Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Mosul: media bias is a national scandal

Cranmer rightly takes to task the senior presenter of Channel 4 News, Jon Snow,  for his blatant lack of balance:
"...It is quite shocking, though perhaps not at all surprising, that the aging abbot is abusing his position as lead presenter of Channel 4 News to focus on Israel's Gaza offensive, thereby "providing cover" for the murder, torture, rape and systematic eradication of Christians from Iraq and the whole Middle East. They have lived there for 2000 years. Their trauma is nothing short of a holocaust, but the Western media, when they mention it at all, relegate this "religious cleansing" to the level of an anecdote, and move swiftly on to the latest homophobic outrage or the manifest evils of Israel's Nazi Zionists.
Ten years ago, there were at least 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. Now there are around 400,000, most of whom are fleeing to the Kurdistan region for safety and refuge. Under Saddam, 60,000 Christians lived in Mosul. Now there is none. Nuns are being kidnapped and raped, priests tortured and beheaded, and ordinary Christians imprisoned in ghettos and forced to convert or die. Ancient churches are torched and monasteries desecrated. It's the same story in Syria, Egypt and Libya.
What is this hell if it be not a holocaust?
The Islamic State is marking Christian homes with an Arabic 'N' for 'Nasarah' (denoting Christian), just like Hitler used the Star of David to categorise Jews destined for the concentration camps. "Never again", we cried. And yet we stand idly by, spluttering about Putin, transfixed by Tulisa or mesmerised by the Downing Street catwalk.
The mainstream media aren't much interested in Christians - other than the homophobic bigoted ones who won't bake a cake. And our political leaders are so obsessed by the minority vote, and the FCO so consumed with religious equanimity and moral relativity, that they'll all bend over backwards to help the Iraqi Kurds, save the Bosnian Muslims or intervene to "prevent a bloodbath" in Libya...."
The editorial bias of our broadcasters is rapidly becoming a national scandal. As we have commented before, only those stories which tend to fit the liberal social and political agenda are now given much prominence on the airwaves. 
We - very properly - criticise Vladimir Putin's Russia for its repressive control of the media, yet can we really say the general public in Britain are given a wide and unbiased picture (as far as humanly possible) of what is going on in the world?  Yes, our broadcasters are largely free and unfettered, but their output seems always to be filtered through the highly selective lens of what is socially and politically acceptable to the 'elite' opinion-formers of the contemporary West to the detriment of any real and sophisticated analysis and concern for the level of public understanding of the issues. 
It was always so, of course; yet those like Jon Snow and his successors would have been the first to deride the deference accorded to 'establishment' views in the past. Now the 'anti-establishment' has become the establishment, that objection seems to have been conveniently forgotten and deference to the prevailing culture re-instated as an unquestionable good. 
This is a complex world - to portray it in terms of 'good guys and bad guys' - as is happening more and more - seems not only childish, but irresponsible to say the least. Just give us 'the unvarnished facts' as they may best be ascertained, and leave commentators, politicians, and us, the public, to make the value judgements. The contemporary blurring of news and comment, added to the media's evident desire to shape events rather than 'merely' report them, is a disaster in terms of our freedom to make informed judgements on the issues of the day - a disaster for freedom itself, perhaps ... 
Editorial decisions, of course, have to be made, yet broadcast output tends to suggest those decisions are increasingly made as a result of the inherent and, perhaps, even partly unconscious political bias of journalists rather than what might be regarded as 'newsworthy' by the general population or the disinterested (that is. objective) observer. The public deserves better - so does our much vaunted concern for truth.

And ... over at the BBC ..... the flagship Newsnight programme has replaced the formidable Jeremy Paxman, perhaps the only prominent Corporation figure who could be regarded as (possibly) even  slightly to the right of centre, with Evan Davis, whose own hardly carefully hidden agenda has been on sniggering display on the Radio 4 Today programme for several years now. 

Oh, for the days when we simply didn't have a clue where our broadcasters' sympathies lay ... and for the days when they would have been simply too professional to allow any emotional involvement to show ... and too grown up to wear their hearts on their sleeves in order to win cheap and easy approbation.


Monday, 21 July 2014

Re-reading Pope Benedict in the light of what is now happening in Mosul ...

