Tag Archives: plymouth

Sacred Images for Polish young people

A new exhibition in Plymouth explores through photographs the things that young migrants from Poland consider to be sacred or spiritual. Fourteen Polish people in their 20s were each given a digital camera and asked to take photos of what represents something sacred to them. They were then interviewed about the photos.

Some of the photos are what you might expect – photos of Catholic church buildings, statues of Mary (there are a number in Plymouth that I had never noticed) or other things obviously associated with religion. Other photos, however, were more surprising, such as a mobile phone with showing an incoming Skype message or a photo of friends on a picnic. One person simply took ten photos of his wife.

These things, although not obviously spiritual, offer a connection to their families and the traditions that have been left behind. For some, finding equivalent outlets offer the support and connection to home. So, a picnic with friends, for example, is not the same as a traditional family meal but it suffices as a substitute. Practising their religion here is also different. Catholicism is a way of life in Poland and is done almost without thinking because it is so steeped in the culture. In the UK, where religion is no longer as embedded in people’s habits, church is a conscious choice. For them, it reminds them of what it means to be Polish.

The exhibition, entitled “Why Religion Matters To Young Polish Migrants”,  runs in Plymouth Catholic Cathedral from 21st November for two weeks.

I’ll post up some photos when I can.


The problem of evil.

In June, Vanessa George, a female nursery worker in Plymouth childcare centre was arrested for taking pornographic photos of the children in her care. I happened to be in my church office in Plymouth the day after the arrest was made, on the day she appeared for her bail hearing (which she did not get). From there I could see the entrance to the local courthouse and could see and hear the many people, most of whom were upset and disgusted parents, hurling abuse at her secure prison van as she was driven away. Yesterday she appeared, alongside three other people, in court in London charged with child sex abuse. I’m not going to spell out all the sordid details here as they have been written about in the mainline press, but that mobile phones and the internet were involved.

Coming out of this, I heard whilst listening to Radio Five Live (UK news and sport radio station) this morning that politicians are considering banning those who work with children from bringing mobile phones into work. This seems absurd and is obviously just a bit of reactionism.  It may make it more difficult to do what these people have done, but it will not solve the problem. It is akin to putting a sticking plaster on a cancer.

The problem isn’t the use of mobile phones, the problem is that humanity is sinful and is capable of evil things, and this evil comes from right from inside of a person. Banning mobile phones will not stop this evil, the more fundamental solution is to tackle the evil from the inside.

The Bible recognises the problem of human sin as being fundamental and deep down. One suggestion is to cut out of your life the thing that leads to sin. Jesus taught:

If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell. (Mark 9:43-47).

So, if mobile phones are causing you to sin, an application of this might be to cut out the mobile phones from your life. But this would not be the root of the problem. The Bible recognises that the root cause of sin is the human heart. Jesus also said:

“Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”) He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’ ” (Mark 7:18-23)

It’s no use any of us trying to argue that we have never had evil thoughts, even if we have never acted on them. So, if the root problem is the human heart, are we supposed to cut that out. No, but we do need a heart transplant – so that all the sin and evil is exchanged for something pure. In other words, we need a pure perfect human who is able to deal with all the evil that comes out of humanity. This is whom Jesus claims to be – the one pure perfect human who came from (and was) God who was able to deal with the problem of the evil human heart – by being perfect and pure –  and reunite all humanity with God. With his guidance we are able to slowly see our lives transformed and all the imperfect parts of us be gradually changed.

I pray, of course, for all the children and parents affected by this woman’s action, but also that she will have her impure and evil heart transformed by a good and loving God.