Monthly Archives: June 2016

Guilt and innocence

Last month I was found guilty by a court for taking part in an action I firmly believe was right by God (more about that here), and I got thinking about what that means, to be on the one hand judged guilty, and on the other, innocent.

I’m sure as far as UK law goes that the judge was right to find us guilty, but my conscience is clean; I’m aware there is a Law higher than UK law. It’s a strange thing to know that you’re breaking the law, but acting within the greater Law, to know in fact that for you, you would be breaking that greater Law to remain within the immediate law. Our legal case was thin, but our moral case was strong.

Our human courts are themselves subject to a higher law of justice; God’s Law. What does it really mean to be found guilty by a human court, when under God’s authority you are innocent? To me it’s more important that I am found innocent under God’s Law than under human law. This is far better than to be innocent according to human law, but guilty in the eyes of God, even when human punishment and God’s mercy and forgiveness are taken into account. I want to be actively living in God’s service, a living sacrifice, sacrificing my rights and freedoms where necessary to live a life that better honours God. Heaven’s perspective is far more important than earth’s.

It’s a funny thing; this is considered a ‘loss of good character’ by the courts. And yet, in the Kingdom of God, what ‘good character’ did I have? I began guilty, from the first moment I had the smallest selfish thought, and I’ve proved over and over again that my character is capable of terrible things as well as great good. I had already broken the greater Law before I’d spoken a word. Christ alone is my innocence. When I handed my life over to Him I was joined to His innocent status before God, regardless of the flaws already present in my character. Through the Holy Spirit’s work in me, I can see His good character increasing in me, and that includes the surrender and submission to Him that led to this, the passion for His Kingdom of true justice that drives me, the integrity that drives out fear. Trust me, I have an extraordinarily long way to go before I’m ‘there’, and there’s still plenty of bad in my character. But that was already there, and this action and subsequent judgement have certainly not increased it. My conscience is clean before God in this.

This was a small way of ‘burning bridges’ or ‘faking my own death’. I hope gaining a criminal record helps me stop fearing human authority and learn a greater ‘fear’ (awe) of God, die to human law and live more consciously under God’s rule (which will almost always mean keeping human law – but not always). There are times following Christ may result in a criminal record – after all, that was His journey, He Himself had one – in which case, that record cannot stand in the way of His plans for our future. So I need to be able to step out where He calls me and not be tied down by fear. This is part of the journey. I hope I am faithful to following where He leads me from here, whatever that looks like, and that His good character continues to increase in me.


Living an obsession well

It will probably come as no surprise to anyone to hear that I have an obsession, namely with the work of Jon Foreman and particularly his band Switchfoot. I’m not alone – I’m friends with a whole community of fellow megafans who can all testify to the importance of this band to so many areas of their lives. But I’ve had conversations with many of these wonderful friends recently in which the difficult subject of idolatry has arisen. Whilst we love this band and know they do us good, so many of us at the same time worry we place them before God at times. It’s an important question to consider, however difficult; no human is worth our worship and devotion the way God is, at all. We need to get things the right way up; but how?

I wrote this a couple of years ago after a particularly obsessive spell got me seriously asking this question myself, and resulted in me fasting completely from both social media and all things Jon Foreman for the whole of Advent. These are some of the lessons I learnt from the experience. I’m sharing it here because it was eye-opening for me, and very helpful in how I treat my obsession. I’m hoping it helps for you too.

First – God is the source of every good thing, love comes from God and love in itself is always good. But we must hold every good thing lightly, enjoy them fully but be prepared to eventually surrender all things back to their Maker. Fasting is a good way of practising this, kicking down anything that could become a false god and breaking our hold on the things we enjoy by removing them from our lives from time to time.

I found it was unambiguously good spending a little time away from social media, though I missed my facebook-only friends! But fasting Switchfoot for that amount of time – less so. It was good for my sense of perspective for sure, showing up how God is enough for me and so, so much more than any mere band could be, that God is always good and can always be followed, whereas I don’t always agree with these guys on everything and sometimes will have to go a different way to them; to recognise that all the good I see in them comes from God and that it’s God who is at work in my life there, and also that God has power over every addiction.

However, it also showed up how God is using Jon to shape me and make me more the person I was made to be. As a result, I found that fasting for so long was slightly harmful – I found I was fighting myself after a while and trying to be someone I’m actually not by supressing that part of me that has been inspired by (God through) Jon. Without his influence I found I was less myself, less who I was made to be, and less creative!

So since then I’ve embraced the fandom, as far as I feel God at work in me through it, and have seen the most incredible positive changes in me as a result. I needed that perspective from fasting to tease apart the healthy good influence and God at work, from the unhealthy overreliance on the guys themselves. I’ve begun to look on Jon as my saint – which is actually a lot healthier than it sounds – not someone in any way perfect (as maybe I had been at risk of thinking) but a fellow Christian a little further along the journey in most respects than I am, and therefore someone whose example I can look up to and follow. But that has to be in the context of a good relationship with Jesus so I can see where they sometimes diverge, or where maybe I am further along than he is so he doesn’t bring me down. I have to follow Jesus first – but sometimes Jon is a good guide to my efforts. And of course, we’d hope to not just follow but surpass a saint eventually and leave them behind for Christ.

And then this, which has been a lesson learnt since: opening myself up to fandom has mostly improved me, but my obsession has also grown. It’s a weakness and character flaw for sure, and I have to be honest about that. But, surrendered to God, God can use a weakness and turn it to His strength. It keeps us small and humbly dependent on God’s grace if we are constantly seeking God’s help with it, and it opens us up to God working in us, He can use it to shape us.

So: I’ve realised that fasting regularly for short times is a very good practice, but for long periods isn’t healthy (probably the case for many good things). Fighting against ourselves is bad. Embracing fan-love and going for it wholeheartedly but humbly and reverently before God has (for me) opened me up to being more the person God wants to make me, and He’s done incredible things in and through me. And I’ve learnt to always look beyond Switchfoot to see God at work behind them, to acknowledge that’s where the good comes from, be thankful and keep my eyes on Him.

Let’s keep encouraging one another to ask the difficult questions of where our priorities are, who has our heart and how tightly are we clinging on to created things.

Helen’s statement in court

On Tuesday, myself and four other Christian activists were found guilty of criminal damage for our whitewash action last year, and given small fines. But we are extremely thankful we had a sympathetic judge and were given all the time we wanted to each make our case fully, the fine was not as large as feared, and a big crowd of amazing supporters turned up and even stood in the rain for us to show us solidarity! We feel very blessed!

Christian Climate Action

This is my legal argument in court; for more about my motivation, see my previous post here.

We were taking part in a small, peaceful protest, and what we did was reasonable under the circumstance, therefore it was not criminal damage. I’m going to outline what the circumstances were, and why I feel that our actions under these circumstances were reasonable.

  1. The circumstances

Climate change – is the biggest threat to our country and global society we face. It’s not about trees and polar bears, somewhere far away in time and space; it is already affecting global health and agriculture, and is affecting the world’s most vulnerable people badly today. It impacts all areas of society – security, the economy, health, migration, agriculture, trade – and is worsening and becoming harder and costlier to deal with the longer we take to act. It is increasingly costing real, human lives…

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