Given what is taking place place in Mosul and other places throughout the world - and the West's lack of response to it -  was this such a terrible question to have raised? We should feel ashamed at the way this address was misrepresented ... and for the smugness and complacency of our secularised culture which, as it has - in all essentials - sold out to relativism, finds it has no answer to unreason and murderous fanaticism:
"....In the seventh conversation (διάλεξις - controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to some of the experts, this is probably one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness that we find unacceptable, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death..."
The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature.The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality.....  
......In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world's profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures. At the same time, as I have attempted to show, modern scientific reason with its intrinsically Platonic element bears within itself a question which points beyond itself and beyond the possibilities of its methodology. Modern scientific reason quite simply has to accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature as a given, on which its methodology has to be based. Yet the question why this has to be so is a real question, and one which has to be remanded by the natural sciences to other modes and planes of thought - to philosophy and theology. For philosophy and, albeit in a different way, for theology, listening to the great experiences and insights of the religious traditions of humanity, and those of the Christian faith in particular, is a source of knowledge, and to ignore it would be an unacceptable restriction of our listening and responding. Here I am reminded of something Socrates said to Phaedo. In their earlier conversations, many false philosophical opinions had been raised, and so Socrates says: "It would be easily understandable if someone became so annoyed at all these false notions that for the rest of his life he despised and mocked all talk about being - but in this way he would be deprived of the truth of existence and would suffer a great loss". The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby. The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur - this is the programme with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time. "Not to act reasonably, not to act with logos, is contrary to the nature of God", said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures....."  
Pope Benedict XVI: 'The Regensburg Lecture'

Please pray for the Christians of Mosul.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Agreeing with Giles Fraser ...

I won't say with everything Canon Fraser writes in this article - there are far too may ritual genuflections to the fashionable liberalism of The Guardian's target readership for that - but in the main thrust of his argument he is on the side of the angels ...
"One of the main things that many atheists (and some believers for that matter) fail to register about Christianity is that it's not so much a metaphysical account of the nature of the universe, nor a codification of ancient moral principles, but primarily a romance, a sort of love story... 
...If I had to sum up the nature of this love story, I would say that it is about someone coming to find you, someone seeking you out. And at their initiative, without you having had to dance or impress for it, they tell you that you are loved and cared for in ways that you do not actually believe to be true. They see something in you that you do not see in yourself. Maybe it's a fantasy. Samuel Beckett was right about that possibility in Waiting for Godot.  
But, nonetheless, unless something like the Christian romance is true, I believe myself to be totally lost. Deep down, I want someone to come and get me. Yes, I am embarrassed to put it in so crudely needy a way – and one can dress this up in sophisticated philosophical language – but that would be only to obscure what is driving the whole drama. Christianity is about making peace with a fundamental dependency.
So why am I telling you this? Because I think it helps locate some of the emotion behind a great deal of Christian resistance to the assisted dying bill and, in particular, the principle of personal autonomy that often accompanies it in argument. My life, my choice etc. I guess the idea here is that the individual can be relied upon to act in his or her own best interests – and if they don't, well, then at least they have no one to blame for that except themselves. And that sounds a bit like hand-washing to me. With the Christian romance, however, autonomy is precisely the problem and not the solution. Here Christianity is at its most countercultural.
I understand why we want to hedge our exposure to otherness, keeping everything under our control, determined by our own choices – because other people can let us down, hurt us, manipulate us. But there are some things, perhaps the most important things, that we cannot do for ourselves. We cannot successfully pay someone to love us, for instance. Which is why the priority given to personal autonomy and life controlled by my own choices seems like a certain sort of locked-in syndrome, a refusal of the idea that there is anything bigger than me.
In contrast, the logic of the romantic is that the centre of gravity in human life has to be outside of oneself to be meaningful. If it's all about my choices, then human life has withered to the dimensions of my paltry imagination. Some will believe the control held out by autonomy to be liberating. I think it's about trying to limit our exposure to that which is beyond our control.
If I ever got so low as to be close to suicide, I don't want anyone respecting my choice. I want them to come looking for me and to try and love or bully me out of it – even if I am lost to a settled decision for self-destruction.
I would be secretly very unhappy if my children didn't attempt every trick in the book to overrule me. The thought that they would go "OK, Dad, it's your choice" feels like a terrifying form of abandonment..."

