It’s been a strange few days. Some of these links might have been shared before.

An article by Joseph Tainter.
Space and Time are NOT the reward for getting your priestly ministry done: they are the necessities for getting your priestly ministry done.
The importance of Evensong.
How the Tea Party organises without leaders.
The most spiritually literate films of… (follow links on bar on left)
The 50 funniest scenes in the history of film.
The habit forge

About the church magazine, and a bit more…

So. The Church magazine was dead on it’s feet a few years ago, before a friend picked up the editorship and managed to take it off life-support. For very good reasons, he is now wanting to concentrate on other things, and I have said that I will – in the very short term, ie between now and Christmas – take over that job.

Yet I look at the magazine and I wonder… why? Why do we keep it going?

We need to have a channel to distribute information to the congregation. Yet we already have a weekly pew-sheet and an e-mail circulation list. The number of people who actually rely on the magazine is pretty small, if any.

It’s not as if there is any prospect of it becoming a general interest magazine, which non-churchgoers would be happy to peruse (which happens in a different one of my parishes, and very successfully). I can see a way of working to build up the magazine with lots of interesting articles… but why? What would be the point? There is a general interest magazine/newspaper for the Island already, and actually I think it’s pretty good. More than that, I think that as a culture we are drowning in words and we really don’t need any more.

In addition, the job of being a magazine editor is pretty thankless, all things considered (and I’ve done it before, so I know what I’m talking about). If there was a proper budgeting of the enterprise – that is, one which included the cost of the labour involved to produce it – I have no doubt that it would be shown that the magazine runs at a significant loss.

So I wonder… why? What’s the point? Why don’t we just let the natural processes take their course and allow that particular expression of church communication to rest in peace?

And then I think: what’s the difference between church magazines and church as such?

Synecdoche, New York

Surreal, tragic, absorbing, brilliant.

I want to know: is this a portrait of a man destroyed by the fear of death – and thus a warning? Or is this the expression of the film-maker’s vision of life, in that it is Kaufman who has the tragic and self-destructive fear of death? If it is the former, then 5/5. If the latter then 4/5.

Highly recommended, for those who like films that aren’t run of the mill.

Roman Catholic Social Policy vs Sharia Law

I was shocked (shocked, I tell you, shocked!) by the Observer’s comment “I would take sharia law over roman catholic social policy.”

I find this unfathomable, and offer up this post so that people can have a natter about it, should they so desire. Here are a few thoughts to kick things off:

– I see catholic social theology as one of the glories of Christian thinking and practice. Whilst I have some minor disagreements with it (eg some aspects of sexual ethics – I disagree with Aquinas as to how to properly describe the telos of sexual behaviour) on the whole I find it a tremendously congenial place to stand;
– in contrast I see sharia law as profoundly iniquitous, not in theory (which I can understand) but in practice. To put it bluntly, the imposition of sharia law – not least if it threatened my daughters, eg their education – is something that I would have very few qualms about fighting…

Roughly speaking, it seems to me that if you have any desire for the full human flourishing for those who are not the dominant heterosexual males in a society, then the Catholic side of things has to be preferred.

Off you go 🙂

A few brief thoughts on Benedict’s visit

Didn’t get a chance to really share in it while it was happening, but followed at a distance and skimmed some of his speeches. I’m reasonably familiar with, and sympathetic to, his major themes. That being said, a few thoughts:

– Richard Dawkins has replaced Ian Paisley in his role as walk-on-nutter/rentaquote (see this);
– it was good to see Christians out in force, and we should do this much more often;
– I think the tide began to turn against secularism some time ago (in the academy, best part of 30 years ago) but often it takes a while for an event to crystallise understandings that have been brewing for a while. This visit may end up being seen, retrospectively, as the moment when ‘the tide turned’. He hasn’t got Gandalf’s voice, but I was reminded of this

(See also this)

And that’s all I have to say about that.
UPDATE: actually, reading this, I’m starting to think that his attitude is much more hostile than I realised. Hmmm.

