It was all just a dream…

Stone2Perry Stone, self-styled prophet, evangelist and teacher is of the view that God provides dreams and visions to his followers. He does this, apparently, when he can’t think of a better way of communicating them. Perry recommends that those on the receiving end of God’s special messages should immediately wake up and quickly write down what their dream was about. If they don’t, they’ll forget it! Who knew we can’t always recall dreams once we wake up? Who knows how to wake up as soon as a dream is over? Perry has big drawings made of his own God-delivered dreams. Here’s one. See if you can guess what it was about:

Stone1

Yes, it was a warning about 9/11. The Lord gave it to Perry, in a dream, long before the 2001 attack.

You can’t see it? You think five tornadoes and the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey look nothing like 9/11? Shame on you! You need to take this more seriously. You’re thinking, aren’t you, that Perry’s dream, if he had it at all, was down to the cheese he’d eaten before going to bed. That and a deranged mind.

But you’d be wrong; Perry knows for certain his dream was from God and that his interpretation is right on the mark. And who are we to doubt it? Curious, though, that even though the Lord had warned him about the attack in advance, Perry neglected to tell anyone about it. I wonder why that was? God must have wondered too – why he’d entrusted such an important message to a dimwit who did nothing with it. (Then again, if the Lord is capable of inducing dreams why didn’t he speak directly to the terrorists to prevent them from doing what they did?)

Still, good ol’ Perry’s made up for lost time since and is now more than happy to tell the rubes everyone about his dreams. And so what if it makes him a few million dollars? Frenetic Perry has a significant following on TBN and on his own web-site, which is where you can buy his dream-world DVDs for as little as $45 a set.

Nut-jobs’ dreams and visions have been at the centre of religious belief since forever. Dreams are significant, or so it’d have us believe, in the Old Testament where there are at least two dozen ‘important’ ones, together with advice about their interpretation (Job 33.15-18, for example). They’re quite a presence in the Qur’an too.

In fact, dreams and their waking equivalent, visions, are ultimately what religion is made of. They’re certainly what Christianity is made of; Joseph, the Magi, Pilate’s wife, Peter and Paul all have deeply meaningful dreams while Peter, Paul, John and others have visions which, they persuade themselves, can only be the monolith from 2001 Jesus returned from the dead, and other fantastic nonsense. The authors of the New Testament attached such importance to converts’ dreamy/visionary experiences that they had them written back into the Jesus narrative itself. That way it sounded like Jesus knew when he was alive that later fanatics would think they could sense his presence (especially when they whipped themselves up together) and could experience him in dreams and visions. Still today there are those who convince themselves they have a ‘relationship’ with him and can see him in their dreams, near-death experiences and other hallucinations. Just ask Perry Stone. It’s all real!

Well, as real as things entirely in the mind can be.

Same as it ever was…

Paul2

(Edited for clarity 2nd Aug)

Talking Jesus

Harvest

The Church of England published its report, Talking Jesus, last week. It finds that, rather than interesting others in Jesus, Christians only put them off when they talk about him. What a dilemma! To evangelise or not when all it achieves is the opposite of what’s intended. Christians must feel their hands are tied.

Not that this will stop them doing it, more’s the pity. But why? What drives some Christians to talk about their beliefs at every opportunity? What makes them think others haven’t heard of Jesus already? Do they honestly think that in England and other places where the Anglican church holds sway, people have never heard of him? Let’s have that show of hands: if this is the first time you’ve heard about Jesus, raise you hand. Or admit to being a Jesus-virgin in the comments.

That’ll be no-one then.

Please – we know about Jesus! And, what’s more, most of us would be happy if we didn’t. While some feel duty-bound to treat him with respect (God knows why when they don’t do the same for Father Christmas or Julius Caesar) most recognise him for the myth he is and trust their instinct not to get involved.

Here in the West it’s almost impossible to escape him, especially as Christmas approaches. Church leaders, with free access to the media, burble on about him, Christian web-sites number in the hundreds of thousands, and songs about his miraculous, fabricated birth will soon be everywhere. At any time of year, armies of street preachers invade our town centres, shouting about how we all need him, while Jehovah’s Witnesses hawk their version at a front door near you. And if we’re really unlucky, a friend or colleague will feel it their duty to tell us all about him at work or school or in the pub.

But, Christians, this isn’t how you’re meant to ‘make disciples of all the world’. The Jesus of the gospels (though that should be ‘Jesuses‘, plural) tells his followers how it should be done. Not by ambushing others to tell them how much they need him but by letting your lights shine (Matthew 5.16). Your ‘good deeds’ and sacrificial love are what should mark you out and impress others; Jesus says so himself. Actions, not words, are how to demonstrate your faith in him, if that’s what you feel you must do.

But they don’t, and that’s why we’re not interested when you’re subjecting us to your fantasy and dogma. If you lived the life – the really radical life Jesus advocated – forsaking wealth, spending yourself on others, going the extra mile, turning the other cheek, giving and forgiving, loving everyone sacrificially – then we might just be persuaded there’s something to this Jesus cult after all (then again we might not). As it is, talking the talk without walking the walk, is – how does the Bible put it? – just the empty noise of clanging cymbals.