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Over the hills ....

Life has been uniformly grim of late due to a family bereavement - recent news and comment from the Church of England didn't exactly lift the gloom.
On Tuesday the dog and I went for a long and not uneventful walk over the hills not that far from here in the north of the county.
These are some views of the ruins of Llanthony Priory and the more recent remains of Father Ignatius' monastery at Capel-y-ffin. 

Perspective, hope but not false optimism ....



Llanthony Priory from the hillside opposite


'.... but the steep and rugged pathway may we tread rejoicingly....'



From the ridge above, the ruins of Fr Ignatius' monastery at Capel-y-ffin


"Peace to the Wayfarer through the Blood of Jesus"


Llanthony again - this time from far above, towards the end of the circular walk



The hero of the hour, who guided me safely down after my boots broke!

E..J. Moeran: the Air from his Serenade in G

Monday, 14 July 2014

More comment on today's vote

Peter Hitchens has this perceptive reaction: 
"....I would stress once again that the supporters of women Bishops could have had their way *years* ago, had they been ready to be kinder to those who oppose the idea. the general impression given by media coverage, that the delay is caused by obdurate traditionalists, is misrepresentation...".
Damian Thompson, now at The Spectator, has another re-hashed, 'I don't like Anglo-Catholics' story - his antipathy is strange given the view that Catholics in the C of E were said to live in a culture of 'gin, lace and backbiting' ...
However there is a serious point buried under the catty, ad hominem comments - the situation will not be the same, and the Church of England has definitively opted for a non-Catholic and essentially secularist liberal future. These are questions which have to be addressed.  

The ever-inventive Eccles has the post 'Church of England votes to allow atheist bishops' - just give it time.

The Archbishops of Canterbury & York have issued these somewhat Panglossian statements on the Ab of C's website.

This before- the- event article by Andrew Brown in The Guardian looks into the future of a hierarchy 'slowly adjusting' to the heresies of the laity. Hmm ... I'm not sure the clergy are really in need of taking lessons from anyone in that regard  .....

This, by Jemima Thackray in The Telegraph illustrates the problem quite nicely :
"....The lazy part of me wishes that the liberal wing of the church could just bulldoze right over the evangelicals and Anglo Catholics who oppose women in leadership, offering no concessions and allowing the church to get on with its primary task of caring for the communities it serves. In my even wilder dreams, I imagine the church at the vanguard of every progressive cause, leading the way in the campaign for nuclear disarmament for example, or gay rights, rather than always being the slowest on the uptake of every social development.
Yet, perhaps the fact that the church always seems to lag behind the rest of society is a blessing in disguise. Perhaps the silver lining of the funereal pace at which it catches up is that change, when it finally comes, is taken up much more holistically - with hearts won rather than just minds beaten into submission...."
There's a dialectic at work here which doesn't seem to stem from the Gospel .... it is Bastille Day, after all.

Nothing yet, but WATCH this space ...

That's it for today; I'm off to open a bottle of  .... hemlock? Well, it clearly won't be champagne...








The Church of England has voted in favour of women bishops

Bishops: 37 in favour, 2 against, with 1 abstention.

Clergy: 162 in favour, 25 against, with 4 abstentions

Laity: 152 in favour, against 45, with 5 abstentions.

The voting figures for the remaining enabling legislation (amending the canons etc) can be found here

Now it remains to be seen whether the guidelines so painfully negotiated (and ultimately imposed by the House of Bishops) will prove effective to preserve, even in the equivalent of an Indian reservation, the apostolic tradition of the sacred ministry which has now been (at best) sidelined as being irrelevant and superfluous to the needs of the contemporary Church of England.
Experience elsewhere does not lead us to be optimistic, and it is undeniable that 'traditionalists' are far more exposed and vulnerable under these new arrangements than they were previously. There are those who will not rest until the whole Church submits to the new religion ... 

More reaction and comment here when it becomes available:


The Council of Bishops of The Society has issued the following statement:

Final Approval of the Women Bishops Legislation

Many in the Church of England are celebrating today, following final approval of the legislation to permit women to be ordained as bishops.

