Letter from Australia 114 – Dreams – Blocked, Cancelled and Open
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Do you dream? Of course you do. Let me rephrase that – do you remember your dreams when you wake up? And do you think your dreams have any significance – other than they seem to be the clearing out of your subconscious mind?
I have some pretty weird dreams – but it is the recurring ones that interest me the most. When I was a teenager, I had this constant dream of running up Nigg Hill in the Highlands (we lived at the top where my dad was the pigman on Castlecraig farm). It was always dark, and a pair of car headlights chased me all the way up. I was just about to get to the top when someone jumped out the car, and was about to chop my head off with an axe. But it never happened because I always woke up!
Over the past year I have had a dream which has been repeated in differing forms. It always involves me being about to speak in a church, or other public place – and for some reason or other, I am always prevented from doing so. The latest version is that I was with Peter Hitchin’s at the University of Bath (a University I have never been to!), and was about to speak after him – but I was prevented from doing so by a bunch of plummy mouthed students who didn’t want to let the Scottish presbyterian peasant speak! I ended up in an asylum where the inmates were much nicer to me – but they couldn’t stop laughing. And as always in these dreams I woke up just as the prospect of me ever speaking got increasingly small! (Last night I had a dream where I was prevented from preaching by someone bowling a cricket ball at me!)…
I will leave you amateur, or even professional, psychologists, to work that one out! I don’t think I need a Joseph or a Daniel to interpret where my mind is going! Speaking of psychologists, I was fascinated to read Peter Kreeft saying that the profession with the lowest number of Christians is psychology! I wonder why?
Cancel Culture in Christian Circles
I have been reflecting a lot on cancel culture in Christian circles. It certainly exists. Sometimes it is explicit and justified. It would be irresponsible and wrong for any pastor to allow a known heretic to preach in his pulpit. We are to feed the people of God, the word of God, not the poison of the one who seeks to devour, deceive and destroy. It would also be wrong to let someone speak who speaks the truth but is as dull as dishwater and can neither connect nor communicate. I know that the Lord can speak through donkeys – but that doesn’t mean we should all start braying!
Sometimes it is explicit and evil. Like for example the Church of Scotland minister, Rev Bryan Kerr, who sought to get the civil authorities to ban Franklin Graham from preaching the Gospel. https://theweeflea.com/2022/10/29/franklin-graham-and-the-glasgow-hydro-a-significant-judgment-for-christian-freedoms-ct/
Or when you are invited to write a response article, which is published and praised, only to be withdrawn 24 hours later because of external pressures?! And you are hung out to dry as a ‘racist’?! https://theweeflea.com/2021/03/10/why-was-i-cancelled-by-premier-christianity/
Sometimes it is more subtle and justified. Your writing may not be great, or your speaking is just not up to the high standards the organisers or publishers expect; and so, they just let you down subtly by not printing, or not inviting you back. I’m certain that in that sense I have been ‘cancelled’ justifiably many times. To be honest it still sometimes surprises me when I am asked to speak or write – outside of my own very small circle – and even more surprised if I am invited back!
I would also say that if, for example, you go to a Baptist church and start speaking about infant baptism – you deserve to be cancelled – that’s just rude, arrogant and ignorant – no matter how many prophetic words you have had from the Lord. In that category I think of Mark Driscoll’s ‘prophetic’ words to the New Frontiers people in England, or to the Anglicans here in Sydney. It was just shock jock, machine gun preaching – hoping that some of the bullets would hit – and not caring about the damage the others would do.
But other times the ‘cancelling’ is implicit, subtle but just as effective. A bit like Twitter, Google, YouTube or Facebook ensuring that you are well down their algorithms. There is a Christian equivalent. Think of the magazine which doesn’t like the review they asked you to write – because the publisher is someone who advertises with them. You can say what you want – but you just can’t say that! Or the time when you read a book that is fundamentally heretical, and you naively think that you should point that out. But the organisation refuses to publish the review because too many of its readers think that the author is wonderful! Or the church leader who has a ‘quiet word’ in your ear after a conference event – ‘so and so, won’t like that – perhaps better not to mention these things”. ‘So and so’ being a rather big name, or financier, in the organisation. It doesn’t matter if what you said was true. That’s the end of the line.
