Thursday, November 25, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
More in-depth blog posting coming soon, I promise.
But in the meantime, (and in tribute to this week's announcement by the Pope about condoms) it's time for something completely different:
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Saturday, October 02, 2010
So the Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the United Reformed Church are asking people what they would say if they had their minute with our leaders in their My Minute campaign. Already we've had videos from award-winning comedian Milton Jones, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and our very own Revd John Wesley (aka Mark Topping).
So here's what I'd say...
What would you do with your minute? You can find advice for making your own video here.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
If there's one thing I can blame my big bro Jon for, it's my love of sci-fi. Admittedly, I'm not as fanatical as Jon - he's manged to turn his passion into his career. Not only is he Editor-in-Chief of Abaddon Books and Solaris Books, which publish sci-fi, fantasy and horror novels, last year he also published his first novel - The Call of Kerberos.
All this seems tremendously cool if, like me, you're more than just a little bit geeky.
So, here's in interview with Jon at the 2010 World Horror Convention in Brighton...
Thursday, July 08, 2010
Having initially thought that coming back to 'normal work' from Methodist Conference (see below) would give me time to take a breather, this week has shown me just how wrong I frequently am. Since returning from the Conference on Thursday, my colleagues and I have essentially been responding to the reactions to the Conference's decision to boycott goods from illegal Israeli settlements.
Many of these have been positive, some have been very negative (but respectful and measured in tone). A few have been downright rude, offensive and inconsiderate. All of the responses I have received have been heartfelt and genuine.
But journalist Marcus Dysch of the Jewish Chronicle wins the prize for the most innovative and positive solution to a decision that has shaken Jewish-Methodist relations - swapping Panini football stickers. Despite Marcus' grave concerns about the decision taken by the Conference, he's determined to keep some perspective on the issue:
"The everyday reality of life for Methodists, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and people of all religions is not motions and boycotts, protests and complaints, conferences and politics. Rather it is friendly cooperation, a sense of being people of faith in a world where increasingly people are not religious, and small acts of kindness... such as the swapping of football stickers."
Even though it is critical of the decision taken by the Conference, this is simply the nicest, most positive response I've seen so far.
Monday, July 05, 2010
But the one I cite most often (usually to myself, when having the 'must keep blogging' internal dialogue) is work. Working for the Methodist Church in Britain is a joy and a delight, but it also keeps me rather darn busy.
So, just to prove I've not just been sitting on my backside in front of Holby City (okay, I have a bit), here's a taster of what I've been up to over the last couple of weeks.
Methodist Conference is the big event of the year in my work calendar, and on Thursday I returned home from 10 days at this year's Conference in Portsmouth. The Conference was interesting, challenging and hard work.
We inducted our new President and Vice President, elected next year's, celebrated 150 years of Methodist Chaplaincy to the armed forces, talked about reducing the Church's carbon footprint, were blessed by a visit from the Archbishop of Canterbury, discussed whether to boycott goods from illegal Israeli settlements, confirmed plans for a new Methodist hymn collection and agreed to produce advice on cohabitation. (Most of these news releases were written by my brilliant colleague Karen).
Karen also wrote this excellent piece for the Guardian on the Israel Palestine debate.
I offered some reflections on Psalm 131 on the last day of Conference, which you can watch here.
The wonderful Church Mouse invited me to offer a round-up of Conference on his blog, which I rustled up on the way home, and you can read it here.
Monday, April 12, 2010
The other day I was discussing the blog post below (30 March) with a friend. I was saying how right I thought Pullman was on the issue of freedom of speech, and was a little surprised when my friend responded that he was against the principle of freedom of speech and thinks there should be legislation against it.
His argument went along these lines...
"Freedom of speech may well not be of particular concern when you're criticising groups that can easily defend themselves, but what about groups who don't have that ability? What about those who have neither the mental nor physical capacity to stick up for themselves?"
What about, for example, those who suffer from Downs' Syndrome? Last week, as part of his stand-up routine, 'comedian' Frankie Boyle apparently devoted five minutes to mocking Down's Syndrome sufferers, picking on their speech, clothing and hairstyles. He was subsequently challenged by Sharon and Keiron Smith, a couple in the audience who are the parents of a daughter who suffers from Down's Syndrome. Sharon speaks about how it offended her on her blog, in a post entitled 'Punching me in the face would have been preferable'.
