Saturday, December 24, 2005

and advent ended















And advent ended
our waiting over
Christ is born
God with us
God for us

Israel's hope realised
the love of God revealed
Christ is born
God with us
God for us

The holy child discloses
the welcome of our God
Christ is born
God with us
God for us

Friday, December 23, 2005

The main point of it all

For many Christians, Advent is a time to reflect on the central tenet of their faith: the incarnation. The Christmas season underscores what is most basic to them, the idea that God became a man and dwelled among us. The teaching, they say, is the distillation of all things Christian – everything boils down to this most prominent of truths.

Sincere as these people are, I'm forced to disagree with them.

A reading of Jesus' teaching in the gospels, along with the preaching of the primitive church, leads me to the conclusion that Christianity's core message is the kingdom of God. The Christmas story is about Messianic hopes, not metaphysical christology.

Consider the Song of Mary in Luke's gospel:
"He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers."
This is the same message that blazed forth from the Hebrew prophets. A great successor to David would come and take the throne, ruling with perfect justice. Peace and goodwill were destined to reign on earth. The knowledge of the Lord would fill the world from the rising of the sun, to its setting.

Angels heralded the beginning of it all in Bethlehem. The realm of God had penetrated the human realm in a new way, never before seen.

We're called to continue what began on that day. The incarnation is not a theological abstraction designed to satisfy speculation about Christ's ultimate identity. It's not a dogma that we merely file away under the "orthodox" tab. It's a reality that we fulfill ourselves in this world.

When we love our neighbors, forgive without end, become like little children and live irreproachable lives, we bring heaven down to earth. The kingdom of God comes with power.

And our work continues. As long as "peace on earth" is absent from any corner of our globe, we Christians have a lot of incarnational work to do.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Art, Imagination and Christian Hope

Just found out about this conference being held at St. Andrew's, which links it quite well to what this blog is all about.

Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts
Research Colloquium, Spring 2006

'Patterns of promise: art, imagination and Christian hope'

27th-29th March 2006
St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews, Scotland UK

Hope is an inherently imaginative human disposition.

While securely rooted in something revealed, Christian hope nonetheless also engages our imagination.

In hope, faith reconfigures the shape of what is familiar in order to ‘pattern’ the contours of God’s promised future. In the process, the present is continuously re-shaped by ventures of ‘hopeful’ and expectant living.

In art, this same ‘poetic’ interplay between past, present and future takes particular concrete forms, furnishing vital resources for sustaining an ‘ecology of hope’.

This colloquium will explore our imaginative engagements with the shape of things to come. In particular, we will attend to the contribution that literature, music and painting can make, as they trace ‘patterns of promise’ and so generate hopeful living.

Speakers

* Professor Richard Bauckham, University of St Andrews
* Dr Anna Williams, University of Cambridge
* Professor Paul Fiddes, University of Oxford
* Dr Daniel Chua, King's College, University of London
* Dr Patricia Bruininks, Hendrix College, Arkansas
* Professor Trevor Hart, University of St Andrews
* Professor Jeremy Begbie, University of St Andrews

Lean on me...

Dependence can be hard. It requires an acknowledgment of not being able to achieve without the thing you depend upon. Its admitting that we aren't good enough. Thank God that He is good enough though. God calls us to be dependent on Him for the working out of his glory in our lives. In our weakness, he invites us to depend on his strength. In our imperfection, he shows us his perfect holiness. In our inability to give everything we have, he imparts his generosity to us in the giving of everything He has, His only son Jesus. God would have us look to Him to meet our every need. How dependent are you on God's grace and mercy today? How full of praise and thanks?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Listen

so our waiting is nearly over, Christmas is just about upon us. Last night I asked my 7 year old son why Jesus was born, he replied, "so we could get presents". I was a little disappointed in his answer. But that's just it - with all the presents, parties, dinners, TV, visiting family it can be hard to "see" Jesus even if you want to.

So I'm going to use my ears! Babies cry and cry so that no matter what else is going on you hear them. So I'm listening waiting to hear what he wants to say this Christmas.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Waiting for Heaven

From Maggi

Years ago now, just before Christmas, one of my best and closest friends died in his 20's from cancer. We had prayed and hoped for months that there would be a cure, or even a miracle. But as Randy got weaker and thinner, one by one we began to give up on the hope that he would live. It was clear that our prayers were not being answered the way we wanted. I began to pray for his future "life" in terms of the mystical beyond, not physical healing. He had been an aircraft engineer, and loved flying. Sometimes he used to talk about his fantasy that he could fly with God through the universe, looking at the stars and planets. I began to think that was a good metaphor for the timeless, spaceless sinking into God that death might be like.

Sometimes I think the waiting of Advent - waiting for God to break into our world with salvation and redemption - can, if we aren't careful, turn into a fixed idea of what it is we're waiting for. We gather ideas and images of what the redemption will look like, what needs to happen in order for our salvation to be complete. And sometimes when redemption comes it is not at all in the shape we anticipated. Sometimes it doesn't even look particularly redemptive. Sometimes a redemptive moment is disguised under moments of shock and grief, and we have to wait a while. Only when the shock of events begins to recede do we begin to understand that redemption is hidden in the shadows of current events, waiting to dawn on us when the right moment comes.

Death seems pretty bleak as an answer to prayer. But even a shortened life still has its impact. Even now, years later, I still sometimes think I see Randy's extraordinary clear blue eyes looking into mine, searching for honesty, looking for the answer I'm afraid to articulate. Even now, his legacy to me is to make me brave enough to tell the truth, to myself most of all, regardless of whether other people approve.

Earlier this year I collected up a lot of poems and prayers about death while I was planning a memorial service. I came across this one, which was originally written for Jonny's father . It fits the theme rather aptly of transforming our idea of what we are waiting and praying for. Sometimes our prayers get answered, but not at all in the way we've envisaged.

it was a marvellous healing;
after the months of asking,
of waiting;
after the desperate, slow deterioration,
the warring tides
of faith and doubt:
to be released in an instant,
from every pain.
it was as if the very molecules of his flesh
had been infused, invaded,
with the life of God,
until he was filled, fit to burst,
with the Shalom, the peace,
of the Father's rule.
limbs that had fallen flaccid with weakness
waved and danced with joy;
lungs that had so utterly failed him
sang out with strength and boldness.

he ran
through the unfamiliar sunlight,
drinking it in,
experiencing all at once
the thousand and one feelings
that for so long had been denied him.

it was a marvellous healing:
to be so totally restored,
made whole,
rebuilt.
it had just surprised him,
a little,
that he had had to die
to receive it.

(gerard kelly)

Monday, December 19, 2005

a question of observation?

The last two saturdays I have spent in London. The first one was because I needed to book plane tickets with my travel agent. This was Sta Travel on Kings Cross. After we'd booked, my friend and I decided to head to Oxford Street and see if we could pick up anything good in HMV.

this saturday gone, I and a different friend headed down to Camden Lock to pick up a few slightly odder gifts. Following this, we headed down to Leicester Square and Charing Cross Road because I needed the loo and wanted to look in the bookshops.

Both days I expected it to be manic. I expected Oxford Street and Leicester Square to be full of insane people who want that bargain or ticket and are prepared to kill me if it means getting there 0.2 seconds quicker. This is what Oxford Street is normally like. I've been there on non-seasonal occasions and, within 20 minutes, been quite ready to spill the blood of the next person who pushes me.

