Thursday, 29 September 2011

Has failed to meet expectations

If you have ever attended a parents' evening - and I've sat on both sides of the table at different times, you'll be amused by this cartoon! However, it is more than just simple humour - many people must have felt this way!  Many were expecting the Messiah to be a great military leader, who would restore Israel to a position of power. What they had not expected was a lowly carpenter with  no weapons, no army, no status. Finally, being crucified is perhaps not what most people would see as the greatest measure of a successful life and career!

We should never forget that Jesus was a failure and that he didn't meet the standard. It is important because we can start to think more carefully about all the things we are told are worthwhile and rethink all our expectations.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Losing my religion

You may have heard that the band R.E.M have announced they are going to split. This was certainly news to me as I didn't know they were still together (!) but I immediately thought of some of their songs and in particular, "Losing my religion", a wonderful track full of  anguished lyrics such as, "That's me in the corner, that's me in the spotlight, losing my religion." Losing my religion is apparently an idiomatic phrase which means something like "at my wits end" and, according to the Internet, was inspired by attempts to grapple with a guitar chord rather than a Jacob-like wrestling match with the maker of the universe. However, there has to be more to it than that as a whole generation found a mystical focus in the song - yes, it said so on the Internet (who needs religion anyhow with such a source of infallible knowledge and wisdom at the click of a mouse...)
Well, I've done a little bit of questioning, doubting and journeying in terms of faith and religion over the years, so I decided to have a look at the lyrics. I couldn't quite make my mind up if they were  "profound" (the Internet told me so...) or " complete bollocks" (the humble opinion of a commenter on one thread I looked at), but they did seem to me to be about more than just breaking a nail on a guitar string. I felt there were two key strands in the song. The first is that our faith becomes poisoned when we cannot be ourselves with God, or when we think that we can hide from him,
"Every whisper, every waking hour, I'm choosing my confessions."
The idea that we can hide ourselves from God goes right back to Genesis when Adam first sins and is aware of his nakedness and tries to hide from God. Of course, it is futile to try to hide from God because he is all seeing, but I am not sure that is the point, the point is more that shame can cause us to hide from ourselves and to hide from God and it is only when we can be open and vulnerable with God  that we can understand ourselves to be loved completely and that we can have faith in ourselves and our potential for goodness as made in the divine image (I'm not saying REM was saying all that, you know, most of that is me being profound...)
The second idea that I noticed was very similar - the idea that to have faith we have to be able to trust that  God is good.  This is by no means as easy as it seems. The concluding lyrics of the song show a desire to believe in  a benevolent God, but a doubt and suspicion that overcome this:
" I thought that I heard you laughing, I thought that I heard you sing, I think I thought I heard you try... but that was just a dream... just a dream."
Does God laugh with us, or at us? Is his response to human suffering one of compassion - tears - or the laughter of a cruel or capricious deity? Given all the horrors of human existence, is the belief in a God of love a pipe dream that only the most misguided cling onto? It always affects me when I hear stories of people who have suffered great tragedy - the death of a child  is the most poignant example- who lose their faith. It affects me because I know that I cannot say, hand on heart, that I would not be the same, that I would not blame God and feel angry and disbelieving rather than cling to my faith.   I wonder how many of us could say the same?

Saturday, 17 September 2011

I'm sorry I am a Christian!

Does anyone else ever want to apologise - or at least explain?

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Strong views and " impartial advice"?

What struck me most was this statement,
" With such polarised views can either of these groups be truly said to be independent?"

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Nadine Dorries and abortion law

 I heard this evening that Nadine Dorries bill on abortion counselling had been defeated in the Commons and I thought this might be worth some comment. First of all, can I say that I am no supporter of Dorries, some of her proposals and attempts to change law on moral and social issues, such as her call for teenage girls (but not boys!) to be given lessons in abstinence, are on the lunatic fringe. However, I must confess that I am somewhat uneasy about the idea that abortion providers should be the sole source of counselling for women when those providers are set to profit financially from a decision in favour of a termination.

