Evil suffers a (small) setback

This is going to be a bit of a rant, and I’ll probably wish I hadn’t written it tomorrow… BUT

I’m glad the News of the World is shutting down. I generally see the tabloid newspapers as being a physical embodiment of many of the worst aspects of human nature (and not just because I’ve been bitten by them, it long predates that). To put that in a less wordy fashion, I think the tabloids are evil. I think they serve the Enemy. And now, for one brief and no-doubt temporary moment, the bright white light of public scrutiny has been turned on to those who have caused or colluded in wickedness and we are revolted by what we see. Thank God we still have some moral substance in us.

No doubt there were good and conscientious Germans who worked hard for the Nazi regime and never personally murdered a Jew, but who were out of a job when the camps shut down. Yes, an extreme analogy, but the difference is only one of scale. Never forget that the Nazis were enabled to pursue their policies because they had first whipped up the scapegoating process, and it is precisely that evil scapegoating process that the tabloids specialise in.

So I am glad of heart. I don’t care that this will be cynically manipulated by Murdoch and that we will soon have the Sun seven days a week. For one brief moment evil has suffered a setback. Today is a good day.

Contrary to Scripture?

John Richardson left a comment on my Jeffrey John post arguing that JJ “teaches a position contrary to Scripture”. I don’t believe this to be true – or, rather, I believe that this way of characterising the debate begs the question at issue.

Take the eating of shellfish, which is described as an abomination in Leviticus 11. This prohibition is overturned in the New Testament, most especially through Peter’s vision and the subsequent discussion in Jerusalem (Acts 11).

Does this change represent a change of detail or a change of method? That is, is this simply a case of amending a law code, leaving everything else as it stands – and, therefore, the ‘structure of righteousness’ as it stands? Or is this a demonstration of a new kind of authority, ie accepting ‘it seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us’ as of higher authority than the written law? So the gathered church has the authority to determine what is acceptable to God and what is not?

To say that JJ’s teaching is ‘contrary to Scripture’ is to assume the first to be the case. That is, at the very least, a debatable point – but what I want to emphasise here is that arguing in the way that JJ does is NOT ‘contrary to Scripture’, it is to interpret Scripture in a different way, one which is at least as grounded in the long Christian tradition as the post-Reformation emphases. Does anyone else find it odd that the Christian tradition that has most emphasised ‘sola gratia’ is the one that is most insistent on a legalistic understanding of Scripture in this debate?

Jeffrey John

Came across this picture at Ruth Gledhill’s blog, and thought it very striking.

I greatly admire Jeffrey John. He is someone who has immense gifts which he has given to the church in loving service. In return he has been betrayed, abused and calumnied – and he has not given up. He continues to serve the church with loyalty, grace and dignity. He’s an example to all of us, and a bit of a hero for me. I hope that one day the CofE can get over itself sufficiently to let him exercise a greater degree of leadership.

I read this yesterday, and I suspect it lies behind John’s approach –

“I’m sure there are ministers who are treated abominably by churches, just as I am sure that there are churches that are treated abominably by ministers, but the former, at least, has never been my experience. We have so many continuing and precious friendships from both these churches and, indeed, from so many other churches that in less prominent ways have been part of our story. I have little patience with ministers who moan about churches: Jesus loved the Church and gave himself up on the Cross for the Church (Eph 5.25); the Church is precious to him and the Church should always be precious to us.” (John Colwell, ‘Why have you forsaken me?’)


Thinking a great deal about music at the moment, under many different aspects, and came across this poem in a wonderful collection given to me by a friend. This is by Rabia of Basra, translated by Daniel Ladinsky:

It acts like love – music,
it reaches towards the face, touches it, and tries to let you know
His promise: that all will be okay.
It acts like love – music, and
tells the feet, “You do not have to be so burdened.”
My body is covered with wounds
this world made,
but I still longed to kiss Him, even when God said,
“Could you also kiss the hand that caused
each scar,
for you will not find me until
you do.”
It does that – music – helps us
to forgive.

I’m still standing

Various bloggers taking a break.

My plans are the opposite.

I have various thoughts about where I want to take this main blog: it will continue on the autobiographical/ ministerial/ theological ramblings, but is likely to be a little sharper and (from September) more regular. I feel as if I’ve been retreating for quite some time, and now discover that my back is to the wall. So the only way is forwards. Onwards and up ’em.

My political stuff – which needs cordoning off in order to preserve polite relations with my friends – is here, and my plan is to write something considered once a week, most probably on Friday mornings.

My published articles (still Courier for now) are archived here – updated approximately once a fortnight.

Sermons and other talks will be posted here episodically.

They all have RSS feeds, please do subscribe…

Jack Reacher

Have just read the first two Jack Reacher novels. They’re good. They’re readable. The writer likes short sentences. He has to keep things moving. There will be gunfights. The hero will fall in love. And the hero moves on in the end.

Rocks and beer

This was chosen by a family at a funeral I took recently. Hadn’t come across it before, but I thought it was worth sharing…

A philosophy professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks, rocks about 2″ in diameter.

He then asked the students if the jar was full? They agreed that it was.
So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He then asked once more if the jar was full. This time the students were sure and they responded with a unanimous “YES!”

The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and proceeded to pour their entire contents into the jar — effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The rocks are the important things – your family, your partner, your health, your children, things that, if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car”.

The sand is everything else. The small stuff. “If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued “there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you”.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out dancing. Do something for the community. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal.

“Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers.”

Film notes

This covers two months

Prince Of Persia – 3/5 Fun
The Sorceror’s Apprentice – 3/5 Better than expected
Aliens in the Attic 3/5
The King’s Speech – 5/5 A better balanced and more thoroughly excellent film than I thought it might be; a little bit more than oscar-bait
The Time Traveller’s Wife – 3/5 – now I know where Russell Davies got his ideas from
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – 5/5 – wonderful and memorable. I liked it so much that I bought (and read) the trilogy it was based on. The next two are on order from LoveFilm.
Machete – 3/5 Silly
Race to Witch Mountain 3/5
Tamara Drewe 3/5 I want to give it more as there were some lovely moments but…
The Green Hornet 4/5 Did it for me
Monsters 5/5 One of the best sf/horror type films I’ve ever seen. Not perfect but a stunning achievement for $15k. We are the monsters – not an original idea but incredibly well executed. The only flaw was the occasional longueur, but I’m sure it will be one of my films of the year.
X-Men: First Class 4/5 Good, solid Marvel. Interplay between Eric and Charles gives it the extra point.
The Green Lantern 3/5 Competent, but it was DC…