But, the 2 last weekends before Christmas, and the place was... relatively quiet. I've been on busier days. much busier days. Apart from the 300 odd people dresses as santa and protesting that they want Christmas and want it now (genius) and singing carols that are slightly altered, such that they are about booze (also genius); it was pretty empty.

This tells me one of 3 things.
1) everyone is so efficient that they all finished their Christmas shopping in July.
2) everyone has ordered their gear from the internet.
3) people aren't buying as much.

I hope it's 3. Very much. So my inner cynic is at war with my inner optimist....

May you all have a Christmas and New Year full of peace and devoid of debt and materialism.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Be happy!

Right, this isn;t exactly going to be my most amazing peice of writing, as I have little over three minutes before I go off to panto all day...

The anticipation! I am strangely in a good mood today; I feel Christmassy and full of goodwill. Which is always fun. But anyway. I'm not really sure what I want to say, except that we should be happy... This has been hard for me over the last few nights; I've been having trouble with friends, they keep doing things that annoy me, for instance spending the whole time gossiping and slagging people off, and trying to get me to join in etc etc... But I feel on top of things today. I read last night "if you don;t forgive your fellow man (or woman ;) then God won't forgive us. Which is fair enough.

So anyway, back to advent. I think that this time of year should be full of goodwill etc. I think it's time I started to enjoy God's love abit more. Show a little kindness, instead of hate. Stick with Him through and through, because I have just found out that it's quite cool at the end of it. We have soo much to be thankful for! :D

So be happpppppppppppyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!! :D :D :D

Friday, December 16, 2005

Let it rain.



FRANKLY MY DEAR, I DON'T GIVE A DAMN*

What do you seeee?
The lights not yet here, fantastically.
But you keep waving your hands,
throwing vases and smiles.
Wrap up in rugs and wait a while longer.


*With thanks to the Reverend Graeme for this title.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

On Frango Mints and the Reign of God

This Advent I am preparing to celebrate Christmas with my family in our new home in Cambridge. So far our transition to life in the UK has been relatively smooth and fairly painless. In fact the vast majority of the time, we simply love it here.

But Advent and Christmas are saturated with memories and associations. Maybe more than any other time of year, Christmas and the time leading up to it are redolent with sights, sounds, smells and tastes that transport us to another time, another place. And so the more I have experienced Advent and the anticipation of Christmas here, the more I am – ironically – somewhere else.

Frango Mint Chocolates are one of my memories not only of Christmastime but also of my hometown, Chicago. They are made and sold by Marshall Field’s Department Stores, and both the candies and the stores are distinctly Chicago institutions. Frangos are a popular Christmas gift and end-of-the-year indulgence. They are a sultry, luxurious delight, chocolate and mint melting in your mouth, leaving your taste buds begging for more.

My in-laws, who have come to spend the holidays with us, were good enough to bring us a box. I leapt on them. (In fact, I ate three while composing the last paragraph – purely for research, you understand.) And tasting them, I found myself standing on State Street, in the heart of Chicago’s Loop, in front of Marshall Field’s, as a child, standing in the snow, looking in at the Christmas windows with my parents. This one taste vividly summoned for me sights and sounds of a quarter century ago. Memory is an amazing thing.

But what if it’s not only meant to work in reverse?

What if we are also meant to remember in advance?

As every year passes, I become more attracted to the Advent theme of looking ahead – not just to the coming of Jesus in the manger, but the return, the final Advent of Jesus. We look for that final return when things will be set right, justice and peace will embrace, when the whole creation will know God, and God will be all in all.

I know we usually talk about this in terms of hope, and I don’t disagree. But I have a harder time getting my arms around hope. It feels more abstract, more like a pie-in-the-sky, wish-upon-a-star kind of thing.

But what if instead of just hoping for something which is not yet, we could remember something which is not fully yet? What if a sight, sound, smell, taste or texture could capture us and transport us to another time and place, which is yet future? What if we could take that small, fertile memory and let it open up into an incalculably larger picture? It seems to me that this would allow us to see, hear, smell, taste and touch the reign of God which is already here through the ministry of Christ, and which is not yet here in its fullness.

When we are reconciled with someone, when we see justice done, when we reach out across a surprising boundary, when someone feels the energy and vision which can only be called new life, when the poor or the suffering find hope and deliverance, when someone comes to God – or returns to God – these help us to re-member, to put together again the whole from parts, of what lies ahead of us in God. And, I think, it leaves us begging for more.

This vivid anticipation, this remembering in advance, is a means of nourishment for our waiting, watching, working and worshipping for the day when it will be complete. In short, perhaps, it will be a way of cultivating a hopeful imagination.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

the dark side

I love advent, the countdown, the candles, the excitement, the Christmas cards, the carols and the lights. But it has a dark side, lurking, ready to jump up and blow out the candles and stamp on your mince pie. It's the consumer side to advent.

As the day draws nearer the pressure builds: find the right gift for the right person becomes find anything that will do (and fast). I am sure there are little gremlins that grow increasingly stronger, feeding on the blind panic of Christmas shoppers who don’t have a clue where to start. Fazed with a dazzling array of choices and offers the poor shopper slowly begins to suffocate in a dense fog of pressure and confusion.

On Christmas Eve fever pitch hits. The gremlins reach the height of their power and you can easily spot the haunted souls who have fallen foul of their schemes. You see them piling high baskets with gifts and food that family and friends will probably not like or never open. Auntie Vera really will never use that luxury bath oil and Uncle Arthur already has 3 pairs of unworn, extra warm
totes non-slip socks that you got him in 2004,3&2.

What have we done with Advent? How have we let it become this consumer binge? You have probably heard of the Oxfam Unwrapped or Christian Aid's Present Aid, or another such scheme. I like them. They are like pure water in a sea of filth. They offer us an alternative and a perspective on the world that we're not going to find amongst Boots' 3-for-2 offers. I am plucking up the courage for the Christmas that everyone I love simply gets a chicken, or if they are really special a donkey. But for now I am incorporating it gently a tree here, a water tap there...


The most important thing we can gain this Advent is a little bit more self-awareness: who we are in the world and the riches and power we hold over people we will never meet. So, I would encourage you, when the gremlins come to over-whelm you this Christmas: resist, stop, think and put the shopping in perspective. Maybe even get a donkey instead?



Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Coming, ready or not

From Maggi:

Just over eight years ago I was a PhD student, an ordinand (priest-in-training), and five months pregnant. The pregnancy was on course; it looked like this baby was really going to be born. So I needed the relevant information on maternity leave for Ordinands, what would happen to my funding, housing allowances etc., ... you know the kind of thing.

I went up to see my tutor at Theological College - a kind and humorous woman, who could be formidable when necessary. I discovered that to date, there was no policy on maternity leave or funding breaks for pregnant Ordinands. I don't think I was the first woman to have a baby mid-training, but there had been so few thus far that there wasn't any established pattern. I sat in my tutor's study while she phoned the relevant grant-awarding bodies, Diocesan and National offices, trying to get some kind of game plan together. After some long, frustrating phone calls, I heard the mumbling of a man's voice at the other end of the phone, and then my Tutor's terse reply: 'It may well be that you don't have any policies. But what you don't seem to understand is that the birth of this baby can not be postponed. This baby will be born in four months' time whether you have policies or not.'

I like the fact that the coming of God into our world was realised in something as inconvenient, unpredictable and untidy as the birth of a baby. A baby will be born when it's ready. It makes no difference whether we are ready for it (who is ever 'ready' for a baby?). But regardless of policies, theologies and leadership structures, and irrespective of postmodern theories and conventions and housegroups, God will come and be born in our world.