I have previously commented on an undercover report  that pro-life organisations are giving women factually misleading advice about abortion and using emotive tactics to pressurise them into making a decision not to terminate. If this is true, then it is clearly not acceptable. I do wonder how far it is even possible for a pro life organisation to offer truly impartial advice on this matter? Some might say that a "pro-choice" organisation, if it is truly concerned with allowing choice, might offer more impartiality - but this argument falls down when the pro-choice organisation is also the abortion provider and has a vested financial interest?

Surely women should be offered truly independent advice - it seems to me the only thing that is right in this situation? I am not sure I would wish to ban organisations such as Marie Stoppes offering counselling, nor to stop pro-life organisations offering counselling - but, in such cases, I would like it to be made clear to women exactly what the underlying ethos and involvement of each organisation is, and for them to be offered alternative, truly independent advice if they so wished.

I thought that Anne Milton, the Government's health provider's response was measured and judicious. Milton told MPs:
"The government is … supportive of the spirit of these amendments and we intend to bring forward proposals for regulations accordingly, but after consultation. Primary legislation is not only unnecessary but would deprive parliament of the opportunity to consider the detail of how this service would develop and evolve."
I hope the Government does bring in a requirement for women to be offered independent counselling. Yet I suspect that if the only solution were to offer such counselling at tax payer's expense they would fight shy of this move. At the very least, I hope that they bring in further regulations of abortion counselling. The decision to bring a child into the world is a very serious one with far reaching consequences, but this does not mean that the same is not also often true of a decision to terminate.

NB: Since writing this piece, I have realised that "independent advice" is not the same as "impartial advice." I realised this after doing some reading around in response to some comments on CareConfidential on this post. CareConfidential is "independent", but it is not impartial, it is pro-life (see video above.) When Dorries says she wants women to be offered independent advice, I think this is because she knows that most such independent charitable counselling  is pro-life. Marie Stopes alleges that many women have told them that such  organisations pressurised them to continue with a pregnancy and were not honest about their christian ethos. I have also read one article pointing out that Marie Stopes is not "profit making" in the way that Dorries seems to imply. Any profits must be ploughed back into the organisation, no individual benefits financially. Having said this, I am still dubious about an abortion provider offering counselling, even when the financial gain from a decision to terminate would be invested in the organistion. I'd like to see independent and impartial counselling available on the NHS. I don't think this will happen! Why? Well,  given the number of abortions carried out, the cost would be significant. Is reducing the number of abortions as much of an issue for our Government as reducing the number of underage pregnancies - well, you know the answers!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

In blog we trust!

A short time ago, while still in a state of shock at the demise of the much missed and lamented Church Mouse blog, I wrote about vanishing blog syndrome - you know, that let down feeling you experience when one of your favourite bloggers decides to hang up their boots and get back to their family and the real world? Well, that has happened to me quite a bit recently and I've decided that I need to be more ruthless in pruning and updating my blog list, for example deleting people who have not written a post for six months or more, and actively seeking out and adding new blogs.
Part of the process of blogging is not only to write your own blog but also to read the blogs that others write and to comment on them. Reading other blogs helps to keep you up to date with discussions or developments in the area you blog about, but, as Freda points out here,  it is  also essential to build up a blogging community, keep in touch and communicate. I have recently added to my sidebar list a recently started blog  Lost in the North, which is  written by someone I know personally (yes, I do mean in the real world!)  and  Blue Eyed Ennis, a blog that I have been reading regularly for some time and should really have linked to ages ago. I hope you will read these blogs and perhaps comment on them. In return, I would love to hear about the blogs you read regularly and would recommend.
Does anyone think I should apologise for the blog title? It is a dreadful pun, isn't it? And I've used it in a previous blog post. You'd think I'd have a bit more self respect - especially as Lesley is producing some lovely colourful graphs charting  the ups and downs of the female blogger according to Wikio!

