Monday, 31 August 2009

Keep your kids out of a coven

Anglican Mainstream have today published an interview with a Mrs. Linda Harvey who is involved in Misson America, a non-profit organization whose purpose is to help in dealing with cultural issues such as feminism, homosexuality, education and New Age influences. Mrs. Harvey does not explain why the group wants to deal with education ( hmmm...) but she is concerned about the rising influence of witchcraft in our society ( as though gay priests, Islam and feminism and education weren't enough to be going on with!) Mrs. Harvey also warns that there are many sites on the internet where kids can "look up their nearest coven", she also helpfully explains why God has allowed Halloween to continue to be celebrated,
"the Lord has left Halloween alone to test us. For some reason God is allowing the work of Satan in the world today, and the devil has co-opted Halloween."
Now, I don't think it is at all healthy to get involved in the occult and, yes, young people can be easily drawn into unsavoury things, but this article was, I thought, further evidence ( if we needed it) that AM, despite its misleading name, firmly occupies the loony fringe of the Church of England.

If there are any C of E stalwarts out there who are concerned that their kids will end up in a coven, Mrs. Harvey says it may be because they do not have the full armour of God. You will be pleased to hear that you can encourage them by purchasing this armour of God dressing up kit. The girl's version is also nicely differentiated with a sort of veil, which should keep them out of feminism at the same time...

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Draw a pig personality test

In the spirit of all things porcine, click on the link below and you can find all about yourself by drawing a pig.

Hint: draw a really big tail on the pig ...

Pig sick

This is the time to reveal that my sense of humour is not sophisticated...( or had you already noticed?)

I called the Swine Flu hotline – all I got was crackling
I heard that the first symptom is that you come out in rashers.
Another is that you get the trotts.
I woke up with pig tails this morning … Should I be worried?
The doctor asked me how long I’d had the symptoms of Swine Flu. I said it must have been about a Weeeeeeeeeeeeeek!
Apparently my mate’s got Swine Flu but I think he’s just telling porkies!
The only known cure for Swine Flu in humans has been found to be theliberal application of oinkment.
Swine flu however, is not a problem for the pigs because they’re all going to be cured anyway!
News Flash …. This just in. The world’s religious leaders have issued a joint declaration that the Swine Flu pandemic is the start of the aporkalypse.
Swine flu has now mixed with bird flu. Scientists say they will find a cure when pigs fly.
This is not a time for panic. It is no pig deal. It is a mild hamdemic, don’t believe the spam you’re getting.

No, I didn't write them myself. Do you think I've got nothing better to do?

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The Locusts have been

Every few days during the Summer holiday, my younger son invites one or more friends around for a "sleepover." This involves a lot of noise, video games and bodies (eventually) asleep on sofas and floors. What also happens is that they invariably eat me out of house and home. Son and friend arrived home yesterday from town, raided the cupboard before consuming a large cooked meal ( courtesy of Mr.M.) They consumed a large quantity of horrible gummy sweets, against my advice. This morning they announced they were "starving" ( surprise me) and when asked how many sausages they wanted in their fry up, answered "ten." They got four - we do pay lip service to the obesity crisis in this house.
After breakfast ( and a few rounds of toast) they left to, "go up town, back later " , I started to tackle the large pile of washing up and discovered the biscuit tin, which I replenished only yesterday. It was empty.

I apprehensively await their return...

Sunday, 23 August 2009

England win the Ashes

Apparently, England have won the ashes against Australia and, according to my husband, this is a very significant event. Now, obviously, I am a girl and don't really understand about sport and all that, but Mr.M has suggested I get my priorities right and blog about something interesting and important for a change, instead of subjects such as faith , inclusion, equal rights for women, poetry and animals, which are "wussie things"( do you know, I think he's been listening to those Aussie men and getting all competitive.)
Anyhow, I listened to Mr. M's opinion on the matter (very rare) and I decided to submit to his leadership ( even rarer, but maybe I've been influenced by Piper - see below.) Well, the upshot is that I have posted this picture of the very photogenic Stuart Broad and Andrew Flintoff.
I do like the way that the clothes cricketers wear are always white, the colour really suits them and it looks so nice and fresh in the sunshine...
(NB: I am really quite proud of England for doing so well)
Will that do?