While recognizing this, we deeply regret the further obstacle that this decision places in the path to the full, visible unity of the whole Church.

We do, however, welcome the provision that has been made in the House of Bishops’ Declaration. It recognizes that our theological convictions about ministry and ordination remain within the spectrum of Anglican teaching and tradition. It assures us that bishops will continue to be consecrated within the Church of England who can provide episcopal ministry that accords with those theological convictions. It makes provision for parishes to gain access to that episcopal ministry by passing resolutions.

This gives us confidence in our future as catholics who are called to live out our Christian vocation in the Church of England. For this we give thanks to God.
  
On behalf of the Council of Bishops                         

X TONY PONTEFRACT                                         
Rt Revd Tony Robinson                                            
Bishop of Pontefract
Chairman


On this day



On July 14th 1833, John Keble preached the Assize Sermon at St Mary the Virgin in Oxford - an event which is seen as the beginning of the Oxford Movement and the Catholic Revival in the Church of England, and in Anglicanism more generally.

Today the General Synod of the Church of England seems set to complete its abandonment of that apostolic order which is the visible guarantee of catholicity and apostolicity itself.
[A live video stream from the York Synod is here - when it's working!]

If there is indeed to be a new Oxford Movement, with aims similar, yet in the context of far more dangerous times and cultural currents, to the first, it must begin on this day in 2014.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

More English song: 'I will go with my father a-ploughing' : Ivor Gurney

More English song from the early twentieth century - appropriate, perhaps, as this morning's Gospel was the parable of the sower, the song, 'I will go with my father a-ploughing,' a setting of words by the Irish poet Joseph Campbell by the Gloucestershire composer and poet Ivor Gurney, another tragic casualty of the Great War, not killed or maimed in action, but confined to a mental hospital for the last fifteen years of his life, his mind, it seems, overthrown by his experiences in Flanders. 
The song is performed here by Ian Bostridge, tenor, accompanied by Julius Drake. 

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Not a good week for the Ecclesia Anglicana

First we had reports about moves, largely prompted by moral panic,* to compromise priestly confidentiality in the Sacrament of Penance; secondly. a former Archbishop of Canterbury in a destructive and calculated headline-grabbing volte-face has betrayed the Christian tradition in favour of  society's dangerously sentimental ethical secularism; and the Church of England's increasingly vacuous General Synod, in a duplicitous and illusory show of unity regarding the provision of a most welcome - but precarious and most likely temporary - oasis for those who hold to the Tradition, seems likely to move definitively and irrevocably away from apostolic order as it is universally understood by Catholic Christendom. As we know, even this tenuous toe-hold has been so far denied to those who adhere to historic Anglicanism in Wales.
Not a good week.


* Much of the panic on display is, as we have come to expect, orchestrated largely by the very people - and their relativist intellectual disciples - who have themselves over the years done their best to pour scorn on established concepts of goodness, decency and honour and who have sought to undermine tested codes of social behaviour and destroy many of those restrictions and taboos which have, however imperfectly, hitherto kept our society together. But their 'solution' is always the same - to erode still further the essential historic and faith-influenced culture of voluntarism and liberty and hand more power to the State.

George Carey supports assisted dying

This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to us: he was very eager to help perform a similar service for the Church of England some time ago ...

Unfortunately, Lord Carey's comments on this matter reveal a similar lack of understanding of the complexities of the issues involved as did his clumsy interventions over the ordination of women in the 1990s - Mrs Thatcher's revenge upon the Church of England indeed.
Story from The Telegraph here
In the report Dr Carey seems to be saying two things.
Firstly, that he reveals that doesn't really understand the theological and philosophical basis for the traditional Christian view of the sanctity of human life - or the likely consequences of its dilution - and, secondly,  that he thinks hard cases make good law.
From a former Archbishop of Canterbury this makes very sad reading indeed.