News at home and abroad

This first fortnight back at work is pretty non-stop for me, and I have been vaguely aware of not being able to comment on new developments concerning the Anglican Covenant or the diocesan voting on women bishops.
There has been  more news from NZ ; this weekend both Auckland and Waiapu (East Coast North island) diocesan synods passed similar motions declining to support Clause 4 of the Covenant  and declaring that they saw no impediment to the ordination of someone in a commited same-sex relationship.
The two motions were passed by two thirds majorities in Auckland, and by 90% plus in Waiapu. You can read some analyis of the developments in New Zealand on Lesley's blog here and also an  article from the conservative Andrew Goddard suggesting that a reform of the instruments of Communion is needed to enable Clause 4 to be effective. I assume here that he would like to see the instruments have greater power to discipline and exclude - although he doesn't say as much. It seemed to sit rather uneasily alongside the news from NZ that indicates that TEC is far from being alone and isolated in its views.

  I have no idea whether the Church of England will support the Covenant. I have a hunch that we may, largely because not to do so might be perceived as an act of disloyalty to Rowan Williams.  I could well be wrong though - I hope I am. On another key issue, that of women bishops, matters seem to be proceeding apace. Worcester has just become the 12th Diocesan Synod to vote in favour of the Article 8 Women Bishop's legislation. However, a majority of diocesan synods must vote in favour. There are 44 dioceses so 23 favourable votes are required, meaning 11 dioceses must still vote in favour. Furthermore, it seems likely that in some Diocesan Synods a "following motion" will be proposed asking for even more provision for women bishops. The Church of England Evangelical Council has formulated one such motion. If the House of Bishops amends the legislation it will have to go back around the dioceses for debate and voting again, before coming back to General Synod for final approval. The most likely result, based on past voting patters,  is that General Synod will reject the amended legislation - although we do now have a different synod from when the addtional provision for those who will not accept women bishops was so resoundingly rejected.
The Worcester vote was by massive majorities in all 3 houses. (ie one cleric against and one abstaining and 3 laity against.)

Friday, 2 September 2011

Internet perils

It has been a busy week. As a colleague said to me, returning after the holidays is a bit like stepping into a pool of ice cold water. I had two non- work resolutions this week, one was to manage a trip to the gym, the other was to compose a mid week blog post. The blogging resolution fell by the wayside, but I mustered up the energy for a (short) session on the treadmill - I think on Wednesday evening. We went out for a meal (during which I almost fell asleep) on Thursday. Was that only yesterday? My memories of the whole week are starting to get a bit hazy...
Although I did not blog myself, I did find time to take a cursory glance at other blogs I read regularly. My attention was caught by a post on the e-Church blog in which Stuart seemed to suggest self harm could be akin to the sacraments - " blood as liquid emotion". The link was to an article entitled Self injury and the Sacraments by Stacey. I was a little dubious about the idea of self harm as sacrament, partly because self harm does seem to be a growing trend, and can have an unfortunate glamour. Can I be quite clear here that I am not unsympathetic to those who self harm, it is a well documented response to pain and trauma, I just think there may be dangers if it is dignified/ mystified as "sacramental" in some way.
Anyhow, it then emerged that Stacey had  also written a  rather offensive post  and as a result was receiving death threats and having her details published on antagonistic websites. The post  was most unedifying and really did say more about Stacey tendency to over react to supposed homosexuals than anything else, but the comments did also shock me and  made me think about the way the Internet  often brings out the worst in all of us. I am an enthusiastic blogger and I love the Internet, but the instantaneous and potentially anonymous nature of communication it affords can free us to to say and do things that we might otherwise hesitate over.
        Most schools have a  non bullying policy, but more and more they face the problem of how to deal with situations where a member of the school community bullies another through email or social networking sites. I have heard some awful stories on the news about young people driven to contemplate or commit suicide because of cyber bullying, sometimes involving targeted "hate pages" set up about them. Blogging is a slightly different field to social networking. Bloggers put their opinions,  which are sometimes controversial or provocative, out there for comment and , to an extent, should be able to carry the can. There are limits though; on the Internet, as in real life, we should not match hatred for hatred.
All in all, I was quite glad I'd prioritised the gym...