Word Association Game

I haven't done this for a while, but I need the light relief.
I say...and you think...

1. Disguised ::
2. Big wheel ::
3. Irritating ::
4. Care ::
5. Grandpa ::
6. Shooting ::
7. Sunglasses ::
8. Stampede ::
9. Painstakingly ::
10. Terrible position ::

My responses later!

For the bible tells me so...

Recently, I wrote that, "God, in man's hands can be a dangerous thing" and of course it follows that the bible and sacred texts can also be a dangerous thing. I came across this response from John Piper, published on Wednesday in response to the question, "What should a woman do if her husband is abusive." Now, my response to this would be 1. Be clear that it is not her fault ( abuse has an appalling effect on self esteem)2. Get some help and support to leave him if it is unlikely he will change - (and research suggests that violent men rarely change.)What I would NOT do is reach for the bible, unless it was to point out how far this man has departed from biblical teaching, such as the injunction to love their wives as Christ did the church - and be prepared to lay down their lives for her in Ephesians 5.

Piper however does not really see the abuse as the husband's problem, nor is there much evidence that he is really concerned about the very serious problem of domestic violence. Oh no, Piper's main interest - and I do mean interest - is what a wife would do if the husband's abuse involved wanting her to engage in group sex! and his advice that she should respond by saying something along the lines of "how lovely it would be if she was to be able to obey him, but unfortunately it would be disobeying Jesus - and Jesus is an even higher authority than her husband." Piper is also really concerned about how the wife is going to say," no" but still make it clear that she respects this man and submits him as her leader, he honestly seems to see the woman's continuing submission as the main matter to be resolved.If you think I am parodying this, just look at Piper's response! Does anyone know of a reputable psychologist he could see...or is this type of deep rooted misogyny simply incurable?
The picture above is of someone reading the bible with their head ( and heart) removed , because you know folks, it's not the bible that it the problem, it is the hearts and minds of those who read and interpret it.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Simply dishonest

The MCU ( Modern Churchpeople's union) have issued a response to both Rowan Williams and Tom Wright over the situation in the TEC. This strongly worded, but assertive rather than aggressive, response contains statements of such clarity, truth and precision that they would have had me saying, "ouch - that hurt" if they were directed at me.
MCU condemns William's and Wright's pronouncements on several grounds, but four extremely pertinent observations are made:

Pretence of consensus

First of all, MCU condemns both men for the pretence that there is a consensus on human sexuality, when in fact the Church is deeply divided, those who disagree with the views of Tom Wright are not in a minority and his position could be increasingly described as a minority view,
What Williams and Wright mean by 'consensus' is not in fact consensus at all; they make no attempt to appeal to a general agreement. They appeal instead to a few central authorities, chiefly Lambeth 1998, primates' meetings and the Windsor Report

Pretence of authority

Secondly, MCU points out the dubious position of Canterbury in that,
"Anglicanism does not have a papal magisterium...Yet Williams and Wright both write as though this authority was already there, already competent to discipline the Americans for disobeying instructions"


Thirdly, MCU highlights the dishonesty of the pronouncements by Wright and Williams,

Williams and Wright both insist that the church cannot bless same-sex unions and that people in homosexual partnerships cannot be ordained to the church's ministry. Yet both know that these things happen. What is the meaning of this 'cannot'?

The report points out the blindingly obvious, that "cannot" really means "ought not" - though of course to use the words "ought not" would reveal the hollowness and hypocrisy of the official position.


Finally, MCU examines both William's and Wright's seeming, "ignorance of the theological arguments" - though it is worth noting neither are likely to be ignorant of these - I would say the accusation of ignorance is more accurately a further accusation that they are dissembling.

So, if you look at the report it actually points out that the gentlemen in question are being ( believe it or not) dishonest.