Birth is a great leveller. It is always messy and inconvenient, painful and undignified. It is usually joyful, often frightening, sometimes tragic. It happens to those who are ready and those who are not. Babies break up the order of our lives, and defy the plans of even the most organised of mothers-to-be. Birth isn't fair or controllable: it sometimes comes quickly and easily to people who are unprepared, and with agonised diffuculty to those who have a meticulous birth plan.

So it is with God. He will be born in our world whether we're ready or not, deserving or not, prepared or not. The incarnation of God will defy our plans, upset the organised, and come with ease and rapturous joy to undeserving sinners and the poor in spirit.

'Now let your love be born in us,
O come, Lord Jesus, Come.'

Monday, December 12, 2005

Waiting for the Prince of Peace

I find I am in such a state of waiting this morning, I don't know what to write. John Dominic Crossan, I believe, reminded us that Caesar was called the Prince of Peace, and that the message in naming Jesus the Prince of Peace was to send a message to the Romans that peace is not the out come of beating others into submission, but is the result of making peace first, not as the quiet between the wars.

We are waiting for friends held in Iraq. The four CPT members. We wait with prayers for a good outcome, waiting for peace, waiting for hope, waiting so hard that I feel separated from the wait for "Christmas". In my neighborhood, it means walking sober through crowds last Seventh Day (Sat.) crowds of young people dressed in Santa Claus suits for a newly emerged holiday, the weekends before Christmas, Santa pub crawls, where bands of rowdy people stager around the streets drunk and dressed as Santa Claus.

Before my separation from that was a sort of bemused, "och, look at that..." Now, I am just sad.

But Jesus taught us an important thing. He taught us to seek joy in the worst times. To find peace in days like these. Last night at a meeting for worship with a concern for business, we spoke for a time about our friends, now missing... and a message came to me, that we may find joy in the expressions of tenderness for our friends from people and organizations hardened by war. Another friend said yes, that the hardest hearts are touched by loving truth. That the other day, a friend showed him a fragment of cloth. She told him it was a piece of the wedding dress of Mary Dyer, the Quaker martyr. It had come down in her family. She was the descendent of the man who hanged her. He had become convinced of Quakerism by Mary Dyer's courage.

Waiting for peace.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

(A) History of Advent

Maggi gives us some of the history behind the season of advent here. It seems you can always count on Maggi to either know this sort of stuff or the places to find it out.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Advent; about God or us?

Apologies first of all for not blogging yesterday, my dad locked the office then went off to Edinburgh with the key in his pocket! Sorry, this is meant to be for the 9th.


Advent - a time of waiting. For lighting candles, praying, meditating, anticipating, looking forward, waiting with all our hearts. But what is this in reality? Are we really waiting on a God so amazing, to give us the ultimate present of all time? Or have we put God in a box again, forgetting to open the lid, squishing Him out of our busy routines each day?

What are we actually doing for Him this advent?

Walking down the street today, amongst the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, past signs of "Tis the seasin to be merry!" and other such revelating messages, it struck me how pointless it all was. We dive in and out of shops, picking up useless rubbish, indoctrinated about the fact that we must buy stupid pointless stuff for the sake of buying... Aren't we meant to be waiting? Aren't we meant to be waiting and watching and seeking for Him to make a move in our lives, our hearts, our souls? How many of us, every time we pick up a future-present for someone actually think what the giving is all about? Not many I'm guessing. We shove it in our bag, with a mutter of "Cath will like that, this'll do for Aunt May..."

I know this is turning into a rant... forgive me for that, please!! But, my message is this: God gave us the most astonishing life-changing present there is. To us. Sinful little earthlings. He gave us his son, His most valuable thing. And all we do in return is skit around being pressurised by one another to buy everyone rubbish and put God on hold for a while, while we get our shopping done.

I think it's time to stop. I think it's time to see where we stand. I think it's time we did something different this advent, and, indeed, this Christmas. Let's give a present back to God. Let's give Him our lives. Let's truly and thoroughly wait on Him. Let's seek Him with every ounce of our being. Let's ask Him where we are, what we should do, and listen for the answer that comes.

Let's give this advent back to God.

In the Beginning

The trinity was from the beginning Father, son and Holy Spirit!

Yet God sent his son into our sinful world not as a fully-grown man but as a helpless babe, fully human but at the same time fully God.

Just think for a second, what it was like for the “son” Jesus to be born into this world with the wisdom of God in his head and heart yet being fully dependant on us mere humans, eek to look after him!

This brings the hymn Servant king into a whole new light for me.


From heaven you came, helpless babe,
Entered our world, your glory veiled;
Not to be served, but to serve,
And give Your life, that we might live.

This is our God, the Servant King,
He calls us now, to follow Him,
To bring our lives, as a daily offering
Of worship to, the Servant King.

There in the garden, of tears,
My heavy load, he chose to bear;
His heart with sorrow, was torn,
'Yet not My will, but Yours,' He said.

Come see His hands, and His feet,
The scars that speak, of sacrifice;
Hands that flung stars, into space
To cruel nails, surrendered.

So let us learn, how to serve,
And in our lives, enthrone Him;
Each other's needs, to prefer,
For it is Christ, we're serving.


Imagine if you will for a moment a helpless babe throwing stars into space?

Why did God put himself through this, why not just turn the air off and start again afresh with a new set of humans, this would have been much easier, but not our God, God loved his son so much and he loves us just as much despite the fact we keep mucking things up!

Imagine if you had a son who of course you loved, would you send him to die without going through all the other possibilities first, weighing up all the pose and cons!

But we can see that he must have done this and the only option he had as our loving God was to send the one sinless thing he had, his one and only son to die for us so we could have that relationship back with the father which he longed for, he died for you and for me!

God came to earth to die for us, is that not a totally awesome thought, he was born and ministered among us knowing that he would die for us, he died for us to live.

God came to us, as at Christmas as a present to a sinful world, at Easter he was broken like an egg for us to have new life!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

So its all about love...

Here is a song, written by a friend of mine, that really speaks to me of the desire of God for us. 'Be with me' is the cry of God over each and everyone of us. He desires us to speak with Him, share everything about ourselves with Him, to dwell with Him constantly.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Waiting and Longing

From Maggi

Waiting is a bit of a recurring theme on my blog. It's a theme that comes to the fore between Ascension Day and Pentecost, when Jesus told his disciples to go and WAIT in Jerusalem. He was none too specific about how long to wait, or even what to wait for. "Power from on high" was the mysterious promise. But wait they did, and when the curious promise was fulfilled, they were in no doubt that it had happened.

Lent is also about waiting, but not so much waiting FOR as waiting ON - putting the rest of life on hold to wait in a consciously devoted way for the presence of God to pervade the soul. Lent waiting has a wilderness quality to it - a deprivation of the things of ordinary life in order to become one with God.

Advent waiting has a subtly different touch to it. This is a waiting with hope and anticipation for God to break into our world. According to Christian tradition, the first waiting is for the Messiah or Saviour to enter the world - a waiting and anticipation reflected in the promises of God to the Patriarchs, the dreams of the prophets, and the prayers of generations of saints. The second waiting is for the return of Christ in glory, heralding the end of this era. Advent is waiting for Christmas, but it's also waiting for the great maranatha.

