Saturday, July 12, 2003

Well It Made Me Laugh ...

"In 40 years time do you want to tell your grandchildren that you were clad in clogs, sitting by some poncey Italian lake or tell them stories of fighting three giant sausage eaters in a back street Magaluf bar......?"

Hijacked Again and Again ....

Following Rowan Williams call for a period of calm and reflection, (Loose) Canon Slee has responded by accusing Evangelicals of being the Taleban wing of the Church.
He obviously thinks homosexuals are in danger of being crushed under stone walls as happened in Afghanistan.

And Ruth Gledhill, Times religion correspondent, who seems to cheerlead for the liberal wing of the Church as Mary-Ann Sieghart cheerleads for New Labour, resurrects 'hijacking'.

Thank heavens Synod will soon be over and I can blog about something else, like what's happening to the RSPCA. Only the Tatchell protest to go - and here it is already !

He'll be back tomorrow I'm sure !

Friday, July 11, 2003

Vast Religious Conspiracy - An Evangelical Answer

Joel Edwards, of the Evangelical Alliance, in yesterday's Telegraph addresses three issues emphasised by Dr John's supporters.

To charges that the resistance to Dr. John's appointment was the work of a disaffected, unrepresentative minority (the 'hijack') he points out that "There are about two billion Christians in the world today, and at least 700 million are evangelicals. Most of these live in non-Western countries. By comparison, the worldwide Anglican communion is small: numbering 70 million, it is dwarfed by the global evangelical movement. Of course, some Anglicans - a clear majority, in fact - are themselves part of that movement."

On the idea that the Church in the Third World should defer to the greater wisdom and understanding of Western liberals:

"Liberals within the Church often call us to "listen to the voices of the Third World", but on the issue of homosexuality there has been apparent outrage that leaders from developing nations should suggest that if an appointment such as Jeffrey John's were to go ahead they might have to consider their position within the Anglican Communion. It suggests that when millions of believing Christians outside our shores hold fast to beliefs that don't fit Western pluralist assumptions, they are disregarded as outmoded and irrelevant."

And on Canon Slee's suggestion that Evangelicals are responsible for the seemingly inexorable decline in church attendance:

"There is evidence that a "Liberal Gospel" breeds decline, in the Church of England and other churches. The fact is that only a tiny minority of Christian denominations around the world have formally approved the ordination of practising homosexuals, same-sex blessings and other such measures. Two of the most notable examples are the United Church of Christ in America and the United Church of Canada. Since they adopted these policies, their membership has declined sharply. This gives the lie to the oft-quoted assumption that if the Church adapts to Western cultural trends on this matter people will come flocking through its doors."

This one will run and run, so let's turn our eyes from these somewhat sorry and ignominious facts and remember the great good the Church brings. As at a Pentecostal church in inner-city Birmingham, from the good doctor Dalrymple.

""But we are all sinners, Lord. Therefore we pray for forgiveness. We do not always follow Your ways, Lord; we are proud, we are stubborn, we want to go our own way. We think only of ourselves. That is why there is so much sin, so much robbery, so much violence, on our streets."

I recalled the faces of the young men in the prison now accused of murder: their hard, glittering, expressionless eyes—young men who recognized no law but their own desire of the moment. The old lady described (and explained) their radical egotism in a religious way.

Murmurs of assent were heard everywhere. It wasn't the police's fault, or racism's, or the system's, or capitalism's; it was the failure of sinners to acknowledge any moral authority higher than their personal whim. And in asserting this, the congregation was asserting its own freedom and dignity: poor and despised as its members might be, they were still human enough to decide for themselves between right and wrong. And they offered hope to others, too: for if a man chose to do evil, he could later elect, by an act of will, to do good. No one had to wait until there was perfect justice in the world, or all the circumstances were right, before he himself did good

Amen to that.

Vast Religious Conspiracy

It looks as if the BBC line on Canon Jeffrey John will follow yesterdays 'hijack' line - if this report (RealAudio link) on the Today programme is anything to go by.