Now, being the gentle soul I am, I would have hesititated to have gone for the jugular in this way when I can see that Williams, at least, is simply trying to hold everyone together through caution and appeasement, but I cannot fault MCU for the clarity with which they have exposed the flaws in William's and Wright's response.

Andrew Carey recently described Wright as,
" a theologian who demolishes weak, tendentious and dishonest theologies for breakfast while the rest of us are blearily chewing our Weetabix."

But had I found myself dissected with such brilliance at the breakfast table, I would have felt "demolished, tendentious and dishonest" and might well have had the decency to choke on the said Weetabix.

Perhaps it is open warfare - or at least some nasty in house squabbling may ensue.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Speaking out!

Public speaking comes top of the list of common fears and phobias, apparently many people say they fear it more than death, which is clearly an irrational response as death is pretty permanent and public speaking usually only lasts a few brief minutes. Although I would generally tend to opt for burbling in front of an audience over a brush with the final reaper, I have to admit that I am no exception to the usual run of humanity when it comes to this particular activity.

The technical term for fear of public speaking is glossophobia , a term which gives the condition a certain kudos to my mind! Symptoms include a dry mouth, racing heart, dizziness and some people faint or vomit - which at least gets your audience's attention. Popular wisdom tells us that the best way to tackle your fears is to meet them head on ( unless your fear just happens to be of an articulated lorry or a grisly bear, obviously...) so, a few years ago, in fear and trembling, I joined a public speaking club.
The result? Enormous fun! Loads of belly laughs ! - and a big boost to my self esteem.
For anyone who feels any anxiety about public speaking, wants to build confidence, loves socialising or really does just yearn to be the centre of attention ( look at ME, look at ME - yeah you know who you are, you egotists out there...) - I recommend the ASC ( Association of Speaker's Clubs.)
Featured are Marilyn ( picture at the top) and Jane, our publicist at our members' dinner yesterday.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Channel 4: Does God exist?

Channel 4 broadcast a thought provoking exploration of issues in faith and religion in its programme “Does God Exist” in which leaders or spokespersons for the various faiths answered some of the challenging questions that arise from their belief in a divine entity and purpose behind the universe.
Rowan Williams spoke of faith being, not so much knowledge that God exists as a trusting in something greater than the self, Jonathon Sacks spoke of seeing God in others and Tariq Ramadan of faith as a relationship between , “ my heart, my eyes and my understanding.” Interestingly, it was the Roman Catholic Archbishop, Vincent Nicholls who spoke most conventionally and “doctrinally” of a God with our fate in his hands to be approached through the crucified saviour.
It was on the tension between religious faith and social issues that some of the most telling observations arose. Jonathon Sacks spoke movingly of the problem that, “when religion dies” the “covenantal relationships” of love and mutual responsibility in society sometimes die or are diminished. One of the most striking images to me was of the “atheist bus” with its slogan, “There probably isn’t a God, now relax and enjoy your life.” The way that this slogan was juxtaposed against shots of drunken youths in city centres and newsreel reporting that , “teenage pregnancy rates are at their highest ever”, made the viewer question to what extent a secular society really is “enjoying” life and indeed whether enjoyment is any substitute for a sense of awe, wonder, place, purpose and love.
The programme was nothing if not even handed; indictments of the effects of religious belief were in plentiful supply. One of the saddest moments was the interview with a couple in Kenya. The man, who was HIV positive, had been told by the Catholic health centre that he must not use condoms, even though this might put the life of his uninfected wife at risk. The commentator spoke of the dogma that ignores the reality of the human condition and an awareness of the tendency of religious belief to bolster injustice or lead directly to cruelty and atrocity was uncomfortably present in much of the programme. The documentary concluded by asking whether the benefits of religion are attributable to, “God’s guiding hand or the human spirit at its best?”
Overall, the experience of watching “Does God exist?” led me to reflect that man without God loses the fullness of his humanity, but that, at the same time, in man’s hands, God is a dangerous thing.

A real Winner!

