, is forced to flee as a refugee to escape Herod’s violent regime. Homelessness is an experience the holy family were very familiar with.

For Christians the Gospel message of loving your neighbour and serving the poor calls us to respond to the issue of homelessness. When reflecting on homelessness, I cannot help but think of Jesus’ words: ‘whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’. What are we doing for our brothers and sisters who are experiencing homelessness?

Of course there are multiple ways that we as Christians can help make a difference to the lives of people experiencing homelessness, but one specific way is through the work of the Church Urban Fund – a Christian social action charity working around the country to tackle issues such as homelessness. The Church Urban Fund mobilises communities around the country to offer life-saving services to people experiencing homelessness through Winter Night Shelters and programmes which support people on the journey from rough sleeping to something more stable and sustainable.

One person who the Church Urban Fund helped was Tom, who was offered a bed in a winter night shelter; he wrote: “I’m Tom. I’m 26. I was homeless. Some people are homeless because of drugs and stuff like that. That wasn’t my problem. Some people are homeless because of their mental state. That’s partly why I was homeless because of my mental health… My family just abandoned me. And I was going through a really rough time, sleeping on a mate’s sofa when I could, but otherwise I just had to sleep rough on the streets.

“It was a really difficult time being homeless, I was at the point that I wanted to kill myself. If I hadn’t got the help when I needed it, yeah, I wouldn’t be here. I got referred to this winter night shelter. They provided a warm bed, a listening ear and hot meals. It was very welcoming and homely. I was there for two months and they even supported me when I had to attend court.

“At the shelter, there was a volunteer who found out that I had worked in catering in the past. She suggested I attend an interview at a local guest house. I got the job! And a permanent place to stay. With homelessness there’s always more that could be done, but what they have done for me here is beyond expectation.”

Tom’s life was transformed because of the care offered to him through the work of Church Urban Fund. There are so many other lives that could be saved and changed by people like you and me, by Christians who respond to Jesus call to serve others. This winter plummeting temperatures and the story of the baby with no crib for a bed remind us of the struggle of people experiencing homelessness – a struggle many of us have in our power to alleviate, or even, to end.

To support the work of Church Urban Fund please donate here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Boat Stories

I have just had an article published over on the Theopolis site. Within it, I discuss the significance of the boat as a metaphor for the Church and other things.

As a conceptual metaphor and model, the boat and its attendant stories can helpfully frame many different phenomena. As it frames these phenomena, accenting key features, it may enable us to see familiar things in a new way, perhaps even facilitating moments of epiphany. While Rao uses the boat and its stories as a model to explore such things as the medium of blogging, making various insightful observations in the process, the model itself offers an illuminating paradigm for a host of realities beyond this.

As Rao observes, the boat is an unusual place. It is a fragile realm of order and community immediately bounded by a realm of chaos and disorder. The boat and its crew can venture forth on a great heroic quest, punctuated by forays into the unknown and/or dangerous realm beyond the boat itself. However, in doing so they share the evolving quotidian life of a community and its non-heroic relationships. Build your stories around a boat, and you can more easily fuse elements of soap opera with elements of the heroic epic. The imaginative appeal of boat stories—from Moby Dick, to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, to Star Trek, to Titanic—is often found in the possibilities that the form affords for bringing together narrative approaches that are often detached from each other.

Conceptual models and root metaphors are powerful things. As they frame reality for us in distinctive ways, they offer us paradigms for being, thought, and action. The root metaphor of the boat is an especially powerful root metaphor, framing reality in a way that foregrounds a particularly powerful conjunction of features. The boat is a fragile micro-environment moving within a potentially dangerous and occasionally hostile larger environment. It is exposed to the threats of chaos, death, and the unknown, but is typically driven by a specific quest. The world of the boat itself can sometimes be akin to a terrarium—a tightly enclosed environment that functions as a self-contained social ecosystem. For the boat to fulfil its quest, it is necessary for those on board to recognize their extreme interdependence, to resolve conflicts swiftly, and to cooperate effectively.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted in Bible, Genesis, Guest Post, John, Jonah, Luke, Mark, Matthew, NT, NT Theology, OT, OT Theology, The Church, Theological, Theopolis | Leave a comment

Theopolis Podcast: Second Sunday in Advent

If you want to continue seeing my posts about Theopolis podcasts, you can now follow them on my new video and podcast blog.

In this episode of the Theopolis Podcast, Peter Leithart and I discuss the readings for the second Sunday of Advent: Malachi 3:1-7; Luke 3:1-20; Philippians 1:2-11.

You can follow the Theopolis podcast on SoundcloudiTunes, and on most podcast apps. You can read show notes over on the Theopolis podcast website. You can also see past episodes I have contributed to by clicking the ‘Theopolis’ link in the bar above.