Though to be fair the Bishop who spoke pointed out that the opposition To Canon John's appointment had been expressed by people from all sections of the Church. It was the BBCs Robert Pigott who was the conspiracy theorist.

Apparently a tightly knit group of religiously motivated men are organising to take over the church and change it. Of course this is the reverse (inverse ?) of the truth. The Church has dispproved of adultery in all its many and varied forms for quite a long time now, and it's the 'liberals' who are bent on change. Those who resist change have in some dioceses been expelled from the Church.

But I imagine the BBC will be able to run with this for quite a while. Organisations like Reform will be presented as the Militant Tendency and the cry will go up for a Neil Kinnock. Already Libby Purves in yesterdays Times has decided Rowan Williams is more of a Michael Foot.

"It would have been possible for him to tell the narrow-hearted evangelical rebels (in a kindly, humble and caring way) to go and boil their heads.

I have to say, I thought he might just do that. Rowan Williams seemed like a wild card, an inspirer, a holy man from the West come to revive the faith. Alas, the dreadful suspicion grows that he is just another Archbishop of Canterbury.

I would imagine Peter Tatchell and friends are planning some kind of spectacular for the General Synod.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Church Hijacked Again

Remarkable BBC R4 'Thought For The Day' this mornng by one Martin Palmer, Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education and Culture in Manchester, where BBC Religious Affairs are also based.

Apparently the Church has been hijacked again - by people who believe in good and evil.

After two thousand years of 'what's right for me' Christianity, evidenced by a mosaic featuring Jesus alongside Greek mythological figures, suddenly people are getting hung up about sin. A Nigerian Bishop even talked about 'Satan'.

Sometimes 'Thought For The Day' goes beyond parody.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Motorway Madness

One of the many things I hoped my Labour vote would get me in 1997 was an end to what Mrs Thatcher called 'the great car economy'. Labour had denounced the ever-increasing volume of vehicles and the ever-increasing roadbuilding programme. They stated categorically, for example that the Birmingham Northern Relief scheme would be abandoned.

In office it went ahead, as have many other schemes. So much more greenery is now under concrete. I particularly mourn the A465 from Glynneath to Neath, a magnficent valley now disfigured by four concrete lanes exactly in its centre. Work continues on making the entire length from Abergavenny to Swansea dual carriageway. Alright, so we might be in Gower 35 minutes earlier - but at what cost ?

Now look at this. If Swampy were alive he'd be turning in his grave as a 'massive' road building programme is announced.

And for what ? I guess the answer is 'to put off charging 'til after the next election'.

But why has Labour's public transport strategy failed ?

One issue consistently ignored by this joined-up government is the impact of crime and disorder on transport. Start with the no-brainer - that despite road accidents people feel safer in their cars than on public transport. There can be few Londoners who haven't had an unpleasant experience on the Tube or a bus. So people use their cars even when public transport is available. I still remember Steve 'Five Mistresses' Norris, then Tory transport minister, making disparaging remarks on the personal qualities of public transport users. More car use.

This factor extends much further.

You end up taking the kids to the edge-of-town MacDonalds on a Saturday, rather then the yob-infested town centre branch. More car use.

You drop the town centre shops for Cribbs Causeway (our nearest equivalent to that massive Essex shoperama) or Merry Hill. More car use.

You move (if you have the money) to some greenfield development or village, where you might still be burgled but neighbours from hell are much less likely. It's almost a badge of middle management where I work. More car use.

But don't worry, crime is sure to drop as our caring government teach citizenship and 'respect' to all children. I found this story particularly pathetic - and I generally admire the NAS/UWT.

And once the NSPCC get their way and disciplining children by smacking is abolished, then behaviour is sure to improve, just as it has in Scotland since the law there was changed.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

A Few More Website Rankings

Traffic Rank for (US): 4,203
Traffic Rank for (US): 4,720
Traffic Rank for 14,248
Traffic Rank for 47,991
Traffic Rank for 50,971
Traffic Rank for 90,481
Traffic Rank for 144,890
Traffic Rank for 237,244
Traffic Rank for 275,420
Traffic Rank for Weekly worker ( 558,972
Traffic Rank for 825,900
Hillary .....

