There is no better place to meet real Bristolians than the Star on Stapleton Road. Ruth was basking in the spring sunshine while John the landlord cleared butts from the previous night’s festivity. He said that the Star is a proper, ‘boozers pub’. The boarded window is from Sunday night when thieves broke in and made off with a wad of cash. According to the police this was one of a string of thefts in the area over recent weeks. John says that it’s not even worth claiming the insurance because of excess. And he seemed kinda sceptical that the perpetrators would be apprehended, tried and punished.
This is Basil. He is following in the Bristol tradition that reaches back to the Anabaptists who preached the Christian Gospel in the 1640s. He believes that the story of the Cross is true, and as history attests, Jesus Christ really did conquer sin, death and hell. He attends Elim Church Link Basil was in St Augustine Square in the footsteps of former Bristol heroes like George Whitefield, John Wesley, and Bob Bateman of Staple Hill.
Kay and I had a chat while he tried to hacksaw through a bike lock. I was intrigued to learn if anyone had asked him if it was his bike. He said no but some had suggested better methods of getting his lock off the bike. We had a chat about what that might indicate about the people of Bristol. He supposed that they might be highly optimistic, I proposed that perhaps people were selfish and we have lost the ability to interact, if we ever had, at this social level. We both parted company with food for thought.
I then met Mike the architect. We had a look the building in the photo and he explained to me all the reasons why he was absolutely sure the building had an architect. Mike is an agnostic. I asked him if it was sensible for him to assume the building has a builder even though he hadn’t met him and if it was equally sensible that the created order he sees around came about by the work of the Creator? He acknowledged that indeed that seemed rational. Another good day in the world logic!
Bristol will be getting its first community bike cafe later this year when Roll for the Soul opens in what is currently Cafe Central on Nelson Street. The cafe will double up as a bike workshop; serve Mediterranean and Middle Eastern-inspired food from breakfast through to dinner; sell cycling clothing, gear, art and another assorted paraphernalia; and host cycling events such as film screenings, skill-sharing sessions and talks.
Roll for the Soul will be opened in partnership with The Bristol Bike Project with a vision to be “a community-focused bike cafe for Bristol… to become the focal point for cycling in the city, celebrating and supporting our unique cycling culture”.
The driving force behind the project is Rob Wall, who has a PhD in transport psychology and was a project manager at Sustrans before leaving last year to commit to Roll for the Soul and also paint bike pictures as
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Visiting Newcastle Uni reinforced my understanding that campuses are the frontline for ideas. I had a great time with this group while they were making a short movie to campaign for reinforcing the funds to find a cure for AIDs. Listening to the dialogue, seeing a group of Muslims with a marquee handing out biscuits and information I witnessed first hand the battleground. As we capture the beliefs of Bristol it’ll be worth determining just what people remember as the dominant influence on the kinds of things they believe.
In seeking to discover Bristol’s beliefs I want to investigate presuppositions. Do you know the favourite Bible verse of those who don’t believe in the Bible’s authority? It’s not hard. The favorite is, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”
These people cannot tell you where this verse is in the Bible, or the context, because they don’t read it. But they have heard it is in the scriptures somewhere, so if they don’t like something you say when you pronounce something right or wrong, they whip out Matthew 7:1 and that is supposed to be the end of the discussion. One of the problems is if you tell someone they have no right to judge someone else you have thereby judged them for judging. That makes you a hypocrite. But that then begs the question – why is it wrong to be a hypocrite? Presuppositions need a foundation to be authoritative. For example, the teachings of Jesus Christ are authoritative for those who believe he is the son of God.
Each one of us has a worldview on which we base our lives – presuppositions we operate under. Because of our city’s Christian heritage most Bristolians, either consciously or subconsciously, derive their presuppositions about life and morality from the Bible. Ask a man on the streets of Bedminster if lying is right or wrong behavior and he is going to tell you it’s wrong. Ask who decided lying was wrong they will either say, “It just is,” or, “My parents taught me it was wrong,” or “The Bible says so.” However, “It just is,” is not an answer to the question; it is an opinion. “The Bible says so,” is a legitimate answer because if you believe the Bible is God’s word, then you want to obey God so you don’t fall into disfavor with a supreme being who can control your eternal destiny.
Many Bristolians will say they subscribe to the idea that a person should be free to do whatever he wishes “as long as it does not hurt anyone else.” This view again is based on the presupposition that freedom is “good” and it is morally wrong to hurt someone else. Who made these rules? Who says freedom is morally superior to bondage? And why is it wrong to hurt someone else? Who says? To injure or hurt someone else goes against biblical teaching. The “Golden Rule” was given to us by Jesus Christ.
Some other cultures in the world use the atheistic state government as the agent for defining what is right or wrong behavior. It’s called totalitarianism. In Muslim countries, Islamic law and teaching dominate behavior. Most European countries have what’s left of their Christian heritage although the continent itself today is mostly secular, with Islam rising as a possible replacement.
It is a healthy exercise to ask ourselves where we get our moral values that govern our lives. Is it each person for himself, or do we acknowledge a higher power with authority to declare such? This will be the question I am eager to answer as we investigate what Bristol believes.