Waiting for the Messiah was not a passive waiting, but an aching, a longing, a reaching-towards. I love the words of Simeon, a very, very old man who had spent his whole life waiting and longing for the salvation of Israel. Did he know what he was waiting for? Probably not, in exact terms. But somehow when he saw the child Jesus he just knew that this, at last, was what he had been waiting for. "Now, Lord," said Simeon, "now I can die happy. Now I've seen the thing I've been waiting for all my life. Now I am fulfilled." (Luke 2: 25-32)

There is a paradox in this that sums up so much of our faith - the drive to reach out, move forwards and make something happen is constrained by the need to wait on, wait for, the initiative of God's spirit. You can't force the work of God. Neither can you go to sleep on the job. I suppose that gives us our model of waiting for Christ in glory too - although here, perhaps like waiting for Pentecost, or for death, the promise has very little tangible shape to it because it is a matter of waiting for something beyond our experience. We have no categories or pictures with which to describe what it means that Christ will come again in glory. We just know, somehow, that while we live in celebration that God has broken into our world, yet we are still waiting and longing for something more. Like Bono said, "I still haven't found what I'm looking for." Not a passive waiting though - not just lying back despondently, waiting for God to come and fix things. Living to the full, building the "kingdom of heaven" here and now, in the only life that we know we have. But doing it from a well of hopeful dissatisfaction. Waiting and longing.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Like a child



You came to us as a child, vulnerable and defenseless, and it's as a child I must come to you this Advent, this Christmas. But not just any child, for most look among the tree's, tinsel, presents, and some event look for you in the 'nativity scene'. But you are not to be found there .....no you are the vulnerable and defensless one and it is amoung them that you are still to be found.

Oh that I could be that kind of child - vulnerable and defensless, able to lay aside my cares and possesions so as to find you were you are and not where I'd want you to be.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Finger Pointing

How discouraging it is to see people pointing their fingers at others so often, passing the blame, whether in business, politics, the church, wherever. And, if we are honest, I suspect that we will find some of this in ourselves as well. When our back is against the wall, when we are confronted, we find ourselves pointing at someone else.

There’s a lot of finger pointing in yesterday’s gospel reading for the second Sunday of Advent (Mark 1:1-8), too. After Mark’s rather bald preamble, he points to Isaiah. Isaiah in turn points to John the Baptizer. John is perhaps the biggest finger-pointer of all time, pointing at the one who is to come, Jesus. And Jesus, perhaps self-conscious from being pointed at so much, doesn’t even enter the scene!

But this is a different kind of finger pointing. Rather than simply passing the buck, these fingers are pointed to bear witness to Jesus the Messiah, the righteous one, as Mark says at the beginning. This isn’t finger pointing to avoid the truth, but to attest to the One who is the truth.

It’s worth spending some time pondering this finger pointing, for as the theologian Karl Barth says, “the church stands in the tradition of John the Baptist. What it can and should do is point an outstretched finger: ‘Behold the lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.’” In other words, the vocation of John the Baptizer is our own vocation: to bear witness to the one who is powerful and worthy and who brings the Holy Spirit; and we are to point to the truth, love and goodness of Jesus Christ both in our words and in our lives.


In what ways do you, your family, your friends, your parish, already point to the coming Lord?

After we have mentioned the obvious (and important) notion of telling others about Jesus, what other ways are there for making our lives embodied “pointings” to Jesus?

Will this always look “religious”? How would it look?

What might the Spirit be calling you to do? What specific, concrete action might you take this week to grow in becoming one who points to Jesus Christ?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Waiting and Preparing.

Advent is a time of year that the Church has largely neglected of late. There is so much, in our western culture, to prepare for in December. Christmas, of course, with it's family get-togethers, gifts, dinners, parties, visits to pubs, church services... And of course there is New Year's Eve at the end of the month. It's not suprising that Advent get's relegated to chocolate "count-down calendars" in the wake of Christmas itself.

I think the blog thing here is largely about re-capturing Advent. In days gone by, where Christmas wasn't quite so shiney and musical, the Church held Advent as a time of waiting, preparing for the coming of the Christ Child. Preparing, in a spiritual sense, not just preparing dinners and wrapping gifts. Imagine the anticipation. the excitement. Imagine how you felt at 8 years old waiting to see what santa would bring... and times it by a million. Let us look forward to Christmas with anticipation and longing, and let us prepare, now, our hearts for that miraculous event.

God of the watching ones,
give us Your benediction.

God of the waiting ones,
give us Your good word for our souls.

God of the watching ones,
the waiting ones,
the slow and suffering ones,
give us Your benediction,
Your good word for our souls,
that we might rest.

God of the watching ones,
the waiting ones,
the slow and suffering ones,

and of the angels in heaven,

and of the child in the womb,

give us Your benediction,
Your good word for our souls,
that we might rest and rise
in the kindness of Your company.


And evening prayer for blessing during Advent, from Celtic Daily Prayer, The Northumbria Community, Collins, 2000

Friday, December 02, 2005

before

IT DON'T MATTER IF YOU'RE BLANK OR WHITE

And I thought - haha
to sit in his sight, even before his eyes.
The more I thought of it, the sillier I became.
Maybe I'm overcome, maybe he'll come.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

our watching time



And so our watching time begins,
time for watching and waiting, for looking and longing,
for dreaming and wishing.

It is our time for lighting candles and looking for stars,
for opening calendar windows and counting the nights.

It is our time for the story,
the ancient story that weaves into our winters
stitching mystery and hope and a pure-gold thread into our long dark evenings.

It is our time to gather around the yule log that’s burning in the grate
and listen for the shepherds knocking at the door.

Our watching time is our precious time,
to wait for the moment that we will gather
around the tiny baby and the exhausted mother
and bring our treasures and lay them at their feet.

It is our waiting time.
For the travellers to arrive,
and the birth to begin.

And so we watch.
For the singing in the skies and the change in the wind.
For the light through the winter fog and the pull in our souls

It is our watching time

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

What's Andrew got to do with it?

Today is St Andrews’s day, a day on which the Scots, Russians and Greeks who have him as their patron saint do ….? Well what do we do? To be honest I’m not sure what most Scot’s do, we seem to have kept the day and lost all the traditions.

I must admit that I’ve struggled a bit with this falling within advent. I mean whose idea was it to let St. Andrews day fall within advent, should our focus not be 100% on Jesus? Is this not a distraction from the “main thing?”

I thought about this as I walked home last night and concluded that it is actually quite appropriate for us to think about St Andrews day during advent.

My sense of knowing that as a Scot I’m supposed to do something today but I know not what is perhaps like many who know there’s something special about advent and that there’s more to it than candles and coat hangers (this only makes sense if you grew up watching Blue Peter). But they don’t know what to do. We (i.e. society at large) have this period of advent and Christmas day but we’ve lost the context. So here’s the challenge….do I spend advent reflecting upon Emanuel in a privatistic or narcissistic way? Or is part of my reflection upon the birth of Jesus the imperative to help others to find Him, to this advent discover what it’s all about. This leads me to my second thought.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

God is Emmanuel

Advent a time of preparation, preparation of the heart and mind, Like Lent it’s also a penitential time to reflect and seek forgiveness in readiness to receive Christ a fresh in our lives!

God is Emanuel which means God is with us, he’s right in the depths of over lives, of our very beings, experiencing everything we go through, and saying its ok I’m here!