My distinctive argument – I think…

(from my conversation with a publisher)

“With respect to the book proposal it seems to me that the major part of the conversation around ecological issues, both secular and theological, is structured around the dual questions of ‘what must we do and why must we do it?’ – with preserving the environment as the final end in view. I believe that is to spend too much time on symptomatic relief, and it does not address the more fundamental problem which is that we have turned away from God and forgotten what it means to live as a creature. Thus, for me, the solution to our predicament does not lie in any scheme which has as its final purpose the preservation of the environment. Rather, our foremost task is to learn again what it means to live as a human being, by following the example of the one who lived a fully human life (hence ‘Let us be Human’). The most important contribution that the church can make is to name the powers that are destroying us, to identify all the ways in which our civilisation has become disordered and which prevent us becoming fully human. In other words, it is discipleship that is lacking, not a particular program for planetary preservation. This has what might seem a surprising conclusion, but one that I mean with all seriousness: the God-given way to ‘save the planet’ is by celebrating the eucharist, and allowing it to form us. If we repent and return to faithful living then the environmental problems will resolve themselves (“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” – 2 Chronicles 7.14). I’m not aware (yet!) of anyone else who makes this argument.”

I’d be interested to know if someone else out there IS making this argument.

Film notes

Up in the Air: very enjoyable, moving, satisfyingly ambivalent ending 4.5/5
Slumdog Millionaire: wow! 5/5
Saw VI: I am a completist; I like the premise but not the execution (at least watching it at home meant I could fast forward certain sequences). 3/5

The ingredients of a mid-life crisis

On the one hand, several friends seem to be being liberated to pursue God in all sorts of exciting ways:
Joe down in Devon
Tess at Freeland
and another has just been appointed as Rector of this church in California.

That’s my theological and ecclesiological envy covered. On the other hand, my secular envy points out that many of my unversity peers and friends are now fully established as partners/senior managers in major global firms and earning six figure salaries (and yes, I know about the green grass and I harbour no illusions.)

So I am at one and the same time envious of those with lots of money, and also of those with absolutely no money. This is not a post about consistency of thought.

I guess it’s a sense of restlessness or dissatisfaction. Of not quite fitting in my seat. If only I could hear one way or another from a certain publisher.

Then again, perhaps it’s just time I bought a Porsche.

NB please note that sleeplessness played a small part in the composition of this post. Wrestling with another blinking cold played more. So I’m a bit grumpy ;o(

A line of thought

“God” is the label that we affix to what we believe to be most important.

For some, there is more than one God. Integrity is not possible in this context.

For some, there is no coherence in what is desired, merely a living moment to moment. There is no integrity possible here, in a more obvious manner.

For most, however, there is a desire for some sort of integrity, for the experience of a life knitted together and formed by the pursuit of a higher purpose.

It has to be a _higher_ purpose; our own wills and desires are not a sustainable diet and soon become jaded. In other words, in order to generate a life-long sense of vocation, personal growth, maturity in love etc etc there has to be something transcendent about what is pursued. Some sense that it has value independent of what any of us happen to think about it, even, perhaps essentially, that there needs to be some sort of internal struggle in order to attain or achieve what that value might be.

This is the spiritual path. This is learning to see the world truly. This is learning to desire one thing.

For some, that one thing may be completely secularly explainable – say, pursuing the agenda of Amnesty International whole-heartedly. Yet for any identifiable value I believe it fairly straightforward to generate situations where that identifiable value comes into conflict with other similar values.

It seems to me that it is only a religious tradition – specifically, it is only a religious tradition which has a place for the apophatic – that can generate the intellectual resources which enable the higher values to be pursued with integrity.

In other words, and succinctly, I do happen to believe that it is not possible to be “moral” (= pursue a path of personal integrity) without a properly formed belief in and worship of “God” (= transcendent source of value with intellectual tradition enabling the exploration of the same).