Archive for November, 2006

++Rowan

Monday, November 20th, 2006

So, yes, I went to see Archbishop Rowan speak – turns out it was the opening event for the new Manchester Research Institute for Religion and Civil Society, and therefore he was speaking on a topic more sociological/political than religious, but it was still very interesting, if a little hard for my muzzy cold-addled brain to follow in places. Broadly, he was advocating a sort of post-libertarian state model in which a government would acknowledge that there are bounds beyond which it should not step – in terms of legislating morality, for example – but which also acknowledged the existence of social groups (for example, faith groups) that would necessarily exist under this state: a state which encompassed both political freedom and religious freedom.

I wish I’d taken a few more notes on the talk, but I was still suffering with full on man-flu, so it took most of my effort just to keep up with things, let alone take notes – this being ++Rowan, his style was quite nuanced and he made sure every word meant something.

The day after this talk, the Archbishop hit the headlines in a rather unceremonious way – Church could think again over women, says Williams, apparently. The thrust of the article is that he’d said that, first, the ordination of women hadn’t led to any spectacular rebirth of the Anglican church and that second, he could conceive of a circumstance that would lead to the Anglican church reconsidering its position on female priests.

Now, on the surface, that’s quite a slap in the face for women priests, especially considering he was one of the people most strongly in favour of ordaining women. However, if you read the article, it becomes apparent (if you’re at all familiar with Williams’ manner of speaking) that that’s not what he said at all. Yes, he said there hasn’t been a revival as a result of women priests – but neither has the church gone to hell. Well – good; that’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect. Women weren’t invited to be ordained to because the Anglicans believed they were the key to a modern revival, anyway, so what’s the big deal?

Also, he said he could “just about envisage a situation in which, over a very long period, the Anglican Church thought about it again, but I would need to see what the theological reason for that would be”. That’s like George W. Bush saying that he could “just about envisage a situation in which, over a very long period, America could enter into a political alliance with Al Qaeda”. That’s very far from “re-opening the debate” over women priests.

It’s a shame that this has caused such a furore – so far as several women priests coming out to condemn his remarks – because it seems to me it just stems from a misunderstanding of his comments. The Archbishop is a very clever, very wise man who has a genuine and deep love for God and his Church – but he has a manner of speaking which can be misinterpreted easily and this, combined with headline writers out for a story, can sometimes lead to this sort of misunderstanding.

Graham Ward (one of the people responsible for the founding of the MRIRCS) is such a Rowan Fanboy, though. It’s funny :)

Because I have no ideas left

Monday, November 20th, 2006

From Sharky:

  1. Grab the book nearest to you
  2. Open to page 123.
  3. Scroll down to the fifth sentence.
  4. Post text of next 3 sentences on to your blog.

I have an entire coffee table worth of books near to me, and it’s hard to work out which is closest. Anyway, picking one or two at random from the pile:

Lighter than the Garncacha (below), this is the most impressive sub-three-pound red wine of the year. It is not dissimilar to a fresh, strawberry-juice-scented Beaujolais, but without any of the off-putting bubblegum and banana nuances so often associated with the Gamay grape variety. Chill it a touch for parties and you’ll be amazed how easily and smoothly it slips down.

User programs do not refer to send or receive directly, but any time one of the system calls listed in fig 1-9 is invoked, either directly or by a library routine, sendrec is used internally and a software interrupt is generated. Each time a process is interrupted (whether by a conventional I/O device or by the clock) or due to execution of a software interrupt instruction, there is an opportunity to redetermine which process is most deserving of an opportunity to run. Of course, this must be done whenever a process terminates, as well, but in a system like MINIX 3 interruptions due to I/O operations or the clock or message passing occur more frequently than process termination.

Sign of the times

Saturday, November 18th, 2006

I am older than Eva Green, the latest Bond girl.

She was born on 5th July, 1980. I was born on 12th June, 1979.

I feel like I have passed some sort of milestone in my life. If I see my postman on Monday, I’ll see if he’s looking younger.

I’m not dead

Tuesday, November 14th, 2006

Bleh, got the lurgy.

Not much to speak of recently – Muse were awesome last weekend, Lori has written about them.

Still angry with Mark Driscoll.