But isn’t it sometimes (maybe all the time) hard to see Christ at work in the lives of:

The Homeless
Drug Addict
Person with Mental Illness
Person with a Terminal Illness
Those who have just given up
Those in Prison

God comes to all of us and says I am here, rest on me I will give you strength for today and forever. Our challenge today is to seek God in each other to encourage each other on our Advent journey to our Bethlehem!

Monday, November 28, 2005

questions to ponder

As advent begins ...

some questions to ponder ...

Who are we looking forward to?
Who are we hoping for?
Who are we anticipating?
Who are we dreaming of?
Who are we in love with?
Who are we thinking about inside?
Who are we eager to avoid?
Who are we trusting in?
Who are we uneasy around?
Who are we giving our time to?
Who are we shopping for?
Who are we ambitious to become?
Who are we forgetting?
Who are we guilty of lying to?
Who are we impatient with?
Who are we loved by?


May God bless you
may God shine his face upon you
and give you peace

Sunday, November 27, 2005

advent blog 05

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

advent blog starts next week ... (updated again 29 nov)

Our advent blog will start next week. Thanks to all of you who have agreed to blog with us over the next few weeks, you should receive an invitation via blogger soon ...

Feel free to blog anything as long as there is some kind of link to advent.

Try not to make your posts too long ...

Looking forward to see what happens ...

Please indicate a day or days (in comments) when you would like to, or be happy to, blog / don't worry if someone's taken your day, we can 2 blogs a day ...

28 nov - andy goodliff
29 nov - anderson marsh
30 nov - brodie mcgregor
1 dec - yasmin finch
2 dec - laurence craig
3 dec - ashley beck
4 dec - day of advent blogging rest
5 dec - jason fout
6 dec - brodie mcgregor
7 dec - maggi dawn
8 dec - steve goodliff
9 dec - flick
10 dec - anderson marsh
11 dec - day of advent blogging rest
12 dec - lorcan
13 dec - maggi dawn
14 dec - yasmin finch
15 dec - jason fout
16 dec - laurence craig
17 dec - flick
18 dec - day of advent blogging rest
19 dec - ashley beck
20 dec - maggi dawn
21 dec - brodie mcgregor
22 dec - steve goodliff
23 dec - Steve Jones
24 dec - andy goodliff

Saturday, November 12, 2005

advent blog coming soon ...

at the end of november advent - the beginning of the christian year begins, taking us to christmas.

ash beck and myself are hoping to get a group of people together to blog us through, reflecting on its meaning and helping us open our imaginations ...

so keep a look out ...

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Charlie and the Chocolate Family

The other night I saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Tim Burton-directed, Jonny Depp-starring blockbuster. What was interesting to observe is how much of Roald Dahl's book is now even more true than when he originaly wrote it in 1964: Augustus Gloop represents all the children with weight and poor diet problems; Vercua Salt represents all the children who know only the language of 'I want'; Violet Beauregarde represents all the children for who first place alone matters (encouraged by an education system that says results, degrees and top-earning jobs are life's only priority); and Mike Teavee all the children who are addicted to television and computer games.

What perhaps the Tim Burton film also brought out, intentionally or not, was the childishness of our adults, especially Willy Wonka. Willy Wonka represents all those adults who remain children. Perhaps more sad was the fact that Willy Wonka's childishness is, the film suggests, due to his father. It seems today everyone has a problem with their dad - or that is what the media (and the church?) would suggest. We never see good examples of good dads. To the point if you have no real problem with your dad, you are somehow strange

Monday, July 04, 2005

Edinburgh, 2/7/05

When we got to The Meadows, the place was packed. A little later, we saw that there was, in fact, another area with another stage that was as big as the bit we were in, which was more amazing. The media report there were 225,000 people in Edinburgh for the march, and I can well believe it.

Unlike Hannah, I was not suprised at the anti-G8 messages at the event. I knew in advance that Dissent! and G8Alternatives were going to be there, as well as the Clown Army and all the usual protest crowd. If you read IndyMedia regularly you get to know who is going to go to a protest, irrespective of what that protest is for. To me, I think there is a grain of truth in the idea that the G8 is essentially a part of the problem. It is a meeting of the leaders of the 8 richest countries in the world, and their aim is, first and foremost, to make sure it stays that way. To the anti-capitalist groups, that makes them the enemy.

However, I was disappointed by the amount of groups that were at the event for their own agendas. There was a vast amount of people who go to every British protest held, and frankly I don't think they remember what event they're at from one day to the next. They unfurl their CND and Peace and Anarchy! banners and march with everyone else, not quite knowing where they are or why they're there. There is a grain of truth in most of their claims, but this event is not about war, it's not about saying Bush is a terrorist and it's not about ousting the Imperial War Machine in favour of a Marxist utopia. It is simply about making poverty history; about making sure that we stand up and take responsibility for our brothers and sisters around the world who are dying, regularly, because of things that we wouldn't even take a day off work for.

What did touch me, though, was that there were more "normal" people there than there normally are at protests. Aside from the protest regulars and the odd few people that decided to go along because it was a nice day and all the shops were shut anyway, there were about 200,000 everyday folk. People that don't protest. People that have never been to a rally. People that don't spend their spare time tie-dying shirts and selling Ban the Bomb badges at car-boot sales.

These people were, for the most part, there because they've had enough of the global injustice that is extreme poverty. And, to me, this was amazing.

Being honest, getting to Edinburgh was a chore... I didn't do the driving, but it's a long old trek from Hertfordshire and it's quite uncomfortable and takes a fair bit of effort. The event wasn't too exciting. The closest we got to a celebrity was Billy Boyd, and the music bands I heard weren't especially to my taste. (Unfortunately I didn't see Baba Maal). It was good, and there was a happy atmosphere, but it was no Live8. And I think that is the point.

It's been quite sad to see most of the corporate media didn't report on Edinburgh much, if at all. As Hannah said, there would probably have been more coverage if things had got riotous. Indeed, look at BBC today and you'll see that is pretty much proven: The Carnival of Full Enjoyment taking place today and organised by the anti-capitalist groups, has enjoyed far more corporate coverage because it has enjoyed far more police intervention. Which is sad.

It is sad that, when I asked someone I know if he recorded Live8 he responded "yeah, but I cut out all the political bits to save space." It is sad that Live8, which is clearly run with the best intentions in the world, had overshadowed the real events this weekend in the Media.

My hope is that the leaders of the G8 notice the genuine attitude of the people at these events who are campaigning against poverty, and that they don't lose sight of the real issues in a sea of media gloss and revolutionary sub-agendas. There are other important issues to be addressed, such as climate change, but poverty is what it's really about right now, and this is no time to bring our other agendas into the mix.

Was it worth going? Undeniably.
Would I go again? Of course.
Will it have the effect desired? Let us pray.

