Oops! I came away from College without my copy of Seeds of Contemplation - so the second part of the quote on Trinitarian Spirituality will have to wait - it will come though.
On another subject entirely. The decision of UEFA to fine Rangers Football Club, and ban fans from an away match, is another embarrassment for Scottish football, Scottish Government and the Scottish people. The truth is those songs are sung week in and week out in Scottish football grounds, and there seem to be no effective sanctions available to stop the chanting of such hate liturgies. Several years ago when Rangers were playing Liverpool in the Champion's League a number of English newspapers wrote articles about the bemused, bewildered Liverpool fans wondering what a local skirmish in Ireland over 300 years ago had to do with 21st century European football. Well may they wonder.
I've recently been reading up on social capital, those cultural and social values and norms that give a society its stability, its value systems, and its patterns of ethical and social behaviour, those ligaments and tendons that enable a community's ability to grow, mature, and function in ways that are healthy. Sectarianism is a toxin in the bloodstream of Scottish culture. "Scotland's shame" is merely a phrase that describes our embarrassment - but sectarian attitudes, instilled from birth, absorbed through exclusive sub-cultures, nourished by ludicrous mythologies of conspiracies, battles and demonising of the other. This is not only a cause of shame - it is a lethal virus that replicates itself best in hosts prone to hate, and in whom insecurity mutates into collective hostility against whatever is different. And it seems we lack the social capital to deal with it.
That there are religious mythologies and loyalties on both sides of the sectarian divide makes the whole phenomenon more dangerous, more visceral and more resistant to reason. Religion adds its own distorted legitimation to naming the other as enemy, and raises the stakes by co-opting God to the cause. That people whose occupation is to manage and train others to play a game should have parcel bombs sent to them in the name of some mad cause tainted by toxic religion is a sinister escalation of tolerated hatred into intolerable violence. The truth is sectarian hostility and hate are themselves intolerable, and their presence in the Scottish psyche, spewing out of Scottish minds and mouths, is now seen and known, named and shamed, across Europe.
The answer? Even Ally McCoist sounded depressed and at his wits end when asked that question - don't know if Ally is up on the current interest in social capital - but the deficit of available human funds is at least as dangerous as the fiscal one the Government is so worried about. Government cannot gag mouths, but they can educate, they can legislate, and they can show a moral determination and social imagination by making sectarian liturgical hate chants, from Ibrox or Parkhead, as open to prosecution as other forms of inflammatory, discriminatory language aimed at inciting hate, fear and violence. And the spurious linkages to any expression of Christian faith need to be demythologised. The idea that Jesus of Nazareth can be aligned with such dangerous, irrational behaviour is clear evidence that the sectarian mindset thrives on unreason and is fertilised by all those toxic attitudes that lead to good people being crucified.
And if the communities of Christ in Scotland are still wondering what their mission is then there are few more contextually urgent matters in contemporary Scotland requiring the intervention of communities who live by a Gospel of reconciliation, whose Lord calls them to be peacemakers, and whose reason for existing at all is to embody the justice, righteousness, forgiveness and peaceableness of God. What have the churches in Scotland to say about sectarianism - let the politicians, social commentators, local authority councillors, football boards of directors talk out the practical steps needed - the churches ask different questions and offer more and deeper responses - what does the Gosepl of Jesus demand and command of Christians who live in a culture with such a lethal sectarian fault line running through its social fabric?
I have been convinced for years now that the christian doctrine of reconciliation, lies at the heart of contemporary mission. And the church is called to be agents of reconciliation, peace activists in the name of the Prince of Peace, PR agents for a gospel of forgiveness, communities who make credible another way of seeing those who hate and foment hatred. Loving the enemy is the polar opposite of sectarian attitudes - and perhaps to use old fashioned language - judgement begins at the house of God. Put at its simplest - I can't hear Jesus sing about the River Boyne - Jordan maybe; nor can I imagine the one who was crucified on a green hill, outside a city wall, singing about the walls of Derry. More likely to look on our sectarian addictions and say once more, "Father forgive them; they know not what they do."