The beautiful doggie pictured in all her glory above is Fleur , sister of Bessie, our adorable West Highland terrier. Bessie was one of a litter of six, one dog and five bitches and Fleur was kept on by her breeders, Dot and Dave Dingle, who show their lovely dogs. Fleur is a bit of a star and was awarded "Best Breed" at the Wigan show this year and I may be biased but I can see why. The other picture is of Dot with Fleur in a line up and they are second from the left.

I will post another picture of Bessie sometime in the near future ( you can find an earlier post on her by clicking on the "dogs" tag below) , but first ...confession time...she will have to be bathed and groomed as she is rather partial to rolling
in the mud, or in puddles when out walking, or to digging in our garden - she likes to "help" when I am doing the flower borders.

At the moment she is not quite as pristine white as a white West Highland terrier perhaps ought to be and I don't think she would win any prizes, but she does scrub up nicely - and we all love her to bits...

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

A Christian Nation?

One of the issues that has been in the press on and off over the last few months is whether Britain is still a Christian nation or whether there is a rising tide, not just of apathy but downright hostility to Christianity. Cases such as that of Caroline Petrie, the nurse who was suspended for praying with a patient, have prompted some to ask whether Christians are in a persecuted minority ( for the record I think this is overstating the case somewhat!)
This week, Gordon Brown has spoken out saying that “Britain is still a Christian nation” and that people should not be afraid to express their faith in the workplace ( along with statements such as, "the economy is well on the way to recovery" and “Labour will win the General Election”...that’s it then, the future of Britain as a Christian nation is doomed...)
I am not going to comment on this topic in detail, although I may well at a later date, but while reading Gordon’s comments, I noticed an article proving that discrimination against non-Christians is alive and kicking on the other side of the pond...
Denny’s, a diner in Texas, has decided to offer discounts to church goers. Anyone who brings in their Sunday service sheet to prove they have attended, is entitled to a 10% discount off the price of a meal. Apparently, this practice is not that uncommon in certain states but in this instance a non- churchgoing customer made a complaint to the manager. Allegedly, when the outraged atheist asked for a 10% discount on the grounds of religious discrimination, he was told (sorry, I love this bit...),

“it’s not for you, it’s only for people who go to church.”

I tried to imagine this scenario in Britain and, although I wanted to have some deep thoughts, somehow I couldn’t get past wondering what would Richard Dawkins do?

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Open warfare?

Ruth Gledhill in her Times blog, has claimed that there is a declaration of warfare in the Anglican Church This rather dramatic claim has been prompted by the joint statement by thirteen groups challenging the Archbishop of Canterbury’s reflections on the convention in Anaheim. Apparently, those working for LGBT inclusion are to carry out a survey of priests in same sex relationships, whether closeted or not, ( some estimates say this describes 20% of priests in the London area.) It will also reveal how many priests have conducted same sex blessings, reputedly hundreds, despite the hue and cry over the “first” gay “wedding” service last year. The aim of this survey, one presumes, is so that we can all see “the facts in place” and so recognise the hypocrisy of the Church’s official position ( as though we hadn’t anyway...)

There is also a claim ( by Jonathon Wynne Jones in The Telegraph - below) that the TEC is to “plant” liberal churches in the UK, rather as the FCA is planning to “plant” conservative ones.
What needs to be taken into account is that Gledhill and Wynne Jones are both... journalists and therefore they want there to be open warfare, or at least, something dramatic enough for them to write startling headlines about. In reality, the British media and the majority of church going people, either do not care, or do not know about events in the TEC and will not raise an eyebrow- until the TEC ordains its next gay bishop (which according to some sources could be quite soon.) Most of the warfare in your average church is probably still about the flower arranging rota or who runs what and the main concern of most at the moment is more likely to focus on the chalice sharing and hand washing case we all die of flu...

Now I am not saying that the Anglican communion is not in a mess ( it is) but rather than “planting “ churches, maybe everyone should be trying to get a few more bodies ( preferably live) into the ones we’ve already got. Schism (if the limping, mutilated process of walking in different directions can be dignified by that name) has already happened / is happening. It’s just that most of us, in Britain anyway, either haven’t noticed or haven’t cared.