The present occupant of the throne of St Augustine has, at least on this issue, a surer grasp of the Christian tradition:
 "...Even if we leave to one side major difficulties in determining what legally constitutes “unbearable suffering” and “terminal illness”, the above argument is deeply flawed. Were it to be presented by a candidate in a GSCE religious education exam, I should expect an examiner to take a dim view of it...." [here]


Friday, 11 July 2014

Just war criteria applied to today's 'culture wars'

There are some instructive comments in an article by John Goerke in The Imaginative Conservative which we can all take on board to our benefit and without yielding an inch in the necessary defence of  revealed truth in this relativistic age:
"...To put it another way: if our home camp is nothing but a place of cultivated disease, it will soon cease to be a home camp worth fighting for. These weekly mailings needn’t be so over-the-top, nor so hard on the eyes. Our journalism need not strain itself to reach the apex of moral outrage. Children speak of small things in big and loud ways. Poets speak of big things in small and quiet ways. It is my humble suggestion that we take the latter as our example. Let us stop attempting to bother each other into a frenzy of political outrage. Let us instead stand atop our wagons and recite “St. Crispin’s Day” for all to hear. This may be antiquated and idealistic, but it is for love of the old world and of impossible aspirations that I became a conservative in the first place. 
The culture wars are not going away. This is perhaps “the end of the beginning.” Yet, I hope this may be the beginning of the end for the sort of communication I have criticized here. I am a young conservative. Myself and my fellows in the Millennial camp found our political identity in the works of G.K. Chesterton, Edmund Burke, T.S. Eliot and Roger Scruton. Theirs was a conservatism of beauty, of passion, of (dare I be cliché) love. I humbly suggest that the conservative principle of the culture wars ought to be this: that we engage our opponents as if they were lovable, despite all evidence to the contrary. For we must bear in mind the principle of Christianity and of the Cross: that we are lovable, despite all evidence to the contrary.... "
Read it all here 




Thursday, 10 July 2014

Of course, it could never happen here ....

The emergency security measures before Parliament at the moment seem to be predicated on the basis that British Governments will always be benign, democratic, representative and convinced defenders of our traditional liberties. History - particularly that of the European continent over the last one hundred years - shows us that it might be good thing not be be quite so complacent ...
Even the history of our own country in that period shows us that the State, having first acquired powers over us sometimes for very good reasons during wartime emergencies, is extremely loathe to give them back.

This is David Davis M.P. on the subject of data retention and related issues... 



Wednesday, 9 July 2014

What on earth are we to make of this?

There's irony and there's ........ this.
If the story is to be believed, could it be - possibly - taking irony a step a little too far?
I have to say, there are many of us who have no plans to make this kind of profane event part of our social calendar. 'Perverse and foolish' of us, I know...  mais  à chacun son goût en cette ère de la tolérance et de la diversité ....
http://www.anglicanink.com/article/forward-faith-uk-leader-celebrates-londons-gay-pride-festival


Monday, 7 July 2014

Charles Moore on "assisted suicide"

We hear much in the media from the proponents of the essentially pagan notion of the 'right' to end one's own life - the notion of a dignified 'designer death' is very much in the air and, as we have noted before, is now being supported by some of those in our midst who tend to act as secularism's fifth column. 
Despite their own accusations, Cranmer baulks at calling such people 'immoral and unChristian.'   Maybe, yet their pronouncements are certainly both those things:  the current dangerous, naive and emotional elevation of personally-experienced 'hard cases' is inconsistent with both a classical Christian anthropology and any socially responsible definition of 'compassion.' 
What we need to hear from our archbishops, bishops and theologians (even, perhaps, from their chaplains) is a clear, powerful and unequivocal re-statement of the Christian tradition in this regard; not the practical atheism which so often passes for 'debate' in the contemporary Church: those who don't believe in him tend to forget the dictum that to sup with the devil, one needs a very long spoon indeed ...
Would that all our leaders had the courage and clear-sightedness of Mark Davies, the (Roman Catholic) Bishop of Shrewsbury [here]