Make Povery History: My Reflections

The event was quite a learning experience, never before had I been to something like this. I felt quite uncomfortable hearing some of the attitudes held by some of the people who had turned up at the event. Many people were voicing anti-G8 messages and using the event as an opportunity to express their opinions on the war in Iraq. Personally, I found this unhelpful and offensive. It upset me that the event was being hijacked and the focus for some people was not on “making poverty history”. Nevertheless, seeing such a huge turn out was very moving and it was clear who was there for the real cause.
We spent most of our time hearing about the work of the different organisations under the “make poverty history” banner and having the opportunity to make our concerns known to the G8 leaders. People were encouraged to write a message on a white band which would be sent to the G8 leaders. This is something that “The Lounge” had done with us the week before and so we were able to post their messages with ours.
Unfortunately, due to the large turn out we were unable to take part in the march. We had been queuing to do so for about an hour with little progress when the minute’s silence took place. I was feeling quite tired and getting quite impatient at this point. I felt trapped, as there was no other known way out of the venue. That minute reminded me why we were really there. It was not for our own personal gain. I thought of those who are imprisoned by poverty and have no escape. Parents struggling to feed their children and doing anything possible to earn the little money they can. Those people are tired; those people have something to be restless about.
Spending the day considering these issues and hearing about the work of the many organisations involved in “make poverty history” has encouraged me to challenge the way that I live and to get further involved in the campaign.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Lightning

Just realised I've been spelling it as "Lightening" forever and that is some term to do with late-pregnancy. How odd. Anyway, In the spirit of creativity, I decided to share with you all some of Nature's very own artistry.

Unfortunately, I missed some of the better attempts because I was in awe, and also because, after a while, the computer turned off in a breif power-surge and I didn't want to let it do that again... All these are from my webcam, which i stuck out the window and got a tad wet.




Monday, June 06, 2005

Spirituality Shopper

Check out channel 4 8pm tonight for Spirituality Shopper - Jonathan Edwards offers someone a chance to try out different religions. Should be interesting. More on website here and in this article from today's Guardian.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Revenge of the Sith: the Verdict

Oh dear! Revenge of the Sith is a film which lacks a credible story, characters and script. Anakain's turn to the dark side lacks reason. Poor old Padme is just not the character she was in the first Episode. The way the film opens lacks narrative. The film itself is prettying boring, because so much of what is said is so rubbish. Here was an opportunity for a great film, an exploration of why someone turns to evil and Lucas has blown it, too caught up in his self-created world to check whether the story actually works. There are of course some memorable moments, but the verdict is episodes I, II and III should never have been made, they are pale comparison to the early films. It's sad that some much money was wasted on something that doesn't live up to any of hype and potential promise. Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi are great films because Lucas did not write or direct them. Lucas should write the story and then someone else should have been brought in to turn the story into a coherent film with real characters.

I find myself in complete agreement with this review.

Poor old Helen - this was the first Star Wars film she's seen, I can't imagine, it will encourage her to see any others.

Does anyone want to defend the film?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Tony's Story

It was the last episode of 'The Monastery' tonight. Hopefully you might have seen it. Click here to read Tony's story. What do you make of it? Does the Rule of St Benedict have a point in our world today?

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Beach

Last week I acquired a fairly large sum of vouchers for WHSmith, and decided to treaat myself. They were doing one of those offers "3 DVDs for £18" was this one. Well I pounced on Spiderman and Spiderman II without a second thought, then had to choose a third. My friend got the only The Last Samuri left, so I grabbed The Beach. I vaguely remembered it being advertised a few years ago, and thought it might be worth a shot.

What I expected to see was a cross between Castaway and The Blue Lagoon with a suitable mix of post-modern pseudo-philosophy. It was not what I expected.

This was more a new-generation re-hash of Lord of the Flies mixed in with the hedonistic party-culture of the modern backpacking thrill seeker. An intersting film.

Spoilers from here.

The bit I want to focus on happens around 2-thirds in. Two of the party-lovers on "The Beach" are attacked by sharks whislt swimming. The residents of the Beach have a strict policy about the outside world, so if he wanted medical attention, the guy would have to be taken to the mainland... they would NOT allow medics onto the island. Being attacked by a shark made the guy fear water, so he refused to go. (the other guy was left to die, by the way).

A scene follows called "die quickly or get better". As the health of the man wanned, the residents became more and more dispondant that he was putting a downer on them and that they couldn't have fun while he was around. Eventually, they stick him in a tent in the forest and leave him. Only one of the islanders stays with him.

The main protagonist, Richard (Leonardo di Caprio), says "our actions would be easier to condemn if they hadn't worked. But they did... out of sight really was out of mind." The islanders, with no semblance of guilt, go back to their partying and dope-smoking.

Eventually, Richard's conscience and sensibilities return, but in many ways it is too late.

What is interesting about the story is the blatant disregard for others shown by those seeking the "ultimate adventure." There is very little conscience shown by the islanders until it is too late and things really start to hit the fan for them.

It's certainly an interesting insight into the human condition. Perhaps, to a far more credible and less exaggerated extent, we too put our own fulfilment before others at times. I think this film wants to tell us to change.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Mouse With Cheese



Mouse with Cheese



Here is a doodle I did today. I call it Mouse With Cheese. It is done in Bic blue biro, but my scanner only scans in pink so I made it grey.
It symbolises the greed of the western house-mouse: our overwhelmingly insatiable apetites and vast wealth which has ultimately led us into a life of dull greyness.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Monastery

This was BBC2 tonight and on for the enxt two tuesdays 9pm. A fascinating program. Check out the bbc webpages here for more. Did anyone else see it?

Monday, May 09, 2005

some thoughts on About A Boy

Nick Hornby is one of my favourite writers and I'm looking forward to getting hold of his new book which has just been published. Tonight I watch About A Boy, which I think is one of the best films I've ever seen (I've seen it several times now) - its such a brilliant story and apt for our times. Other on konnected I posted an article back in 2003 on the film. I've reproduced here for comment.

'no man is an island' : some thoughts on About A Boy

The film About A Boy begins with the main character Will Freeman (Hugh Grant) outlining his philosophy of life: '. . . And in my opinion all men are islands and what's more now's the time to be one. This is an island age. A hundred years ago, for instance, you had to depend on other people . . . I like to think I'm pretty cool. I like to think I'm Ibizia.'
The story is all about Will learning through his unique relationship with Marcus that we all need other people, or perhaps more theologically, we were created to be in relationship with other people, and to try and function as an individual is to go against what it is to be a person.

Will Freeman believes in the creed of individualism, that is, 'I only need myself to be myself'. Will thinks of himself as an 'island', detached, isolated and unconnected to any other persons: 'He didn't want to meet Imogen, or know who Barney was, and he didn't want to hear about Christine's tiredness, and there wasn't anything else to them anymore. He wouldn't be bothering with them again' (Nick Hornby, About A Boy, 1998, 17). We find Will isn't interested in other people, only in himself. Will doesn't like the intrusion of other people into life, especially a young boy like Marcus. He's happy by himself. As Colin Gunton has said: 'individualism is a non-relational creed, because it teaches that I do not need my neighbour to myself' (The One, the Three and the Many, 1993, 32).

The film follows Will's journey, through his relationship with Marcus, from a belief in individualism to recognising that other people are important and even necessary to being yourself. So halfway through the film Will is at Marcus' home for Christmas with Marcus' mum and an odd collection of guests. Will's voiceover says, 'as I sat there, I had a strange feeling. I was enjoying myself . . . But Christmas at Marcus' gave me a warm fuzzy feeling.' Will at this point is still unable to recognise that it is a sense of community, that is, of being with other people that is the cause of this enjoyment and warm fuzzy feeling. By the end of the film though, Will is having Christmas at his house and is surrounded by a group of friends and is even contemplating marriage(!) He says, 'Every man is an island. I stand by that. But, clearly, some men are part of island chains. Below the surface of the ocean they are actually connected.'