It feels a bit like at Christmas when you watch Titanic for the umpteenth time ... wake me up when it hits the iceberg...

Friday, 7 August 2009

Christina Rossetti - Goblin Market and the flint that held fire.

I am still working my way through The Selected Poems of Christina Rossetti and feel I have to comment on her remarkable Goblin Market. Many of you will know this famous work , but if you don't, you have missed out! A narrative fairy tale, this work is one of the most sensual and carnal explorations of sexual temptation and repression, and abandonment to erotic desire.

It tells the story of two sisters, Lizzie and Laura, who hear the cries of goblin men on their way to market. The fruit they offer is described sensually, " plump, unpecked cherries" and "Bloom-down-cheeked peaches". Lizzie warns that, " their evil gifts would harm us" but Laura is unable to resist temptation ; Eve- like, Laura eats the fruit and the language Rossetti uses - well, you judge,

"She sucked their fruit globes fair or red.
Sweeter than honey from the rock,
Stronger than man -rejoicing wine,
Clearer than water flowed that juice;
She never tasted such before
She sucked and sucked and sucked the more
Fruits which that unknown orchard bore;
She sucked until her lips were sore."

The above is by no means the only section of the poem that has sexual connotations. Unsurprisingly, after this encounter Laura remains under the spell of the goblin men and Lizzie has to save her by encountering the goblin men to barter for her sister's release. In a section reminiscent of rape and also of Christ's sacrifice and passion, the goblins hold Lizzie down, scratch her, tear her clothes and try to force her to eat, while she resists them, "Like a royal virgin town." Lizzie returns to Laura and offers her body to her, an act often seen by literary critics as analogous to the intensity of the communion meal,
" Laura - eat me, drink me, love me/ Laura make much of me/ For your sake I have braved the glen/ and had to do with goblin men."

Many readers have expressed amazement that Rossetti, an unmarried woman, intensely religious, should write such a sensual and revealing poem, however I see Rossetti's capacity for religious devotion as an integral part of her passionate and intense nature.

A short poem from Sing Song ( written ,apparently, when she had finally turned her back on love) I see as a metaphor for Rossetti herself. I think Rossetti is the flint, a stone that seems dull and insignificant , but contains more potential for heat and fire than those stones which sparkle.

An emerald is as green as grass;
A ruby red as blood;
A sapphire shines as blue as heaven;
A flint lies in the mud.

A diamond is a brilliant stone,
To catch the world's desire;
An opal holds a fiery spark;
But a flint holds fire.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Pure Poetry

I spent most of yesterday working ( yes, that is what teachers do during the Summer holidays...) I have three schemes of work to put together over the Summer break and am currently working on the poetry of the Victorian poet Christina Rossetti, sister of the Pre-Raphaelite painter, Dante Rossetti. Rossetti's most famous poems include the popular carol, "In the bleak mid winter" and the poem, "Remember" - sometimes used in condolence cards and at funerals.


Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
you tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; you understand
it will be late to counsel then or pray.
yet if you should forget me for a while
and afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

Poems written by people to be read after their death are, I think, particularly compelling ; although we know they are written by the living, we seem to hear the voice of the dead speaking from beyond the grave - you can't get much more arresting than that and I can think of several English poets who use the same tactic, from Owen to McCrae.

This poem begins with an imperative, an order to remember and there is a real sense of the speaking voice, intimate and warm and of the thought process of the poet. The lines are beautifully crafted to catch every nuance of thought and emotion and all of Rossetti's verse works best when read aloud or " heard " in reading - try it. Remember is also a gracious poem, which asks us to remember and to grieve, yet gives us permission to forget and be happy. It is a poem which is about thought and emotion rather than imagery - but the very simple pictures that are brought to mind, especially the picture of the narrator "half turning " or "holding hands" reinforce the ordinary things that are lost but which, in retrospect, mean everything.

Some people might see this poem as sentimental, I don't.