Wednesday, February 11, 2015

British Values

40% of schoolgirls report being coerced into sexual activity by their boyfriends, and we release a film on Valentines Day telling us that submitting to male coercion and power is sexy.

On the 5th anniversary of the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, a £5.14bn deal is agreed to show premier league football on TV. That's enough to kit out every one of the nearly 4m refugees with tents, blankets, kitchen equipment, and have some spare for food. Our government is doing its bit, usually greeted with howls of protest for spending 'our' money on foreign aid.

We all champion free speech on Twitter, but at the beating heart of Britians secular deity there's not a lot of it about.

People like me complain about things on social media but do nothing practical to fix them. Blogging is the easy short-cut to feeling righteous....

Monday, February 09, 2015

50 Shades of Whitewash

"Your desire will be for your man and he will rule over you" (Gen 3:16)

These words summarise the brokenness in sexuality and male-female relations that follows the arrival of sin in the world. They aren't something to be celebrated, or repackaged as arousing and fun, or sold at the cinema or the bookstall for profit, they are to be mourned. 

Love is fully love when it lays down its life for the other person. That's why marriage is not a contract, signing up to do x in return for y, but a covenant, a solemn, mutual, unconditional lifelong promise. Call me old fashioned, but it's the only context where lovemaking makes sense. To give your body without giving your heart, mind, soul and strength is to fracture our sexuality from the rest of us.  

Desert Island Discs

This post has been sitting on the mental back burner for ages, and it's been impossible to make up my mind on the final lineup. To be honest, I still can't, so here is this weeks top 8. It'll probably change by next week, but for the moment...

Shriekback - Hand on My Heart
My brother 'built' a radio as a teenager, a real mongrel of a thing but it worked, and picked up Radio Luxembourg, Radio Hallam and the late night John Peel show, which I listened to when I was supposed to be sleeping. Peel was where I first heard Shriekbacks 'Lined Up', and when 'Hand on My Heart' just sneaked into the charts and was played in the top 40 rundown, I was straight out to Roulette Records in Sheffield to buy the LP, Jam Science. I ended up with a collection of just about everything Shriekback had ever released, including some (so I thought) extremely cool 12" singles. It felt even cooler that hardly anyone else had ever heard of them.

New Order - Crystal
Looking back, it was an awful gig, Sheffield Uni students union, New Order didn't even come on stage until about 10, by which time the hall was filled with drunken Mancunians. The band weren't in a great mood, but Peter Hook never is. But it wasn't enough to put me off. It's hard to pick a top tune, but this will do.

Newsboys - Breakfast
I'm not a Greenbelt groupie but hearing the Newsboys live there was a major highlight (along with Andy Hawthorne getting everyone doing 'Jumping in the House of God'). 'Christian' music has, by and large, been flaccid and uninspiring, you can't say that about this lot. The lyrics are great too "That day he bought those pine pyjamas/his cheque was good with God"

The Choir - Fine Fun Time
Another Greenbelt revelation, my first ever CD purchase (remember cassettes anyone?) and probably my favourite band. Consistently brilliant over 25 years, atmospheric, mysterious, and if I can't think what else to put on in the car, it's this lot. If you want a flavour, try Circle Slide, probably their best album (20 years old this month). Again, hard to pick a favourite, but this one always puts a spring in my step. Not an official video, just a random set of home movies, but it gets the spirit of the thing:

U2 - Gone
Like most people who converted to U2, I did so round about the Joshua Tree. They probably peaked with the next one, Achtung Baby, and every CD since has been a real mixed bag - but each with 2 or 3 classic tracks. My longlist of U2 songs for the desert island reaches about 20 (Zooropa, Acrobat, Magnificent, Every Breaking Wave, Invisible, Zoo Station, Red Hill Mining Town...), but Gone, from the Pop CD, clinches it. Couldn't find an official video, so here's a live version.

Thomas Tallis - Spem in Alium
Best to close your eyes for this, gorgeous, and the only 'classical' piece in here. Run close by the Jan Garbarek/Hilliard Ensemble 'Officium' CD for atmospheric choral music.

Moby - Lift Me Up
I got into Moby about 2 weeks before the rest of the world after hearing Natural Blues. His James Bond theme tune is superb, and so is this.