I completely forgot to mention yesterday's Hillary Clinton Interview on R4's Today programme (she's also been reading her book on R4). She ran through the traditional story - vast right-wing conspiracy .... wealthy neo-conservatives .... 'the politics of personal destruction (copyright Neil Hamilton ?)' ... and only once did the interviewer sound a critical note, after she'd said that those who live by the sword will die by it.

'But he put the sword in his enemies hands, didn't he ?'. Hillary seemed nonplussed at this.

I'm not sure it was in the hands, actually. I thought it was putting his sword elsewhere that caused all the trouble.

BNP Website Shock Horror

Looking back at the archives I wonder if I haven't got some kind of BNP fixation - I think I probably have. Watching their rise is like witnessing from a high window an accident about to happen - you can't look away but wait with a kind of fascination for the inevitable collision. As I've said before, liberal hegemony (as Gramsci or Ralph Miliband would put it) on race matters is so absolute, and educated white self-hatred so prevalent, that I simply can't see them going away - because, in marketing-speak, they're meeting a need that no other party is attempting to meet.

Not a need to be racist (I'm sure that's met too, but I don't think that has a wide appeal), but a need to be proud of one's nation, to feel that you belong, have a culture, a history and a homeland.

Unexceptional for Iraqis, Palestinians, Irish ('Ourselves Alone'), Scots ('Whae's Like Us ?') or Zimbabweans - but for those who identify as British or English a very thin diet is provided. You should see my son's school history textbooks.

But whether or not you agree with the above, you would probably be surprised, as I was, to learn that the BNP site is the most popular UK political party site by far - twice as popular as the Labour Party, according to Alexa. Indeed, I was so surprised that, just like the BNP webmaster, I had to enter the urls myself and see if it really was true. It was.

But on reflection I could pull some threads together.

I visit the BNP site every week as part of a trawl through political sites like Weekly Worker (see - don't get me wrong - some of my best sites are left-wing), urban75, Fabians and stopwar. And I'd read the New Statesman if they didn't charge.

But I rarely if ever go to the Labour, Tory or LD sites. The difference being that there won't be any news on them. Weekly Worker will tell you who's slagging off whom on the Left, or carry a passionate denunciation of 100,000 anti-war lefties being led by a mullah in cries of 'Allahu Akbar !'. Stopwar has details of the latest actions at the Fairford perimeter fence. U75 has some of the funniest bulletin boards around.

And the BNP site gives news. The last time I read any political theory on the BNP site was when the Weekly Worker linked to it. And I hated it. But when the riots broke out in Wrexham the BBC was almost useless as a news source in terms of what had taken place and in what order.

When you find your children scrapping your first questions are 'What actually happened ? Who started it ?'. You try getting that data from this, entitled 'Complex Truth Behind Wrexham Riots'.

You could, if you checked several different pages on the BBC and Guardian sites, put together a story. The first day's trouble - an isolated incident followed by the trashing of a pub. You could read between the lines - would it be the locals trashing the Red Dragon ? And the second day - presumably the locals didn't take too kindly to their pub being trashed. Or you could go here (Parental Advisory - possible neo-Nazi content).

It's a shameful thing when national news organisations report news as some kind of morality play rather than telling us what happened. The coverage of this incident on the BBC was basically 'There's been a lot of trouble. The trouble was between locals and asylum seekers. Racism is bad.' That may all be true, but it ain't news coverage worthy of the name.

Similarly when the Oldham riots broke out only the BNP and the Guardian carried what now appears to be accepted as the truth about their genesis - that they were sparked by Stoke City thugs who acted most unpleasantly as they walked to Boundary Park on their way to a football match.

Just as the main political parties have aided the BNP by bequeathing them a swathe of political territory, so the mainstream media, in their desire not to report anything which may reflect badly on multiculturalism, are creating an alternative news source - the only news source which is a wholly owned subsdiary of a political party.