Posted in Audio, Bible, Luke, Malachi, NT, NT Theology, OT, OT Theology, Philippians, Podcasts, Theological, Theopolis | Leave a comment

Transcripts of Videos/Podcasts

Although I have moved my videos and podcasts over to my new blog, one of my goals is to have transcripts for all of my videos or podcasts in the future, making that material (more easily) accessible to a broader audience. This is a huge and very time-consuming project, but is something that many people have requested.

One of my supporters just transcribed my recent video responding to criticisms of Echoes of Exodus. YouTube provides a fairly accurate transcript of every video (with the option to remove timestamps), which can be tidied up with a little work. I won’t be able to do all the transcription myself. However, if any people are interested in volunteering a few hours every week, fortnight, or month to transcribe a single video, we could accomplish this together. If you are interested in being involved, use the contact page on my new blog and send me a message. Thanks!

In the longer term future, I would like to have transcripts available for all of my lectures, as well as for Theopolis and Mere Fidelity podcasts.

Posted in Podcasts, Video | 2 Comments

New Booklet: How Did We Get Here?

The Davenant Institute has just published a new Davenant Digest by me, on the subject of the causes for our current sexual landscape. You can get a free online copy by subscribing to the Davenant email list or you can buy a print copy here.

The romantic tradition of the West has been widely characterized by a narrow focus upon a love disentangled from all external ends, necessities, persons, sociality, history, laws, constraints, and duties—indeed, romantic love has often been accentuated precisely by pitting it against all such things. It should not surprise us that the movement for same-sex marriage has trafficked heavily upon the conformity of same-sex couples to our ideals of the purity of romantic love. In campaigns for same-sex marriage, marriage has been fairly consistently presented as a form of lifestyle choice for individuals, rather than as a social institution with norms and duties to which everyone must submit themselves. While such social norms and constraints have found much of their rationale in the natural ordering of the sexual union of man and woman to a greater telos than the couple’s private ends, without such a complicating natural end, same-sex unions can represent the liberal ideal of releasing marriage from external social norms and the championing of chosen bespoke models of marriage.

The connection of marriage with a vision of self-realization and expression ought to be appreciated here too. For our culture, marriage can be focused upon self-realization, social status, and its ideals of high levels of consumption. The extravagant and romantic wedding, in which a couple gush aspirational sentiments at each other, surrounded with tasteful expressions of their families’ wealth and social status, has become the most prominent symbol of marriage. Once again, same-sex couples can conform far more effectively to our cultural visions of marriage as the idealized state of the consumer than many male and female couples can, not least because children more readily represent extensions of the logic of same-sex couples’ consumption than constraints upon it.

Get a copy to read the whole thing here.

Posted in Controversies, Culture, Davenant Institute, Ethics, My Books, Sex and Sexuality, Society, Technology, Theological | 1 Comment

Podcast Blog

I’ve created a new blog, which will be dedicated to my videos and podcasts, leaving this blog for articles and links to articles elsewhere.

Adversaria Videos and Podcasts

It is still under construction, but when it is finished, I hope for there to be features that will make my videos and podcasts considerably more searchable and accessible. If you have any suggestions for how things could be improved, please pass them on.

I don’t generally intend to continue to link podcasts and videos here. However, if you look at the sidebar on the right hand side, you will see links to the most recent posts on the new podcast/video blog.

I would like to thank my Patreon supporters again, who continue to make such things possible. One particular thing that I would like to have in the future is transcripts of all of my videos and podcasts. I’ve experimented with this already, both by editing the fairly high quality transcript that YouTube itself offers and by using other transcription services. Both required more time/money than I could afford. However, in the near future, I would love either to have sufficient support to pay someone to edit the YouTube transcription, or some persons who were interested in doing so on a voluntary basis from time to time.

I hope to return to producing videos in the next couple of days. Please leave any questions on my Curious Cat account. If you would like to support my videos and podcasts, there are several ways you can do this. You can support me using my Patreon account, donate to my Paypal account, buy items on Amazon using my links, buy one of the books on my Amazon wishlist, telling others about my podcasts and videos, or, more important, praying for my work.

Posted in Podcasts, Public Service Announcement, Questions and Answers, Video | 2 Comments

Theopolis Podcast: First Sunday in Advent

In this episode of the Theopolis Podcast, Peter Leithart and I discuss the readings for the first Sunday of Advent: Jeremiah 33:14-16, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 19:28-40 and 21:25-36.

You can follow the Theopolis podcast on SoundcloudiTunes, and on most podcast apps. You can read show notes over on the Theopolis podcast website. You can also see past episodes I have contributed to by clicking the ‘Theopolis’ link in the bar above.

Posted in 1 Thessalonians, Bible, Eschatology, Jeremiah, Luke, NT, NT Theology, OT, OT Theology, Podcasts, Theological, Theopolis | 3 Comments