Monthly Archives: April 2013

Movies and Violence

Violence 3
Violence 3 (Photo credit: joeszilvagyi)

Does watching violent movies inspire violence in the real world?

The problem with this issue is that it is, like so many social issues, more complex than can be encompassed by a simple statement.

For example, those who argue that violence in films and on tv presents a direct causal link with violence on the streets and between communities must seek to explain what the causes of such violence were before the advent of film and TV, or they must somehow show that those times were less violent than our own.

And what to we mean by violence? “Tom and Jerry” is violent, “Star Wars” contains scenes of violence, as does “Lord of the Rings”, Harry Potter and “The Passion of the Christ.” Are these examples to be considered in the same light as the more avowedly violent films, from “A Clockwork Orange” onwards.

I pray for a world which is free of violence and I would suggest that in such a world there would be no violence shown in films or on tv. Film producers and directors are aware, however, that it is such features which sell the films to many members of the public. In that sense they are merely responding to market demand. They might also argue with some justification that to expunge all violence from their productions would severly limit their ability for their art to imitate life fully.

In addition, I might genuinely believe that I am not drawn to violent films and yet I love to watch a James Bond movie. (I might also add that this has never given me the urge to saw someone in half with a laser or steal an atomic bomb to hold the West to ransom!).

On the other hand, it is perfectly reasonable to claim that gratuitous violence in movies will influence those of a vulnerable state of mind. Just as children act out on the playground what they have seen on TV, so there will always be those adults who get their inspiration from the graphic presentation of violence on TV. However I would suggest that in such cases the movie or tv show is the “trigger” rather than the cause.

Further, in our age of instant global-reach tv news we are witnesses to violent events around our world on an almost daily basis. It may be that we need to see some of the real consequences of violence on our TV for us to grow up as individuals, communities and societies.

Ultimately, the, the context of the violence being depicted is as important as the detail of the violence shown. Violence is a tragic fact of life and to pretend that it doesn’t occur is both infantile escapism and dishonouring to those who risk their lives to protect us. To celebrate an act of violence of one person or group against another is, though, a different matter altogether.

So I would argue that for a small minority of vulnerable people violence in movies may well trigger some real-life event. For many, it is mere entertainment or it reflects a particular story or historical truth. Gratuitous violence is abhorrent, distasteful and potentially harmful to young minds – and therefore they need to be protected from it.

This is not an argument in favour of violence in films or on tv, (far from it) but a reflection on the impact such depictions have on our society.

Nigel Carter

Rivers of Justice

I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
(Amos 5:21-24 NRSV)

We enjoy our worship, Lord,
and we try to do it well; its important to do it well.
If only you would let us.

We try to be reverent,
to pray the right words;
but you wander off, healing the madmen,
bored with our piety.

We try to praise,
to lift you high with all our hearts;
(and to lift our hearts as well)
but you point to those we ignore –
you thrust them in our faces!

We try to be holy,
asking you to bless this, and that, and the blessèd other.
We want it to be right for you,
(and for us);
but you shout from the mountain top,
“Stop your words, stop your noise, stop your holy silences,
stop looking east and up!”

“Turn and face the world!”, you tell us,
“Let justice flow like a stream and righteousness like a river that never goes dry.
Take my love, MY LOVE, out of your cosy temples,
and into the streets and homes where my people live.
Don’t dare to keep my love for yourselves – give it away!”

“Then you will understand,
then you will be emptied of you
and filled with me.
Then you will hurt like you have never hurt before
and know joy like you’ve never known before.”
“Then your sacrifices, your praise, your worship, your prayers and petitions
will rise from your hearts and souls like a great cloud
of sweet smelling incense.”

Nigel Carter

Oh No! Dad’s Gone Viral!

Oh no! Dad’s gone viral!
What in the name . . . ?
He’s all over the web now;
I must up my game!

Quick . . . hide all those photos
from Ibiza and Greece!
If he gets to see them,
he’ll give us no peace.

And all of those links
to pubs, wines and beers
will cause him a seizure –
a man of his years!