About A Boy teaches us the lesson that being in relationship with people is important, that we cannot exist by ourselves, we need 'backup' to use Marcus' final words in the film. In a world which believes and shouts 'I don't need anyone', the church needs to be a beacon - a light to the world - that we need other persons to be ourselves. A true community is one where the relationships enable and encourage people to be themselves. Why are relationships so important? Because this is what God is like. God is triune, by which I mean he is a community of loving relations - Father, Son and Spirit, and he has created us to participate (take part) in himself, in God. This is the image of God in us - a need for the other, meaning both God and other human persons. We are only truly ourselves when we are in relationship, or to put it another way, relationships - good and bad - make us who we are. Colin Gunton, the theologian quoted above, says 'it is an inescapable feature of our human situation that we are freed or enslaved by the way others love or hate us, thus enabling us to become or preventing us from becoming the people we were created to be'(The Christian Faith, 2002, 45). That is, relationships shape our identity, they allow us or inhibit us from being our true selves.

imaginative thinking

Imagination is such a hard thing to capture and utilize, now that I'm almost 20. When I was a child my mind was an oasis of fictional worlds, making up stories a thing of habit. Not knowing anything better, I would approach situations however I desired, regardless of how others had approached the same situation.

Now, after years of social conditioning, I have succumbed to the numbing of my mind. I am lethargic in exercising my imagination, and like a muscle that hasn't been used, it has wasted away. I find it much easier to sit back and let other people think for me, to tell me how best to lead my life. I watch tv to find out how best to parent my children in the future from the seemingly endless 'super nanny' programmes, how best to renovate my house, or tend my garden, cookery programmes and celebrity fit club to find out how to eat well and stay healthy. I read blogs from intelligent 'theological' people to discover interesting thinking that i can recount to my friends. When people ask for my opinion is struggle to remember what other people have said on the matter, whether it be from a sermon or another conversation, and retell it as best as i remember. I read reviews of films and music so that i have someone else's opinions to talk about rather than think for myself. Life is easy as I never have to rely on my own resources but can count on other people doing the hard work for me.

How I wish to be able to 'think outside the box', to approach a situation apart from the path laid out before me by everyone else's thinking. I want to be imaginative again and have my own opinions and thoughts. Time to start exercising that ability again!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Blair Road



Thanks Phil!

So another 4 years on Blair Road, although everyone saying it won't be the same kind of journey now his majority has been reduced. As this election been a good result for politics with imagination? I don't think so. I would have liked to have seen the Lib Dems win a few more seats - to have made some inroads into the Tories. Last night we saw a humbled Blair, Brown, Straw and Blunkett as they all promised to do some 'listening and learning'. We'll wait and see what happens.

Perhaps now we can turn this blog too other matters ...

Monday, May 02, 2005

Election Unspun

I don't know how much you've been involved with election fever and what's going on. I've just watched part of channel 4's 'election unspun' which I videoed last week (didn't watch it because I was doing my 'tv turnoff' week', but felt it was important program to watch so set the recorder). I'm glad I did, this was a revealing, if not scary discussion of the state of our political election. Click here for a write-up I found. I've decided none of the 3 parties deserve my vote, as none of them have any real ideology and are all playing consumer politics.

I'm hoping after Thursday, that this blog will take a different direction in terms of topics, but its important to get discuss this election.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Beware the Promise of Choice

I've been reading Lost Icons (2000) by Rowan Williams and the first chapter is concerned with childhood and choice and argues that as society we are given wider and wider choice, but are disabled from knowing how to make good choices. He wants "... to demythologise the goodness of choice" (47). This is hard-hitting in an election where all the main parties are promising to give us more and more choice. Political language here of 'choice' masks the reality that more choice for some, means less choice for others. The illusion of choice without limits is nothing more than a blantant lie. With more and more choice comes less and less freedom, especially when we are unable or disabled from ability to know how to make moral choices.

The language of "choice" goes with the language of "rights" and "consumption", there is no room or at least no articulation of "responsibilities" and "duties".

Regarding advertising he says: "all advertising tends to treat its public as children - tends, that is, to suggest that decisions can be made without cost or risk" (23)

Instead he believes we need to recognise that "real choice both expresses and curtails freedom - or rather it leads us further and further away from a picture of choice that presupposes a blank will looking out at a bundle of options like goods on a supermarket shelf" (32)

And that adult choices, are "adult" because they are choices with recognised consequences: "... adult choice implies a recognition that such a choice is weighty, potentially tragic, bound up with unseen futures for the agent and others agents" (47)

(Comments please, especially from the shy people who have not yet commented. If you're always making comments hold back at lets others have a chance first.)

Saturday, April 23, 2005

American Politics?

One thing I noticed last year when we were all watching the coverage of the US Presidential elections, was the role of the media. We've mentioned this already, but it is quite interesting that The Sun this week decided to actively support the Labour Party again. This means, of course, that they will launch damnable attacks on the other major parties in an attempt to make Labour look best via reductio ad absurdum: that is, making everyone else look absurd.

This tactic has already been employed by Blair and Brown this week:

"There will either be a Conservative government or a Labour government people wake up to on May 6, so that choice has now got to be made."

The chancellor, Gordon Brown, speaking in Edinburgh, warned a vote for the Lib Dems could let the Tories in through the "back door".

Mr Blair agreed, saying: "In these constituencies as I was saying earlier, votes are siphoned off that way. You end up with a Tory MP, and therefore, if there are enough of those people, a Tory government."
(The Guardian)

This is little more than a scare tactic. In America, it would be accurate, as there really are only two parties that can win: Republicans or Democrats. I'll spare you that rant.

It seems to me that the cheif tactic, as I have said before, in this election is "It's either me or him, and I'm better than him." Well let's remember that we have a different political system to the US, whatever The Sun would like us to think, whatever the Blair Administration would like us to think. We have choice. We don't have to vote for the lesser of two evils. There are over a hundred parties standing for election, and there will be at least 3 in your area, more if you live in a big area.

Let's ignore the rubbish in The Sun, who, let's face it, are looking after their own interests. As Peirce Morgan said on This Week on Thursday night, "Rupert Murdoch always backs the winner. He looks after his own interests." He's supporting Labour because he thinks they will win, and he wants to carry favour. This is why Fox et al. declared the elections for Bush twice in a row. We can leave conspiracy theories at the gate, and still see it's natural for someone with a reputation to want to hedge his bets with the winners instead of looking silly.

So once again, go and vote, and vote for whoever you want to win, not the party that will stop who you don't want to win from winning.

Friday, April 22, 2005

the need for imagination

It's me again. I was watching last night's Question Time and one member of the audience, during a discussion on crime, said he wanted to see more imagination used in tackling crime and punishment, and gave the specific example of restorative justice. It would be great to see one political party take this idea seriously and run with it. I really do believe we are unimaginative about tackling crime. We need to build community and a responsibility towards community. This was what Blair used to talked about in the mid-1990s before he became PM. It is unfortunate he throw it out and became so punitive-focused. Our society says you commit a crime you go to prison - we have know no ability to look at the topic in a different way - see abortion debate, the immigration debate, the education debate and health service debate. We need to help the public see imaginative ways of approaching and considering these issues.

