This Lent, I’ve given a series of talks at my church on the Song of Songs. The talks are all now available to watch online.
The series begins with an introduction to reading poetry, and especially Hebrew poetry. The next two sessions look at the Song in the context of the wisdom literature and show how the book includes wisdom for both women and men. Session four considers the Song in the context of the Hebrew bible and focusses on the royal bride and groom as an exemplar of Israelite marriage. In session five, we began to look at the marriage metaphor in the Song and in the prophetic literature, seeing how the horizon is pushed far beyond that of human marriage. Finally, the last session considers the Song in the light of the New Testament.
I hesitate to make comments about political issues where I am fully aware of my ignorance. But, here’s a thing I’ve been thinking a bit about, like everyone else lately, which is gun laws and gun crime, especially from a Christian perspective.
It seems to me that a lot of what I see defending people’s right to own guns, and especially the arguments about bringing more guns into situations like schools, is based on a false doctrine of sin. It’s because we think that there are ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’. And if the bad guys have guns, we need the good guys to have them too, to protect.
The problem is that we do not live in a superhero movie. We live in a world where everyone is the bad guy. Where, given the right motivation and circumstance, all of us have the potential to act as monsters.
Of course there are plenty of gun owners who have never used their weapons inappropriately.
And there are plenty who have. When they were drunk. When they were angry. When they were scared. When they became mentally unstable for a time. When they felt they were owed something by the world. When they thought someone else deserved what was coming to them. When they wanted to take the law into their own hands.
If we think we are not capable of inflicting harm on other people, we need to examine ourselves a lot more carefully. If we think we can distinguish people who are safe to own a gun from those who are not, we need to look again at how badly that’s working. If we think that gun ownership is not related to gun crime, we need to read the statistics.
I remember when we had school shootings in the UK too. I remember that everyone was agreed that it must never happen again. So they didn’t just take guns away from ‘bad guys’. They took guns (certain kinds of guns) away from everyone. You can still own a gun to shoot rabbits on a farm. You can still go to ranges for target practice. But you can’t have a handgun at home and you certainly can’t own an assault rifle.
Because we don’t know who the bad guys are. They are all of us. They are me and they are you.
I haven’t published a reading plan for Lent this year, because I don’t have one.
Instead, I am returning to a habit I started last summer and which has lapsed a bit over the winter: Scripture writing. By writing out the scriptures, I am forced to slow down, to consider every word, to see how it fits together, not to let it slide past. I like doing it and I like having done it. It’s a biblical practice too, since the kings of Israel were commanded to make their own copies of the law. Writing something builds knowledge of it into your muscles as well as your brain.
So, I have a notebook with the right number of pages for Lent and I have started with John 13, and I shall simply write a page each day, with a few lines of reflection and prayers, and see how far I get. There’s no reason not to continue beyond Easter, of course, though that seems like a good time to assess and consider whether a different devotional practice would be better for that time.
I’ve also started a new prayer notebook today. I bought a weekly revision planner from Tesco a couple of weeks ago, and have used stickers and washi tape so that it now says ‘Prayer’ rather than ‘Study’. But I like it because it has space to write things every day and then tick them off. I plan to use this for keeping track of the people and things I pray for. I know there are some I want to be praying for more regularly and I think this is a good way of doing that. Plus new stationery!
And, finally, we are running a Lent series on the Church Society blog, on the Apostles Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer. I’m writing the posts on the Ten Commandments.