He’s posting and tweeting
all over the place;
and blogging for England!
Oh, what a disgrace.

It must be his age . . .
because, left on his own,
the old fool is not able
to answer the phone!

It might be a fad –
there’ve been plenty of those –
but just to be certain
we’ll follow his prose.

At least when he’s blogging
We know where he’s at.
We just wish he’d go out
And purchase a cat!

Nigel Carter

The Eyes of a Child

You found me, Lord,
Through the eyes of a child.

Life was ok,
we were going our way
till you found me, Lord,
through the eyes of a child.

Five pounds of new life;
happy husband and wife;
then you found me, Lord,
through the eyes of a child.

Those eyes looked at me,
later on would I see
that you found me, Lord,
through the eyes of a child.

“Dad’s besotted”, she said.
and mum nodded her head
when you found me, Lord,
through the eyes of a child.

A generation ago;
a lifetime to grow
since you found me, Lord,
through the eyes of a child.

Nigel Carter

The Cost of Love

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him.

Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)

Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

(John 12:1-8 NRSV)

This passage from John’s gospel is full of dark omens for the coming days for Jesus and his friends. It is full of double meanings, it speaks of cost and hypocrisy. There is accusation and anger. There is fear and self justification. And, intriguingly, there is also a hint about resurrection.

Jesus is at the home of his old friends Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus. At least some of the disciples were there with him. They live in the village of Bethany which is a couple of miles outside of Jerusalem on the road into town by way of the mount of olives. The name “beth – ani” means something like “place of the poor” or “house of the afflicted” and it may well be that which Jesus is talking about when he stops Judas in his tracks, saying “You will always have the poor with you”.

In John’s gospel the scene is a dinner party with Jesus as the guest of honour. As usual, Martha is doing the practical stuff – cooking and waiting on the table – seeing to the physical needs of her guests, whilst Mary appears to be otherwise engaged.

Lazarus is eating at the table with them. This is “gospel speak” for saying that Lazarus is truly alive. When Jesus brought him back to life, as he had done in an earlier part of the Gospel, it was not a “conjuring trick”, not an illusion. He was there, fully fit and well, and eating with them. John wants us to be clear on that.

And in comes Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, with a large quantity of some of the most expensive perfume you can imagine. Nard is a very costly perfumed ointment made from the roots of a plant found in India, which would have had to have been imported most probably by camel along the ancient trade routes which ran between India and the Middle East. It would have been phenomenally expensive. This is not your average Eau de Cologne; this stuff would cost a working man a year’s wages. Nard was the perfume of palaces and princesses – Mary’s gesture was hugely extravagant. And in John’s account this gives Judas all the opportunity he needs to lash out, to condemn, to point the accusing finger: at Mary and, by implication, at Jesus.

But as we’ve seen, Jesus stops him in his tracks. John, in his gospel account, has set the scene for the climactic events of holy week, the week leading up to Good Friday and Easter. We learn that Jesus is to be betrayed – and all the high minded protestation about giving to the poor, all the deflected anger and self-righteous indignation in the world cannot cover the fact that Jesus is to be betrayed to his death.

We learn that love costs – it costs dearly. And, as many have found, an act of selfless love may bring criticism and even ridicule. We will come to learn that love will cost Jesus his all – and the ridicule will fall upon him too.

But also, tucked away in that little passage in John’s gospel, is the truth that resurrection is real. In the chronology of events we haven’t got to Easter Sunday yet, but amidst the gathering gloom there is hope – not merely wishful thinking – but the certainty of things yet to be revealed.

Love costs. Forgiveness costs – always. The greatest act of devotion can bring about scorn and ridicule. But the Christian hope – the certainty of things yet to be revealed – rests upon the truth of the resurrection of Jesus.

Food for the Hungry

John 6: 1 – 16

“Look at the great crowds – thousands of them!
They’ve come from all over the region.
Some must have walked all day to get here.”

And here we all were
sitting on the hillside;
watching, listening;
like the audience in a great amphitheatre.

We could hear his words so clearly.
As he stood at the bottom of the hill,
looking up as if he saw each one of us alone.
The breeze from the lake on this summer evening
carried his words to us,
and we were amazed.

