Notepad on Life

May 8, 2018

Calling all clergy…

Filed under: Church,Religion — - @ 12:30 pm
Tags: ,

A little sermon fodder for you.

Sunday morning, on my way home after communion, I see a man leaning on the church wall, resting his Lotto card against its pale stonework while he scrubs off the silver panels with the edge of a coin.

There has to be a metaphor in there somewhere. Go to it.


April 30, 2018

Pamela Geller and shooting the messenger

Filed under: Religion,Women — - @ 1:30 pm
Tags: , ,

pexels-photo-433077.jpegI suppose I should be grateful. My company held on longer than most when it came to freedom of speech. This week, alas, it decided it could hold on no longer. Access to Pamela Geller’s website has been blocked.

For those of you new to the game, let me tell you about Ms Geller and her jihad-monitoring Geller Report. She has her faults.

In her quest to bring creeping Islamisation and its angrier manifestations to the attention of a wider audience, she can occasionally let her zeal run away with her, pinning blame on jihad for attacks while we still await police identification of  a culprit. That’s not to say that her hunches are never borne out, but it’s a flaw nonetheless. One that is dwarfed, however, by the essence of her website, which she has said on several occasions, is not anti-muslim but anti-jihad.

Contrary to her critics, who would have you see her as some fantasist loon, fulminating off the top of her head with what she writes, her daily posts are nearly always based around a hard news story from global press sources.

And in all the loathing and criticism she attracts, I am yet to hear one of her detractors protest that those news stories are either untrue or exaggerated. In their haste to get to the messenger, the message is lost underfoot.

No doubt my employers think they are ‘helping’. It’s what they might be helping that worries me.


April 1, 2018

Southern ban and the myth of ‘They will never defeat us’

pexels-photo-64057.jpegIt seems draconian to the point of comic. A lifetime ban from British shores for having an ‘unhelpful’ opinion.

Not for extolling violence against people or property, but because the person concerned wasn’t thinking right.

Such was the fate of Canadian activist Lauren Southern, who was inspired by an article suggesting that Jesus was gay, to postulate a similar theory concerning Allah, by way of handing out leaflets to that effect in the English town of Luton, which has a substantial muslim community.

It’s mischief-making, and in one sense I would suggest that Southern might have better things to do with her time. From another angle, however, it is a social experiment that shines an unflattering light on Britain’s claims to both a true democracy and a system of law and order that applies to all, without fear or favour.

There is no call to arms from the Canadian, as she begins to attract an audience. As far as the video evidence shows, no-one in the crowd is put in fear of violence. In a land supposedly all about free speech, Southern simply puts forward a theory. As does Ricky Gervais, seconds into his latest Netflix offering (“[I’m] like Jesus…but better…I’ve actually turned up…”). As did Woolworths with its Woolworths is Christmas ads of 30 years ago. As do the people behind this sartorial insight, happily hosted by Amazon.

While I doubt anyone in those last three examples has lost much sleep over a visit from the police, however, Ms Southern doesn’t get off so lightly, because Ms Southern is asking questions about the ‘wrong’ religion.

The reaction of the police to her Luton adventure is telling. People grow angry at someone’s free speech, and police focus is not on the angry, but on the individual who has made them that way. For all the succour this gives to mob rule, I don’t blame the police here: they are but pawns in a bigger game, and while some of them might also wonder where this supposed bastion of free speech is headed, they have mortgages to pay like the rest of us.

Now Lauren Southern is gone from these shores for good, and if you think that is a good thing, you’re missing the point. What she did was simply designed to highlight a valid question – in a secular society, why does Islamic antipathy towards homosexuality trump the right of gay people to self-expression? The System came after her for her point of view; what if it comes after you for yours?

So much is cack-handed about this episode, from the misplaced focus of the police to the otiose labelling of anyone unimpressed by a popular narrative as ‘far right’ but it is the fear of our elected leaders that shines brightest.

The UK Establishment is terrified of Islam. Any other religion is left to roll with the punches, but Islam must be safeguarded at all costs, because those in power don’t have a stomach for the ruckus that often ensues when it isn’t. Only from the viewpoint of expediency does this resemble a plan.

Viewed any other way, it is at best a sell-out of the very freedoms of which politicians love to boast, at worst a vacuum of dithering inequity that inevitably sucks in genuine far-right factions, to the benefit of no-one.

Either all religions are sacrosanct or all must take their chances in the secular town square, and anyone not happy with that arrangement should Google ’emigrate’. Only when we are all clear on this can politicians and leader-writers alike declare that “They will never defeat us”, whenever jihad strikes the UK.

As things stand, however, the words sound wretchedly hollow. They are defeating us; inch by inch, ban by ban.

September 12, 2017

Believe it or not, Church decline is bad news for all

Filed under: Culture,philosophy,Religion — - @ 12:21 am
Tags: , ,

It was good to see little in the way of overt glee from the non-religious camp when the latest damning Church of England statistics emerged last week.

