Saturday, April 20, 2019

The End? The gospel (of Sherlock) according to John



Good Friday: 'The End'
Easter Sunday: God adds a question mark

Of course, the two characters in the final scene would have to be called John and Mary, the first two believers in the resurrection. I'm sure it's coincidence...

Happy Easter! Christ is risen!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

What to Boycott - Cut Out and Keep List for Celebrities

Brunei is late to the party, Saudi Arabia has had the death penalty for homosexuality, along with conversion from Islam to any other religion (Brunei just did that too but nobody noticed because it's not about sex), for as long as anyone can remember. Brunei has simply caught up with what a raft of hardline Islamic regimes have been doing for years.

I obviously don't need to point out the irony of Elton John using Twitter to promote a boycott of hotels owned by Brunei, when Twitter itself is part-owned by Saudi money.

So just to help Elton, George Clooney, and the couple of dozen other people who can afford to boycott the Dorchester hotel chain, here are some of the institutions supported by Saudi money in the UK, just to help you avoid them:

universities
Oxford University
Cambridge University
Durham University
Newcastle University
Exeter University
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
Edinburgh University
Dundee University
Bristol University
University College London
London School of Economics

Media and PR
The Independent
The Evening Standard
Vice
Freuds
Snapchat
Deezer
Virgin
Twitter
Snapcat
and several others

Industry and Commerce
BAE systems
Jersey Financial Services
HSBC
Uber
General Motors
Standard Chartered
The Savoy

It's also worth checking the money trail behind whichever Premier League football club you support. The UAE also has the death penalty for homosexuality, and 'apostasy' (conversion from Islam). Arsenal play at the Emirates stadium. Nobody has mentioned that. Strange.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Cambridge University goes on the 'avoid' list

Should university fees be paid to institutions which support censorship? The case of Jordan Peterson, a Canadian academic whose invitation to a visiting fellowship Cambridge was withdrawn via a tweet, highlights again the erosion of free speech in our supposed centres of academia. The vast majority of universities have restrictions speech or publications. At the acceptable end, I'd happily back anyone who didn't want sales of the Sun on their premises (until recently I'd have said the same about the Mail, it has moderated a bit under a new editor). At the unacceptable end is the 'no platforming' of speakers whose views are too difficult for tender liberal ears to listen to.

Universities are places of learning. Part of learning is working out how to defend your own ideas, and to critique those of other people. We have anti-terror laws to police the worst excesses of hate speech and incitement to violence. But hearing a view which makes you feel uncomfortable is not the same. As a Christian, I heard lots of things said at my university, many by lecturers, which I found offensive, insensitive or just difficult to hear. I even went to a debating society which featured Jacob Rees-Mogg and lost a robust debate on whether capital punishment should be brought back (you can guess which side he was on). But I'm glad we could debate it. It helped me think through my own position, and the arguments I used to back it up.

In a few years time I may become a 'customer' of one of these universities, what with being a parent of children at secondary school. I'm already composing a mental list of the ones I don't want to finance, if this is what they are going to do with the money. Cambridge has become a house of fools if it thinks the best way to advance learning is to no platform one of the leading public thinkers around. It's on the list.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Brexit: Pictures from an Alternative Aural Universe

first meaningful vole

second meaningful vole

third meaningful vole

indicative vole

cut-stems onion
peoples vole
gin rail all-action

There, I hope that makes sense of everything.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Trainee Youth Worker Opportunity in Yeovil

From September 2019 our churches are looking to take on a trainee youth worker, through South West Youth Ministries (SWYM), for 1-3 years. Details are here, and applications can be made through the SWYM website here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

If you thought Brexit was a mess.....

A British journalist is being interviewed by the police for 'misgendering' the child of a high profile transgender activist (update: the case also involves tweets labelling the treatment given to the child - not presently offered legally in the UK - as 'mutilation' and 'child abuse.'). The activist, Susie Green, runs Mermaids, a charity which supports young people who think they may be experiencing gender dysphoria, and also runs national campaigns and advocacy programmes. Mermaids recently received a £500k grant from the National Lottery which is now under review. Meanwhile the Tavistock Centre, the one specialist youth gender clinic in the UK, was subject to a critical report earlier this year, and questions have been raised about the quality of care for young people who are prescribed puberty blockers.

This is a deeply personal and potentially very distressing area. Research suggests that a significant percentage - possibly a majority - of teenagers who consider themselves to be born in the wrong body, no longer hold that view in adulthood. That still leaves a significant percentage for whom it is a settled reality that persists into adult life. At what stage is medical intervention wise, or justified? If adulthood may not fully kick in until you're 30, how long should people wait, or be made to wait? (Susie Green flew her child out to Thailand at age 16 for medical procedures not available in the UK, and for which Thailand has since raised the minimum age to 18). Are the other issues experienced by children with gender dysphoria related to it, or are they exacerbated by the isolation, bullying etc. which can go with being 'different'?

Unfortunately, like Brexit, this debate has taken on all the appearances of two pit bull terriers fighting over a rabbit. With a rapid rise in the number of referrals for childhood/adolescent gender dysphoria, and increased public profile (and debate - see the current issue in athletics over what categories trans athletes can compete in, or what prayers vicars are allowed to say with people who have transitioned), this is something which needs careful, evidence-based, serious discussion, not flame wars on social media and the police being called in on people who disagree with you.

Fewer of us are in, or grew up in, stable family relationships than previous generations. There is a higher level of sexual confusion, mental distress, and risky sexual behaviour than we have seen for generations. It's no longer possible to advocate a 'normal' or 'ideal' vision of sexuality, relationships and human thriving without being labelled as psychologically unbalanced (or 'phobic' to use the shorthand). Everything goes, and tolerance is the prime virtue. At one level, the flux gives us a chance to discuss previously taboo areas, at another the level of confusion makes it highly possible that we will botch things. Where mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing are at stake, we  - and especially those wrestling with questions about their gender identity - are not served by hysteria, prejudice and trench warfare, on either side of the discussion.

update: major piece in the Times about the Tavistock clinic (paywalled)

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

We're out of Cake

Brexit Metaphor of the Day



Having voted for 'no cake' and 'no death', John Bercow has informed Parliament that they won't be allowed another vote on the choice between them. Theresa May wants a further three months to decide between the two.

There is no majority in the house of commons which can agree whether the withdrawal agreement is actually cake, or whether it's death. Whatever it is, it will have run out by March 29th.

Jeremy Corbyn, whose 'cake tests' (is it a cake; are you sure it's a cake; can it be cut so that everyone has exactly the same size slice as everyone else) have been routinely ignored, now thinks there should be a national taste-off between the two options, except when he's asked about it, and then he doesn't. 

This metaphor is incoherent. Which makes it all the more suitable as a Brexit metaphor.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

A good day to bury bad priorities

Today the government is expected to announce continuing benefit freezes and tax cuts. On Friday Comic Relief will be asking us to donate to projects which deal with poverty and financial hardship, homelessness, mental illness, and providing hope and a future for young people.

I wonder if these 2 things are, in any way, related?

If the government is officially outsourcing the welfare state to the charitable sector, I'd rather they came out and said it rather than did it by stealth.