Never was God spoken of like this,
never was the kingdom so clear, so fresh, so true,
so real as this one.
Many had spoken of it before, but not like this man.
It was not just the breeze that carried his words to us;
we drew them to ourselves, we wanted to hear,
needed to hear.
Somnolent souls began to dance
to this new music.

He finished, we began to move.
Was that a disturbance down the hill,
an altercation, a deputation?

And then those people began telling us to sit down again –
ordering us!
Bread was blessed, and something else.
Food was being distributed – there would never be enough.
Those of us at the back,
we wouldn’t see any of it.
When the man with the basket arrived he looked more
surprised than any.
We ate, bread and fish.
We ate, we had our fill!

Food left over, collected up; and he was gone.
Except for that voice – out of the depth, out of nothing,
out of stillness.
“You have been fed, your hunger satisfied.
Where now?”

Nigel Carter

Who is Apollos?

For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each.

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

(1 Corinthians 3:4-7 NRSV)

Who is Apollos?
Who is Paul?
What’s their place in the scheme of it all?

Who are Timothy, Titus, Priscilla or Jude?
Name their value, if it be not crude
to ask the truth or to seek for proof
of their worth
in all the earth.

Will Matthew
Mark
Luke
or John
bless the bed that I lie on?

Who will I follow,
Who shall I serve?
What doctrine do I have the nerve
to put my trust in –

Oh, this news just in:

Catholic, Orthodox
Methodist, Baptist,
Low Church, High Church
URC, Free Church,
C of E, can’t you see
the joke is on you and me
if we can’t find a way to be

One for Christ!

Nigel Carter

Corpus Christi

Body of Christ, born for me,
you validate my being,
stamp my humanity with your divine presence.
Love of God come down to earth,
incarnate word: you know me, you show me,
you make me who I am.
Keep me in eternal life.

Body of Christ, broken for me,
you weep through my tears,
know my scars and understand my failings.
Son of God, victim King,
innocent lover: you heal me, you build me,
you give me the chance to be.
Keep me in eternal life.

Body of Christ, risen for me,
you make me dance with life,
on the grave of all that would destroy me.
Risen Lord, triumphant God,
conqueror: you renew me, you transform me,
you resurrect my very soul.
Keep me in eternal life.

Body of Christ, ascended for me,
you cause me to fly with you,
despite my earthbound desires.
Glorified Messiah,
Lord of Lords: you take my flesh, all that I am,
before the throne of Grace.
Keep me in eternal life.

Nigel Carter

A Prayer for Boston

Dear Father of Love and Compassion,

As we watch the terrible events of the Boston Marathon unfold,

we ask you to bring comfort to those who are injured and traumatised,

consolation to the families of those who have died,

strength and determination to the medical and emergency services,

clarity of purpose to those who lead,

and healing to our beautiful but broken world.

Who do you think you are?

“To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not weep.’

For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”

(Luke 7:31-35 NRSV)

It’s all your fault,
not mine, but yours.
I may well sue!

I played my part, but you wouldn’t play yours.
I played wedding music –
but would you dance?
Not a bit of it.
Your trouble is that you won’t dance to anyone’s tune but your own.

I sang funeral songs –
and did you sing?
No. I knew you wouldn’t.
I said to myself just before I began to sing,
“I bet you won’t join in!”
And I was right, wasn’t I?
Go on, tell me I wasn’t right – I dare you!

You can’t, can you?
Admit it.
Admit it because you know I’m right and you’re wrong!
As usual.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again –
you’re all self!
You! you! you! all the time.

You never consider me, or my feelings.
You never listen.
You never co-operate.
You never inflate my ego.
You won’t let me label you,
pigeonhole you,
categorise and classify you,
identify you,
control and manipulate you,
wear you like a badge,
carry you like a trophy,
condemn you and humiliate you,
demonstrate my power over you,
and, of course, my rightness
and your wrongness.

Just who do you think you are?
A bit of humility wouldn’t go amiss,
would it?

Nigel Carter