On education, let's listen to Philip Pullman and the Archbishop of Canterbury, two people who are saying sensible things. On crime and punishment, let's take account of what's going on in New Zealand and also South Africa, in terms of restorative justice. On immigration, let's stop talking about immigrants or asylum seekers as statistics, but take into account that these are real people.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Christian Europe: RIP

There's article in today's Guardian that's called "Christian Europe: RIP". It argues that the new Pope will see the decline of Christianity in Europe. For many the idea of a Christian Europe ended quite a few years ago. There are books out now called 'post-christendom' and 'church after christendom.' The other thing is many christians in the church see this as not the problem that the media want it to be. Instead of the church trying to prop up the state it can recover more definitely its mission to the world, which my favourite theologian Stanley Hauerwas says, 'is to be the church'. For too long the church has been trying to be the world, that we've lost our distinctiveness and our purpose. So Christian Europe RIP, amen to that!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

'We've Ad Enough' : Adverts as prompts 1

The point of an advert is of course to make you buy something.
But are they also about making you buy into something too?

A story that highlights the power of adverts can be seen in the recent controversy over an ad campaign for Reebok, where the rapper 50 Cent laughs at escaping a police chase and being shot 9 times. Presumably owing to the death-defying power of his spanking new trainers.

Reebok says: "The... campaign is intended to be a positive and empowering celebration of this right of freedom of self expression, individuality and authenticity."

Which is an ironic way to describe a mass produced product.

Not only that, but MAG (Mothers Against Guns) are holding the advert (and the company) responsible for at least 3 gun-related crimes in South London the week that the ad aired. Scary, if it's true. But no doubt quite justified. I think TV affects us more than we realise (see the post on TV turnoff Week) and it's good to see that people have voiced their opposition to seeing a powerful company using such a [dodgy] role model to glamorize crime.

The fuss worked (albeit a little too late). The ASA launched an investigation and the ads were pulled. Their spokesman said "it's almost glorified that he's been shot 9 times. There's an emphasis on that, and it's almost seen to be cool."

As a sideline, anyone fancy blogging on the fact that the ad campaign was entitled 'I Am What I Am'?!

Monday, April 18, 2005

Paxman Interviews

This week will be three interviews by Jeremy Paxman with the three major political leaders. Today saw the first, with him interviewing Charles Kennedy in Liverpool.

I have to say, it was a complete waste of time. It was half an hour of Jeremy spouting off really random and ridiculous things for the sake of his own ego, and not really allowing Charles to answer. I shan't be watching any others.

What was clear was Jeremy's grasp of rhetoric compared with Kennedy. Jeremy was saying the most absurd things, but I can guarantee someone will think Charles is rubbish for not knowing the exact income of a nurse in Cardiff. Why anyone but a nurse in Cardiff would know this is really rather a mystery to me. An example:
"do you know the exact salary of a nurse in Cardiff charles?"
"well it's about..."
"you don't do you?"
"well, not exa..."
"well i'll tell you shall I charles? it's £20k pa. you know what that means don't you charles? it means you're a dirty rotten liar who doesn't know anything and isn't worthy to sit in my presence is what it means charles."
"well..."
"you can't answer that, can you charles?"
".."
"no, i thought not. now moving on to other areas of complete inadequacy, failure and self-contradiction..."

Completely pointless, got nothing out of it politically. Just half an hour of Jeremy asking Tabloid questions and talking over the response. Honestly, I think Ali G would have done a better job.

But rhetoric, refer back to Andy's post the Beauty of Language and the corresponding Guardian article and it's all very interesting. I think it's the so called journalists that have the grasp of rhetoric, and the party leaders have to just play with normal language... which makes them look more than a bit idiotic, but could make them look honest too. Who knows...

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Rainbow in Leeds


Rainbow in Leeds, April 2005

Getting political

Let's get political. Which party deserves our vote? Are you swayed by the personalities (Blair, Howard, Kennedy) or the policies? Is it an issue of trust or are the parties all the same?

I've written some musings here.

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Debate That Didn't Happen

Glancing through today's Guardian, I came across this article on the abortion debate that seems is not going to happen. It argues the debate should not be about whether abortion should be legal or illegal, but about why there are so many abortions each year.

Abortion is something we feel uncomfortable talking about and the debate is often so polarised in opinion between the pro-life and pro-choice lobbies that language suffers, but more importantly there is no room for dialogue and conversation.

Rowan Williams' article in The Sunday Times claimed, I think rightly, that 'the idea of raising the issues here is the first step towards a theocratic tyranny or a capitulation to some neanderthal Christian right (a jab at Christian Voice?) is alarmist nonsense.' He goes on to say that there is a 'seriousness of questions' and we should 'resist the pressure either to make them partisan or to shelve them respectully and indefinitely.' (Is the lack of desire for debate on this issue another sign of society numbs us from thinking?)

Stanley Hauerwas says, 'the irony of the abortion debate, as it now stands in our church and society, is that it frames the two groups, women and children, as enemies of one another' (The Hauerwas Reader, 2000, 605). He argues the Christian response to abortion is not about the rights of the foetus or the rights of the mother, but 'the responsibility of the whole Christian community to care for the "least of these"' (606). This reframes the debate into the kind of church to which we belong - that is, in the church we all belong to God, and perhaps more radical, we have no "rights" in a sense, rather we have "responsibilities" to every member of the church body. Hauerwas writes, 'as Christians ... we do not have the right to our bodies because when we are baptized we become members of one another; then we can tell one another what is we should and should not do with our bodies' (609).

He next points out 'the reason why people are pro-choice rather pro-abortion is that nobody really wants to be pro-abortion. The use of choice rather than abortion is a lingustic transformation that tries to avoid the reality of abortion' (610). Its a language thing (again!) - the language of 'choice' is favoured over abortion, because we know abortion is wrong.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Language: Learning the Rules of Engagement

One of my favourite characters in Philosophy is Wittgenstein, and most people who know me have realised I will try to talk about him whenever possible. You should be pleased to know that I shall keep this concise.

One of the areas Wittgenstein found himself most involved with in philosophy was language, and reading that last post, I think there is something that Wittgenstein can bring to the topic.

Wittgenstein theorised that language was a game played between players, and could not be private to one individual. In a nutshell, this says that all things are meaningful, provided they are said in the appropriate Language Game. You must understand the rules of the Game before you can properly play it. You could think of it such that each discipline has its own set of rules for discussion. A simple example would be that a zoologist who believes he is in a zoology department meeting will be appalled to hear the other participants talking of hitting wooden balls by swinging bats at them. Once he understood he was in a cricket club meeting, and understood what cricket was all about, the whole thing would make more sense to him.

Wittgenstein would probably say one shouldn't participate in a Language Game if we do not know the rules: we will confuse ourselves and others. Drawing on this, I think we can make a link to Andy's last post, The Beauty of Language. If we do not understand our language, and how it is used, then in many ways we are excluded from all kinds of debate, simply because we will not understand how they work. This is why, for example, most of the ancient Greek philosophers wrote books explaining the most important philosophical words, such as Plato's* Definitions.

In this coming election season, it is likely that politicians will start using the old devices of rhetoric to some extent. People who do not understand the rules of engagement will probably find themselves confused and excluded by the proceedings. Worst-case scenario: no one will vote!

It is important that we learn the rules of playing games with language: the rules of discussion, as well as those rules unique to political debate. Otherwise we could be in all kinds of trouble.


Notes
* Most scholars actually believe Plato did not write the Definitions, but it is accredited to him nonetheless. Back up

Thursday, April 07, 2005

the beauty of language

This article from today's Guardian is worth a read. It shows how our use of language has become unimaginative and we've lost something of the beauty of different words and their meanings and the use of rhetoric. For example, 'forward, not back' is completely unimaginative. I love language and words and reading a good sentence. We need to take our words seriously. We need to be imaginative in our writing.