“…how can the Church of England remain in any meaningful sense the national legally established church, when it caters for such a small portion of the population?” wondered Andrew Copson, Humanists UK’s chief executive, while Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, called for “…a serious debate about the place of religion in our society.”

All fair enough, and, in Copson’s case, possibly the only time humanists and I stand shoulder-to-shoulder, for reasons masterfully encapsulated here by Giles Fraser.

I would suggest, however, that crumbling church numbers also present a problem for those for whom mere atheism is not enough. The underlying mantra of The God Delusion – that if we could only put this silly religious nonsense behind us, Mankind could embark on a golden age, celebrating science instead of Holy Communion – has been seized on by many since its publication. Not so much the atheism lobby as the atheism-looking-for-work lobby, they have sought to elevate non-belief from a negative to a positive.

We can’t give you God, but we can give you this instead, is the gist of their evangelism: minds focused on earth instead of empty heavens, looking out for one another instead of for the Second Coming, celebrating evolved reality over myth. No more religious wars on the macro scale, no more judgmentalism on the micro level. Net result? Everyone just calms the hell down.

You wouldn’t have to be the world’s greatest PR guru to spin that little lot but you might be struggling to shore it up after a week like the last one. For with our national religion in full-blown retreat, we should be seeing the green shoots of this alternative utopia in Britain now, surely? With faith ploughed under, fallow minds should be starting to latch onto the humanist creed, with all the happy consequences it portends. At least one Sunday supplement should have picked up on the new, more mellow Britain emerging around us.

Er, not quite. These are mere snapshots to the contrary, but see how many more follow in the next few days, weeks or months: a full-blown brawl breaking out in a Cambridgeshire church yard; someone gunning down a 14-year old child in London. The latest manifestations of what one journalist previously called “the astounding prevalence of fury” that he notices whenever he returns to the UK from foreign assignments.

Walk among the public as I do each day and see it for yourself, the increasing chippiness of people when matters are not quite to their liking, as if anger were the sole release valve to an inner despair. Note the insularity, and the erosion of those myriad small courtesies that our parents took for granted.

Ponder then, the contradiction of a secular philosophy that decrees that life is all we have, and the diminishing reverence with which that same life is regarded, should it be unwanted, past its sell-by date or standing between a criminal and his loot.

No, that ‘golden age’ penny just doesn’t seem to be dropping. If the Church of England looks increasingly irrelevant, those who inflate non-belief into an alternative lifestyle look increasingly like poker players, bluffing with a handful of nothing.

August 26, 2017

Two things that damn Britain, conveniently eclipsed this week

Filed under: business,Consumer,politics,Religion — - @ 7:57 pm
Tags: , , , ,
Pic courtesy of Claudio Sepúlveda Geoffroy

Maybe this is why we fixate on the mundane interaction of planets.

Because no-one’s re-creating 1930s Germany up there.

No-one’s making a mockery of ‘rest in peace’ up there, just so that businessmen can get to their destination 15 minutes faster than previously.

And while no-one’s saying that eclipse specs are stylish, they’re still a better look than holding your nose.

December 28, 2016

An opportunity missed, Church of England

Filed under: Christmas,Church,Religion — - @ 5:25 pm

Pic courtesy of Rondo Estrello

For an organisation whose attendance figures would reduce your average Non-League football club to sympathetic tears, this is Day One of the January sales and Black Friday combined.

Teatime, Christmas Eve. A candlelit carol service and the church building packed like it’s 1829 with a captive audience to die for. Eager kids and attendant parents and grandparents. People who might otherwise not enter a church without pallbearers beneath them but do so because they’re with relatives and don’t want to be seen as the sourpuss. Atheists, agnostics, sceptics and ‘lapsed’; all there because of the pull of family or of childhood echoes that refuse to die.

Once a year, the church gets this chance. Surely to God, between the crib, the candles and endless verses of Little Donkey, there is the chance to take 10 minutes and reach out to those people in earnest from the pulpit? Remind them (or maybe make them aware for the first time ever) that whatever they might make of his mission statement and brand management, this Jesus was no myth, but a real person. That Christmas Day was but a curtain raiser for a message and mission that changed the world.

Ten minutes in which to let everyone know that this ancient building is not just open on Christmas Eve, but on most days of the year, welcoming those who wish to pray, reflect, cry their hearts out, or even the most committed non-believer who just wants to enjoy the music or brief respite from a tumultuous world. To reassure them that there will be no pressure or hard sell on such occasions, just a warm welcome and as much or as little evangelism as each of them seeks.

But you didn’t do it, Reverend. You just trotted out the same old Nativity clichés and Christmas niceties, let the same old carols roll by and then beamed politely as everyone filed out afterwards. Your one moment of gravitas in 60 minutes the health and safety announcement for when it came to us lighting our candles. Another year, another golden opportunity gone begging. I just wish my faith in spiritual osmosis matched your own.

“Excellent”, you beamed at the regulars afterwards. “No-one got burnt.”

Indeed not. Figuratively speaking though, I doubt anyone was set on fire, either.

May 26, 2016

Where’s a burqa when you really need one?