Jean Michel Jarre - Ethnicolor 1 (especially from 7:45, where it really takes off)
Alongside my more 'normal' early 80s stuff (Madness, The Smiths, Depeche Mode), I had a wad of Jarre and Tangerine Dream, and still put it on in the background if I need some 'wallpaper music' to help me concentrate. Jarre's stuff seemed to get more and more peculiar, this is a long way from the simplicity of Oxygene, and you'll probably hate it....

Honourable mentions:
The Smiths - How Soon is Now?
Kate Bush - Cloudbursting
Depeche Mode - Stripped
Saint Etienne - Like a Motorway
Deacon Blue - Will We Be Lovers
Black - Wonderful Life
Brian Doerkson - Creation Calls
The Teardrop Explodes - Reward
Dire Straits - Industrial Disease

Book: either Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson, or The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder.

Luxury item: a cricket bowling machine (and a set of balls and a bat)

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Do You Trust This Blogger?

Are we becoming more trusting? Some new research published at the Institute for Government (I can feel your pulse racing from here) on who we trust and how much. I was struck by the chart below, on how trust has changed over time (the catchily named Veracity Index, big version here so you can read the labels). Doctors and teachers remain at the top, politicians and journalists at the bottom, with clergy like me fighting it out with newsreaders and police. I was surprised we came out that high. Wonder where celebrity panel-show hosts would rank?

This next one's a bit clearer, a snapshot of who we trust at the moment. For the 25% of you who don't trust me to tell the truth, here's the original. Ha!

It would again be interesting to compare the general with the particular. Do you trust your doctor? Your childs' teacher? Your local vicar/pastor/priest? Your MP? Fiona Bruce? The estate agent who sold you your house/arranged your rental?

And whilst we're at it, do you trust your neighbours? Do you trust the internet provider which has logged the fact you're reading this? Do you trust the internet?

Do you trust yourself? Should the rest of us?

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Justin Welby on Wealth, Tax, Sin and Business

"I'm strongly in favour of the creativity of wealth and jobs and risk taking and all that goes with that," 

"[But] with wealth comes power and with power comes a temptation to misuse power. There's a reality of the human condition, which Christians call sin, what the Bible calls sin - don't misuse the power you have through wealth."

"But you don't throw the baby out with the bath water and say that business is bad, you say that there needs to be solidarity and that there needs to be a regulatory framework that does not allow the abuse of power but gives the freedom for creativity."

Justin Welby, interviewed by the BBC in advance of a speech this evening on the economy.

There's also a prod at the whole Boots boss/taxes saga 

"There has always been the principle that you pay the tax where you earn the money. If you earn the money in a country, the revenue service of that country needs to get a fair share of what you have earned."

update: here's the full text of the speech. 

update 2: the CofE's daily news digest has links to the media coverage of the speech, 

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Questions at the Pearly Gates

Stephen Fry has been in the news for a full and frank giving of views about what he'd say if he came face to face with God. As Krish Kandiah points out, he's not the first person to have asked these questions, and he won't be the last. (another good response by Madeleine Davies here)

Fry has probably got a much more robust conscience than I have. I'd be far more worried about what questions God would want to ask me.

A related but vaguely relevant aside: I heard the remark recently that the gates of heaven are made of pearl because they are a jewel which is formed through a process of suffering. Judging by Revelation (which we're working through at our church at the moment), most of those within the pearly gates will be those who have known suffering, and known God within it.

update: Pete Greig has also written a response, as has Red. Even Russell Brand has got involved, with a real curates egg of a piece, which combines serious argument with a fair dollop of postmodern spirituality. Having seen Brands piece, I find I'm more upset by Fry comments about Jesus than those about God. I guess it's because I don't recognise the God he describes, but to say that Jesus teachings are 'twee' and 'an insult to the human spirit'... I'm not really sure I want to say in print what I think about that.

and here's another response from Brother Ivo

and one at Christian Today from Ella Lloyd (which is a pseudonym): We all have reasons to be angry with God. Even those friends who I think are skipping around haven't got perfect lives. God has not granted anyone an easy ride. Anger is a healthy emotion and I am sure God is used to hearing it.

and Thou Shalt Not Question Stephen Fry at Fulcrum