 Our society's gradual discarding of its Judaeo-Christian heritage and the incremental dismantling of its ethical tradition has left a house 'empty, swept and garnished.' Now the culture envisaged in the dystopian novels of Huxley, Orwell and R.H. Benson is standing on our doorsteps asking to be let in ..... and once it gains admittance, we will never be able to evict it. 
This is Charles Moore on the subject of medically-assisted suicide and the conflation of the term 'dying with dignity' with the administering of a lethal injection:
"...If you are considered a burden by others, you sense it. Like Dr Ashton’s youngish men disheartened not to be the breadwinners, sick old people may well be overwhelmed by a sense of rejection, made worse by physical pain. The supporters of Lord Falconer’s Bill make much of the fact that those handed out the “only six months to live” sentence proposed by the Bill will take the fatal drugs it provides themselves, and by their own choice. But what in the culture will guide that choice? What is the effect on the patient’s free will when a profession whose entire previous raison d’être has been to assist life now stands ready to give you the tools of death?  
"Once it becomes legal that such a thing could happen, how long before it becomes expected? Most old people in hospital try to conform to what they think the system wants. If it wants them dead, and gives them the power to die, their grim path of duty lies clear. Some will have families who do not care enough whether they live; others will have no families at all. To all of these, Lord Falconer’s “choice” could become as proverbial as Hobson’s.
It does not have to be this way. Think of the revolution in attitudes to the disabled and mentally handicapped that has taken place in the past 40 years. Note that it is the disabled who form the most eloquent lobby against assisted suicide. In many of their cases, their very existence was considered either impossible or undesirable in the recent past (and could be again). They know that their own story is of overcoming what society once considered more “hygienic”, in favour of what, we now see, is more human.
The same applies to the old. Nothing – certainly nothing medical – can remove all the terrors of death. But a society like ours can certainly summon the cultural, moral and financial resources to care properly for the dying if it thinks it matters. I return to Dr Ashton’s phrase about needing a midwife at the end of life. He is right, but draws the wrong conclusion. The midwife is not someone who kills – that is what an abortionist does. A midwife is on the side of life. That is someone we all need, even – perhaps particularly – when we are dying".  
Read it all here 

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Archbishops, bishops and statements of 'personal' political opinion ...

I don't have a great deal of patience with the widely expressed view that the Church (and by extension) churchmen (or do I mean clergy persons?) should keep out of politics. 

My recollection is that in the 1980s  the late (and then) Bishop Graham Leonard came out strongly in favour of the role of nuclear deterrence in preserving the values of freedom and peace  - a very brave thing to do, given opinion in the upper reaches of the clerical hierarchy then, as now.
It's no secret that the occupants of Anglican episcopal thrones and archidiaconal and decanal stalls (les enfants de 1968) are almost to a man / woman Guardian-reading and instinctive left-liberal sympathisers, long gone are the days when the Church of England (particularly) was regarded as 'the Tory Party at prayer' - nowadays a more accurate description would be the Labour Party (or in Wales more probably the left-nationalist Plaid Cymru) agonising over the value of intercession.

So, what are we to make of the Archbishop of Wales' recent championing of the somewhat agitprop 'No Nato Newport' campaign? 
Of course, as a statement of opinion, given its source, it's no more surprising than the sun rising in the east. 
We all have political views and, with a certain degree of self-restraint,  the right to express them. There are times (usually - up to now, at least - relatively rare occasions in a representative democracy based on a broadly Christian cultural tradition) when that right becomes a religious duty. 
However, many of us would have considerable difficulty if a senior cleric were tempted to use his or her authority to give the impression that 'their' political opinion constituted the only acceptable Christian (or Anglican) theological position. That I am sure - in this instance - the Archbishop of Wales would be very eager to avoid.

This is part of a report from the South Wales Argus:
 "A Church in Wales spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that the archbishop had signed the No Nato Newport “statement of opposition.”
However she said the archbishop wouldn’t be taking part in protests themselves, due to take place in the days leading to the September event.
Prominent anti-Nato activist, Welsh Green party leader Pippa Bartolotti, says the archbishop signed up “very early” to the statement which reads “No to NATO, No to War, No to Austerity.”
“We are a broad church, literally,” she said, saying she didn’t know the Archbishop’s motivation for joining in.
“It’s all about helping magnify the voices of the little people that are being bombed and droned,” she added.
As well as the archbishop, signatories include prominent Plaid AMs Simon Thomas, Rhodri Glyn Thomas and Bethan Jenkins, and MEP Jill Evans." [here]

Monday, 30 June 2014

Al Jazeera journalists or the Christians of Mosul? News priorities yet again

Last week's western media coverage of the jailing of Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt raises some important questions for us who are 'consumers' of their 'product' - as we have to concede that is in effect what have become and that is what we receive in today's global information market. 