Filed under: foreign,Religion,Women — - @ 11:10 pm
Tags: , , ,

I mentioned the film Eye in the Sky in my last post. There is a scene in it where a woman in the market place of a Muslim neighbourhood is chivvied in no uncertain terms by the apparel police for having her wrists uncovered.

From the burqa to the niqab, we are left in no doubt these days that preserving the modesty of women is a big deal in Islamic circles. Now, however, it seems that this may depend on what type of woman you are.

When you’re a Christian woman in Egypt, for example, suddenly modesty isn’t quite at such a premium, not when you’re stripped naked and made to walk through the streets by a mob of 300  Muslim men, as described in this report from The Independent.

No doubt this horrific tale (although the poor woman was 70, so at least there’s no suggestion of ageism) may trigger a familiar debate.

“That’s not real Islam.”

“Yes it is.”

“No it isn’t.”

And so on.

I’m not an authority on what is definitive Islam, so I’ll make do with this. Whatever label is most appropriately attached to the ghastly events of last Friday, be it ‘authentic Islam’ or a ‘rogue strain’, whoever aligns himself with it needs to know that an ideology capable of such a glaring double standard, is holed well and truly below the credibility waterline.

Shame on all involved. Whatever they are.

August 4, 2014

Jews arrested for singing Jewish songs…at Auschwitz

Filed under: foreign,politics,Religion — - @ 9:21 am
Tags: ,
That sign

Auschwitz (Photo credit: decafinata)

I was trying to figure out what the hell was going on here but then I read this:

Danny Feigen, a student at Yeshivat Eretz Hatzvi in Jerusalem and member of Rabbi Ostroff’s group, witnessed a guard ask, “would you sing in the British museum?”

…and it all became depressingly clear. Rules is rules.

I see that the Auschwitz Press Office has clarified the situation in comments at the link, in much the way I anticipated but if they can’t see the PR disaster they have on their hands, particularly at this sensitive time, then it may not just be their security staff who could use a little ‘sensitivity training’.

Put it this way, were I running a Jobsworth of the Year ballot, I might be tempted to declare a winner at this point.


September 6, 2013

The Maldives – another crappy day in paradise

If this Amnesty International text I received wasn’t so serious, you’d be tempted to laugh at the lunacy of it all:

“MALDIVES – After action from people like you, 15-year-old rape survivor will not be flogged for ‘fornication'”

Enjoy your holiday.

August 4, 2013

Condescension to Church shows sad state of Independent

English: User box for Separation of Church vs....

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m sure MPs at least, will be delighted with the Independent‘s recent leader column purporting to send those naughty Christians to their room without any supper.

It used to be left to the Right Honourable Members to reveal their breathtaking ignorance of the Christian faith by trotting out the patronising old canard about the Church of England sticking to preaching the Gospel and leaving politics to the politicians; you know, the experts…

Now the media are doing their job for them.

I knew there might be a secularist backlash when new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, showed early promise that he could be streets ahead of his predecessor when it came to being in touch with life beyond the cathedral cloisters.

I heard him handle with great aplomb an interrogation about the Wonga embarrassment, the highlight of which was interviewer John Humphrys‘ inability (or refusal) to see that this admittedly hilarious, if inadvertent, gaffe was fixable and posed no fatal threat to Welby’s proposals to provide hard-up people with a better alternative to payday loan firms and their eye-watering interest rates.

The Independent‘s nauseating arrogance and double-speak that same day, mind, makes Humphrys look the very model of perception.

Nick Baines has beautifully eviscerated the person responsible for it on his blog, so I merely pick over the carcass:

  • I defy even the their greatest critic to read the four Gospels and not see a Man as engaged with the world around Him as He was with the world He claimed is to come, whether you see Him as deluded or not
  • If Christianity was indeed a ship sailing nowhere and all about just hiding yourself away and mulling over scripture without ever putting it to work in the world around us, I suspect its membership past and present would be on a par with that of the Tufty Club.
  • “His efforts to…make the Church relevant…” Ah, so even you acknowledge that his approach has something going for it.
  • “[They] have no business in mainstream politics…” Everyone has business in mainstream politics. This is a democracy, where everyone gets at least a say, not some oligarchy where the only opinions that matter come from a self-regarding elite  in Westminster and the media. How many times, I wonder, have Independent commentators lamented the woeful turn-out at elections, and cried out for more ‘engagement’? Just not Christian engagement, apparently.
  • And once again, in a leader on this theme, no mention of the secular hypocrisy at the heart of it. Politicians want the Church of England to stay out of politics, while politicians continue to have a say in whom the Church appoints as its bishops. When it comes to clamouring for the separation of Church and State, atheists may be surprised at just how many Anglicans are egging them on.
  • “This is no swipe at religion”. This is like Ron Jeremy holding a postage stamp over his manhood in the hope that he’s covered himself. Of course it’s a swipe at religion. How old do you think your average reader is? Six? You think religion’s stupid, its practitioners belong in a soundproofed cell whose key has gone missing and you only wish you could say so in a national newspaper. You know what? So do I. Your transparent sincerity, at least, I could respect.
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