Sometimes the pressure that is put on preachers and writers to conform is enormous. It is rarely stated explicitly – but more often than not in hints, winks and nudges. That spells trouble for those of us who are useless at taking hints!
Another kind of pressure is that felt by ministers of relatively small churches. Perhaps they invite a guest speaker who goes down well with the vast majority of the congregation, but there is a key family who are not happy. It doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks, or indeed what is true – the pastor feels he cannot afford to lose that key family (my view is that largely he can’t afford to keep them – if they continue to dictate the ethos and direction – usually backwards – of the congregation!), and so they get what they want. Sometimes taking the huff and threatening can be very effective.
Think of the speaker who goes to speak at an evangelical seminary – and is generally well received. But he is told by one of the professors that whilst the word was appreciated, he won’t be invited back – because the big donors didn’t like it – and the seminary can’t afford to upset the big donors. So, they go back to teaching about preaching the word fearlessly, whilst themselves living in fear.
One time I was sitting in a meeting of a mission organisation where a leader from HQ came to speak to us and encouraged us to think ‘outside the box’. So, I did. Only to be told not ‘that box’! Apparently, he had a new ‘box’ to introduce to us, and we were all supposed to buy into it as though it were our idea! But what can you do if you don’t understand or speak the code!
All of this came to mind because of a number of issues, but particularly the Mike Carlton incident. https://theweeflea.com/2022/10/15/bigotry-anger-and-confusion-ap/
Being called a ‘porridge wog’ was both pathetic and amusing. But being threatened with being reported to immigration was no joke – especially with the current febrile anti-Christian sentiment in some sections of Australian civic society! The whole purpose is to cancel and intimidate into silence. And if they can’t shut you up – they will do their best to ensure you don’t get a platform. Hence this article re Graham Norton’s comments… https://theweeflea.com/2022/10/27/graham-norton-cancel-culture-is-not-the-same-as-accountability-ct/
It only takes one ‘significant’ person to say, ‘we can’t have him speak here – he’s too right wing/left wing’, for the doors to be shut. I spoke at a school once and was challenged by a teacher for saying that the phrase ‘love is love is meaningless – you need to be able to say what love is’. The teacher was so angry that she started a petition to get me banned and came to a Q and A to heckle me! It didn’t go well for her. Afterwards I was speaking to some people, and they were delighted with how the whole thing had gone. I told them that it may have gone well, but I was certain I would not be invited back – even though this was a solidly Christian school, and I was only defending its public doctrine. Why should the headteacher go through the hassle of having petitions and complaints when he could get someone else who could play the game better and was a bit more coded (bland)?
The University of Dundee occasionally got requests from outside groups to have me fired as a chaplain. The principal would speak his minions and ask them to have a ‘subtle’ word. It never worked because I just simply said I would not resign; he would have to fire me…and if he did, I would make sure it was well publicised!
All of this is to say that after the Mike Carlton affair I was tempted just to give it all up and live a quiet life – speaking only to people who like or agree with me – a somewhat select group! But how boring would that be! And then I heard this oldie but goldie – Tom Petty’s “I won’t back down”
Well, I won’t back down
No I won’t back down
You could stand me up at the gates of Hell
But I won’t back down
No I’ll stand my ground
Won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down
Gonna stand my ground
And I won’t back down
There ain’t no easy way out (I won’t back down)
Hey I will stand my ground
And I won’t back down
Well, I know what’s right
I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around
But I’ll stand my ground
And I won’t back down
I also need to remember not to fret about the shut doors. It’s not about me, my ego, abilities (or lack thereof), and pride. It’s about the Lord. Rather than crying over shut doors, we should be far more concerned about the doors that the Lord opens – often in very surprising places. “See I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and not denied my name” (Revelation 3:8).
Maybe our dreams are far too often the projection of our fears, and the arrows of the accuser? Maybe the dream we need is of “the Lord restoring the fortunes of Zion,” then we will be “like those who dreamed.” (Psalm 126:1). Except our dreams will be reality! Let it be, Lord, let it be!
Yours in Christ
Letter from Australia 113 – A Car Miracle!
PS. For those who were asking the Coffee and Revelation continues – I try to put them up every weekday at 5pm (Sydney), 6am (UK)…You can subscribe on YouTube or access them from the ASK website…https://ask.org.au/
Here is yesterdays….