No one could argue with the basic premise that the muzzling of journalists or their intimidation is wrong in principle and undesirable in practice, * as is any threat to the free exchange of news and ideas, yet there's little doubt that the coverage was entirely disproportionate, say, in comparison with that of the recent persecution and 'cleansing' of the Christian minorities of the Middle East. [see here

All institutions, whether supermarket chains, health services or news organisations - not to mention others closer to home -  have a regrettable (but preventable) tendency to become self-referential and self-serving. But did this particular problem lie with a misjudgement on the part of news editors, or is it part of a deeper problem that our mass media only tend to sit up and take notice when one of their own is threatened, or when a news story somehow 'fits' the prevailing cultural or political narrative? Our contemporary media, largely the cheerleaders of the' dictatorship of relativism' tend to be remarkably absolutist when it comes to journalistic freedom ....

The issue is only so important to the average listener or viewer because information is increasing filtered- and filtered increasingly -  through the lens of those whose political and cultural agenda remains substantially hidden,  and in itself places a large question mark over exactly how 'free' we can really consider ourselves to be. 
In the 'mainstream' media in Britain, where are the alternative voices? How competitive is the 'market' in broadcast news?



* Although, journalistic freedom was very much restricted by the Western Allies 'in the national interest' during the Second World War and, of course, in more recent conflicts: the present Egyptian Government certainly believes it is fighting a war of a kind ... not that that is much of a justification - at least  to those of us who are not having to live in that divided and violent society. 
And for a take on the Egyptian situation you will not often come across in the media see various statements here

WWJD?

Tim Stanley at The Telegraph has some interesting thoughts about cultural shifts, prompted in part by the singer-songwriter Sir Elton John's recent public speculations on Our Lord's attitude to gay marriage. Such comments as those of Sir Elton are easy to dismiss as both theologically uninformed and possibly self-serving, yet are shared by many, certainly in the West, and not only by those who are in thrall to 'celebrity culture' or who would naturally identify with predominant secular attitudes:
"...This confusion is understandable, even if the association of tolerance and Christianity does create the paradox of making Jesus look remarkably unchristian. It’s also not something to be dismissed out of hand by more literate theologians. As society’s understanding of love changes/progresses (depending on one’s point of view), then it’s understandable that the popular impression of what Christianity’s all about will shift with it. People, rightly, always want Jesus to be a symbol of total love – and there is a case for tolerance indeed being an important part of compassion. But this cultural shift towards a liberal understanding of Christianity obviously poses a challenge for conservative Christians determined to uphold what they regard as biblical truths and traditional social mores.Has the popular image of Jesus actually become a problem for the promotion of an orthodox brand of theology? And what can the religious conservatives do to “reclaim” the image of Jesus without seeming to reject “love” as the West now sees it? I’m not providing any answers, just asking questions that might open up a wider debate about Christianity's identity crisis...."
Mankind has always had a tendency to create a deity in its own image - as many of the Old Testament prophets discovered to their physical danger, fallen human nature prefers to be given a message of affirmation - but the very rapidity of this undeniable and revolutionary shift in the values of western society profoundly  challenges the Church. It points Christians back to the ever more urgent task of identifying and adhering to the authentic tradition and to the content of revelation, whilst it makes even more onerous the task of living and proclaiming the Gospel in a culture which now seems to hold as its highest ideal what every previous generation would have regarded as an extreme, intellectually untenable, and counter-intuitive form of non-judgementalism.



Saturday, 28 June 2014

George Butterworth (1885 - 1916)

Two classic recordings of haunting works by the English composer George Butterworth, killed at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 (he had been awarded the MC for exceptional gallantry) - the song 'Loveliest of Trees,' set to words of A.E Housman, sung by baritone John Shirley-Quirk accompanied by Martin Isepp, piano; and, using his own song setting as its principal theme,  the orchestral rhapsody, A Shropshire Lad (1912), with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult.

A glimpse of a lost world and of a promise snuffed out by "the monstrous anger of the guns"...