Bloggers, Web nerds and others like epolitix are keen to see the Web as a means of creating alternative political structures - but this may be a bit too alternative for them. What will they make of it ? Harry - what do you think ?

Monday, July 07, 2003

Church Sacrifices Gay Bishop

What a headline. I couldn't work out whether we were looking at an Abraham/Isaac scenario or a report of an ecclesiastical chess tournament.

The BBC Today programme, as ever, was quickest off the blocks in condemnation of this hideous act of homophobia. The interviewer actually seemed convinced that a small minority of anti-gay 'bigots' had moved the Church away from its historic acceptance of homosexuality in a sudden 'lurch to the right' - whereas this seems to me to be the opposite of the truth.

The Very Reverend Colin Slee of Southwark said on the programme "I think it is a catastrophe for the Church, mainly because there are many people who look at the Christian church and they see the extreme Evangelical churches and think that is certainly not for me, thank you very much.

"The people talk about empty churches. Empty churches may well be empty because of the image that we are presenting of narrowness and bigotry and prejudice. ".

Now that's possible - but the strange thing is that the Evangelical, Bible-based churches are the only part of the C of E with increasing congregations. It seems improbable that if the Evangelicals are driving good folk away their churches should be full. And I haven't heard of lockouts every time Richard Harries or Peter Selby (to name two of the Bishops most exercised by the oppression of gay clergy) get up to preach.

Perhaps St John The Divine is right - and this quote was also a favourite of Jerry Lee Lewis :

Rev. 3:15-16, "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth."

The Guardian and Independent are predictably outraged - and find it a great deal easier to abuse UK churchmen who hold to Biblical teaching than to probe too much into the real reason for Rasputin's about-turn - the threat of secession by overseas Anglicans - particularly Nigeria. I think Dr. Williams and his colleagues in Oxford, Southwark and Worcester would have been happy to split the Church in the UK - they just didn't fancy losing all those Asians and Africans.

Being Archbishop of Lagos must be a bugger of a job - le mot juste in this case. Your main competitors in the ecclesiastical market place are the radical Islamists - the sort of people who like nothing better than to kill a few hundred Christians in protest against Miss World - i.e. thirty women in bikinis. If the head of your 'corporation' is quite happy to state in public that uphill gardening is an acceptable hobby for a Bishop of the Church I can quite see this could present you with a marketing issue - perhaps even an issue of life or death for some of your flock.

So it wasn't surprising that the leader of 17 million Nigerian Anglicans was definitely not lukewarm on this one.

"The Most Rev Peter Akinola, the Archbishop of Nigeria, said of his schism warnings: “I wasn’t making threats, it was a statement of fact. We aren’t a Church of ‘anything goes’. We believe in the Scriptures, we believe there are boundaries. We believe that there are ‘don’ts’ and there are ‘dos’. "

But to Andrew Brown of the Times "it cannot be an entirely pleasant experience to find yourself in bed with the Archbishop of Lagos, even metaphorically". And for the Guardian it was an outrage that these uppity Nigerians should forget who pays the bills.

"While Africa has burgeoning numbers, it is the church in the west's money which has helped to support them. Liberals are exasperated that their churches should defer to bishops operating in vastly different societies." complained the Guardian's Religious Affairs Correspondent, Stephen Bates.

Strange then that Colin Slee should complain that Evangelicals "use monetary wealth as a tool ", and that the Times should report that "Church leaders’ fears about the appointment had grown when it became clear that threats from wealthy evangelical parishes to divert funds away from the diocese were real. Had parishes in other dioceses followed suit, the Church’s financial problems would have become crippling."

I think I've got that. Nigerians are obliged to obey their paymasters. UK liberals are not obliged to obey theirs.

Peter Cuthbertson considers the outcome 'a victory for the Church', but barring a miracle I think it's a rearguard action (le mot juste again) in a long and losing struggle. And I'm presuming he won't be at Holy Trinity Darlington this Sunday !