She says, "I wish that I had managed to explain to them all why i was upset, to tell them how wrong the stereotypes about Down syndrome are. I wanted to show them how proud i am of my daughter, to tell them about how well she is doing at mainstream school. To show them the hundreds of pictures I have of her, so that they can see how pretty she is, that she wears pretty clothes and that she does not have bad hair... I wanted to break through their prejudices and to show how wrong the stereotypes are."
Fair point - so why do people like Boyle and those who laugh at jokes about vulnerable people think it's okay to do so? And, perhaps more importantly, why do we as audiences allow them to get away with it, rather than challenging them, as the Smiths did at the time?
As an aside, I do wonder why Sharon Smith was so shocked by Boyle's comments, when he's well known for bad-taste jokes on subjects ranging from paedophilia to mental illness. She comments, "I know talentless comedians like Jimmy Carr have a history and reputation of poking fun at people with disabilities, but I never expected it from Frankie Boyle."
Unfortunately, this seems a little naive - Boyle is notorious for his bad-taste jokes. But I really admire Smith for responding to him at the time and for her openness about the issue on her blog - not everyone is will risk embarrassment to stand up for what they believe in.
So, having considered the matter in greater depth, I have become a little more convinced by my friend's argument. In a sense, it's not really Pullman's point he's contending with. Pullman is right that Christians who are offended by his book are mostly able to respond and can take up the right of reply by way of protest. But not everyone has that ability, as Boyle's comments demonstrate. If the Smiths had not challenged him, no one would have done so on behalf of those suffering from Down's Syndrome.
I'm not necessarily in favour of censorship, and to be honest, I just don't know what the answer to this problem may be. But as I sit here on the fence, I wonder if perhaps it's long overdue that those who do have the capacity to stand up for people who are vulnerable make a stronger commitment to do so.
My friend’s point is that people simply won’t take that responsibility, and that therefore we actually need legislation against freedom of speech. I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s certainly given me food for thought.
It just seems far too easy to claim that freedom of speech is a good in and of itself - as someone who works in the media world, I'm certainly sympathetic to this view, but I'm not sure it's true. Surely it's what we choose to that freedom for that counts? Perhaps it's time for people to start taking more responsibility for the things they say, rather than defending their prejudices by claiming the protection of free speech.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
I doubt I shall agree with what Mr Pullman has to say in his new book (though I shouldn't judge too hastily and I hope I'll get chance to read it), but on this issue I think he hits the nail right on the head.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Thanks then to the lovely @WaltonAndy for suggesting that my first blog post of the year be concerning Pat Robertson's appalling comments about the tradgedy that struck Haiti on Tuesday.
Christian Today reports that during a broadcast of 'The 700 Club' on the Christian Broadcasting Network on Wednesday Robertson said that the enormous earthquake was the consequence of a curse on Haiti after its founding fathers made a 'pact to the Devil' in exchange for the country's independence from France.
I wish I were surprised. I wish we lived in a world where Christians didn't say this kind of thing after epic natural disasters. Obviously, the vast majority of Christians do not agree with Robertson and find his views not only offensive but entirely misrepresentative of the God of love and compassion.
But, loathsome as his views are, Pat Robertson is not the real problem here. I am certain that, had Robertson not come forward with this predictable rubbish, some other crazy Christian would have.
And in order to challenge views like those of Robertson, it takes more than an appeal to common sense. To simply dismiss Robertson's views is the easy way out, and in a way it treats them with the contempt they deserve. But I think there's a deeper issue that needs attention here. We cannot appeal to the standards of society to challenge those of Robertson's ilk, as these are not the terms on which they operate. Instead we must turn to serious theological engagement.
If, as Christians, we want to take the Bible seriously (and even a liberal like me hopes that we do) we have to deal with the less palatable images of God we find there. This particularly means that we need to engage with Old Testament texts like the Book of Judges in an open-minded way. If we fail to do so, we will never be able to challenge super-literalistic views of Robertson et al in a constructive way.
So, how do we marry the apparently vengeful, jealous God of the Old Testament with the loving Christ? And how do people of faith whose interpretations of the Bible are so far apart ever find a way to learn and grow together?