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Saturday, 30 July 2016

Of Corbyn and Williams (again)

Because I was trying to talk about the difference between their believers' views and reality in my last post, dear God-lovers, it appears I came across as very unfair to Rowan Williams. Which I regret. I think he is a decent man who was doing a terribly hard job for which he was unsuited.

Perhaps instead I should consider the difference between Rowan Williams and Jeremy Corbyn.

In short, one of them believes, without any evidence, in an imaginary future state where everybody is happy, and we are all looked after by an omnipotent yet benevolent disembodied force.

And the other used to be Archbishop of Canterbury.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Of Jeremy Corbyn and Rowan Williams

Another reflection from "That was the Church, That Was". 

Some of the text spins me off into my own reflection - I started wondering about the similarities between Rowan Williams and that other scruffy beard wearer, not mentioned in the book as far as I recall, Jeremy Corbyn. The popularity of both among their followers is unaccountable to me. I've never understood a single sentence of Williams's writing. I can cope with the individual words. I understand the meaning of nearly every individual word. But put them together into a six-page sentence and I 'm lost. Yet the people who like him, love him. You can't say a word against him. The word I used was "incomprehensible." People didn't like it. 

Likewise Corbyn. His cycling, I like. A solid workhorse, that bike. Good for the planet, good for the health, good for keeping plenty of space on the road. His bike is a winner. But ignoring the bike. His followers are convinced he's a genius who can save the UK. The rest of us consider him an utter liability to his party. 

Williams's letting down of Jeffrey John is investigated at great length in the book - and used as a mirror to his saintly, otherworldly image. Likewise Corbyn's followers see him as a great idealist. Yet the rest of us wonder about his dealings with Iran and the IRA. How can a man who is the leader of a great "progressive" party make broadcasts for a country where women are oppressed, dissent is stifled, prisoners are raped and tortured? (I'm going to say that I think Rowan was pushed into a corner on this whereas Corbyn, free from responsibility at the time, has no excuse). 

 So both our bearded heroes are responsible for leading their respective organisations into irrelevance and obscurity, while their followers think they're great. 

There are those who believe that the Labour party - or its grassroots supporters - are no longer a party. It has become a religious cult - investing its hopes in a bloke with a gray beard who can miraculously restore it to purity, regardless of what the real world thinks of it. If that's the case, maybe that gives us the clue to the Church of England. It's not meant to run society, or even align with society. It will break up into groups of increasing purity, increasing isolation. While the liberals will pat people's hands until they all die.And they'll read Rowan's poetry, obviously. He's a saint.

That Was the Church, That Was

And so, after the rumours and rumours of rumours, the book that didn't get published last time gets published this time.

What to say? It's a light read. Hilarious in places, sobering throughout. It has some scathing comments about the structure of the Church of England, about its leaders, about hypocrisy. It puts its finger accurately on a lot of things. 

But I'm left wondering. In a book this slim there's no room to investigate some of the real complexities of Anglicanism - the distinction, for instance, between theological and  social conservatism. The (socially) liberal angle from which it comes implies that, if only the C of E had adopted women's ministry and been open to gay people and their ministry earlier. it might not be in the state it is today - but, social science being an oxymoron, we simply don't know that. There is no scientific control - no alternative England where things were very different. To use the Scandinavian Lutheran churches as a control begs the question - so how come the US Episcopalians are in such decline? Or is the lesson we should learn that we should introduce a church tax so that people who never actually go to church at least think they belong? (Answer: No.) It may have been the right thing to do (although social conservatives would think it was the wrong thing) but would it have stopped the Church of England losing the English people (the subtitle of the book) - I doubt it.

There was one particularly jarring moment for me where a flippant comment about David Watson's test comes across as very crass and unfair.

But overall? Well worth a read. Excellently written, in a journalistic style, by Linda Woodhead and Andrew Brown. Challenging to the "evangelicalism a success, liberalism a failure" narrative. Challenging to the Church of England structures - where a democratic structure is prevailed over by a self-appointing elite, and where the ghosts of old initiatives still haunt the organisational machinery.  

Thursday, 28 July 2016

"Scented tea lights and Pebbles": the Punk Version

(To the tune and accent of "Sex and drugs and Rock and Roll")

Scented tea lights and pebbles
Is all my brain and body need
Scented tea lights and pebbles
Are very good indeed

Take your Daily Office and throw it out the window
Focus on your breathing , I've been there and I know
Hold hands in a circle, where did all the fun go?
If all you ever do is worship you don't like

Scented tea lights and pebbles
Is all my brain and body need
Scented tea lights and pebbles
Are very good indeed

Every act of worship ought to make you happy
Thinking about sad things makes you feel quite crappy
Sing an 80s chorus, they're quite happy-clappy
See my bodhran, its called Simon, I don't know how to play it.

Here's a little piece of advice
You're quite welcome it is free
Why not light yourself a candle?
Don't do "doing" if you can "be".

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Charles Rennie Mackintosh

People used to be very rude about Charles Rennie Mackintosh. But it never got him down.

It was just like water off a..... oh, never mind.

A Prayer for Those Who Have Spilt Coffee Grounds Upon a Worksurface

O, how many are my woes!

For the grounds of coffee have poured out like a river
and are like the grains of sand upon the sea shore.

If I reach down to the floor, they are there.
And if I reach up unto the highest cupboard they are there also.

If I had wings like an eagle or the strength of mighty Leviathan, I could not find them all.

If the sheets of kitchen roll were like unto the size of the Bayeux Tapestry and the absorbency of a giant nappy
even then could I not mop them all up.

So I will give up and go to work.

Maybe the Coffee Dregs Fairy will sort it while I'm out.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

A True Martyr

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.

Fr Jacques Hamel pray for us. 

Monday, 25 July 2016

Discerning Spiritual Animals

OK the results of this year's "Discerning Spiritual Animals" session are in.

4 meerkats
12 lemmings
1 red herring
3 lame ducks
6 ostriches
2 cockroaches
6 dingbats
1 pikachu
4 colly birds
3 french hens
2 turtle doves
1 partridge
1 wombat
1 raw prawn
1 steam locomotive

I'll admit, I'm disappointed. You hope people will have wild geese, dolphins, tigers and eagles. This is not such a good selection. But we'll work at it. And when I say work at it, I mean pretend we never did this pointless, pagan, hippy-dippy exercise. And never mention it again..

Sunday, 24 July 2016

A Concert for Debbie

For Northern friends of the Beaker Folk.

Debbie Hughes (later Peatman) was the Bible Scholar when I was at Brasenose College, Oxford. A woman who seemed to smile more, as a percentage of her life than, frankly, anyone else I ever saw. A woman who, when somebody caught fire at an Advent Carol service due to balancing too many books, candles and collection plates, ran after and comforted the person who set her hair on fire, rather than worrying about the mess all those candles, books, plates and coins made on the floor. She was that type of person.

In short, a wonderful woman and one who is very missed.

There's a concert in her memory - in support of St John's Hospice - on 13 September. Details are here. It's a good cause, she was a wonderful woman. I can only recommend. So that's what I will do.

(Debbie is top left in this picture. She is smiling, of course.)