Speakers Corner, Hyde Park: My Soap Box.

I attend the 50th anniversary of my cousin Ken's ordination as a priest at Saint Aidan's Church, Little Chalfont. Two days holiday in London follow. I spend the first at the famed Speakers Corner. There Yusuf gives me a book about Christ in Islam. An African shouts this question to his hearers: 'Why are there no women prophets in the Qu'ran?' (The answer he wants us to give is 'Because Muhammed's moon god is sexist'). An impressive Muslim cleric asks western Christians why they do not get rid of their evil rulers. Killing is legitimate, he says, in order to do this, though in fact Muslims do not do this: in Iran they exiled the Shah. It seems he had not heard of democracy. There was the predictable sour-faced, hell-fire Bible preacher. He had only one listener - plus a placard about the blood of Christ that alone saves anyone from their sins. I said to him 'Smile, Jesus loves you.' An American with cowboy hat and white trousers on which were emblazoned 'Jesus is alive' informed us that Christ the Messiah would come again once Israel's boundaries from biblical times were restored. All this was rather pressurised, but two people did offer free hugs. Finally there was the big man with a coconut who said he was Lucifer - but his jokes were far too good to come from that source.

As I escaped to the seclusion of the lakeside I had two thoughts. One was that ego-centrics ruled at Speakers Corner whatever their religion. The second thought was how much better I could do!! I should explain that I did once speak at Hyde Park when I was a theological student. The Church Army trained us for a week, and gave us each a soap box. Should I do it again I asked myself? My get-out was that they don't allow microphones, and now I have reached a certain age my voice would not carry. My solution is to put my soap box on line, so to speak. So tighten your seat belts. Get ready for my rant - and please understand that a soap box is not an academic exercise - it's much harder than that..

Christian preachers go on about Jesus. Muslim preachers go on about the wicked west which should put God first. Jesus asked us all to pray to God 'Your kingdom come on earth'. The Qu'uran calls everyone in the world to help create Ummah .. a world-wide community of justice and harmony under God. These are the same thing. Let us unite to create justice, respect, the honouring of good and God. Let us challenge and stimulate one another to do this better.

Muslims stress the first of The Ten Commandments - have no other god but the One God. Christians also believe this - they believe in One God. The discussion should not be about whether there is one God, but about what is the nature of the One God. If you have two people - one is individualistic, but the other has a nature that has a place for the other; one is self-sufficient, the other has a nature that gives and receives love - which would you say is the better, the greater person? Yes, the second. Christians say that God is like the second person. At the heart of God is a communion of Loves. The Prophet Muhammed taught that God cannot beget. Christians agree with that in the way Muhammed meant it. Christians do not teach that God begat the baby Jesus, they teach that it is in the nature of God eternally to always beget. Islam believes in the ninety nine names of God. God is all-powerful and can give expression to each of these qualities. Christians are saying that God the Father is always begetting God the Saviour who are always transmitting God the Spirit. In this understanding Christians are not splitting God: God is modelling love. Some Muslims teach that the first Christians did not believe in the Trinity - it was a heresy invented hundreds of years later. In Matthew's Gospel chapter 26 verse eighteen Jesus commands his disciples to baptise all people 'in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.'

Muslims set a good example by praying in the rhythms of the sun. They remind us that Jews and Christians used to do this, but have lapsed. I have good news. All over the world Christians, too are now beginning again to pray in the rhythms of the sun. I am part of a movement of Christians who commit to do just this - not in exactly the same way - but several times each day. We may not copy the same way exactly; for us a relationship with God is more important than formal words. But let's not argue about it - we can talk about this later as friends. For more information, see our web site. God bless you. Soap Box Ray.

Posted at 04:35am on 12th July 2010
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