Apparently, Archbishop/Teddy bear Rowan Williams is speaking at the university tomorrow evening; I might pop along if I’m not feeling too dead.

Now, go away before I sneeze on you.

Best. Photo. Ever.

Thursday, November 9th, 2006

Left to right: “Nicholas Cage taught me this expression”, “I AM FANTASISING ABOUT CHOPPING CARROTS IN AN ANGRY, REPRESSED HOUSEWIFE STYLE FASHION”, “Daddy said I had to look upset or I wouldn’t get a pony”, “I am, like, /so/ writing about this on my MySpace when I get home”, “Who? What? What happened? Who are all these people?”

More on Haggard

Monday, November 6th, 2006

I don’t want to drag this out, but it’s been buzzing round my head more than anything else over the last few days (when I haven’t been seething over Driscoll’s response, that is).

There have been a lot of admirable responses from the conservative end of the Christian blogosphere – Challies, for example, is thoughtful without being condemnatory. The thing is, though, everyone seems to be really, seriously missing the point here: everyone’s banging on about sin and fallen nature and total depravity and how we’re all capable of horrific sin – which is true – but, in my opinion, isn’t the issue here.

The crux of the whole thing, I reckon, is this: it seems to me that, in all likelihood, Haggard is gay.

And by that, I don’t mean, he’s occasionally looked at another man and thought “Hey, he’s a good looking guy” – hell, most guys have done that at one time or other, no matter how defiantly straight they are – I mean that he’s probably fundamentally just sexually attracted to men. Unfortunately, he’s trapped within a worldview where he’s been trained to be disgusted by his own desires, forced to repress and deny them, and to basically just live a lie.

Let’s pause for thought, for a moment. The chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re probably straight – by which I mean, the odds are in the favour of that, so my example is going to assume that. Sorry. Okay, so now imagine you’re in a society in which heterosexuality is not the norm – for you, that’s weird, because you’re already not normal; but now imagine you’re in a society in which heterosexuality is not only not normative, but that it is considered unnatural and an “illness” or a product of a “sinful nature”. You’re constantly pressured by your social group into having a relationship with a member of the same sex; you’re forced to shack up with this person, live your life with someone who, fundamentally, you are not attracted to. Eventually, you’re going to crack.

You can bang on about sinful nature and fallenness and how “we’re all Haggard, ultimately” – and to some extent, it’s true – but this isn’t really about that. It’s about a culture in which a man has been forced to deny what he really is, and I can’t – I really mean cannot – accept that the liberty, grace and incomprehensible love of God means denying something that you are.

How to sell a processor

Sunday, November 5th, 2006

Apparently, the way you do it is by making people think it’s an iPod or something. To be fair, the Core 2 Duo is a really damned good processor, but… it still feels weird to see them being marketed as some kind of trendy consumer item.

Haggard – and Driscoll

Sunday, November 5th, 2006

I will confess to indulging in a small amount of schadenfreude of this whole Haggard thing. Okay, it’s not nice of me to take the piss because he and his family and his church will be being torn apart over this and no matter how much you dislike someone, on a basic human level what’s happening to all of them must be utterly hideous. However. If you’re going to effectively work yourself into a position where you’re very, very publically responsible for advocating that certain kind of extreme right-wing moralising and you are expected to live as a paragon of that model, then you don’t do yourself an awful lot of favours by going out and buying drugs off a gay prostitute who you are also (allegedly, etc) fucking on the side. I mean, you know, great testimony to the transforming power of Christ, there.

However, much as I disliked Haggard before, I think the person this has brought the worst out in is the famously potty-mouthedstraight-talking Mark Driscoll. A former participant in the Emergent conversation, Driscoll has developed his own distinctive style of no-compromise conservative Christianity-with-piercings-and-goatees. And also a view on women that wouldn’t be totally out of place in, say, the 18th Century. Anyway, in his response to the whole thing, he says:

Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either.

Yeah, you tell ‘em, Mark! It’s his wife‘s fault for not being enough of a dolled up submissive sex-toy that drove poor innocent Ted to go and fuck a man instead. Well, maybe not her fault, but clearly any woman who lets herself go a bit and doesn’t submit to her husbands every sexual whim shouldn’t be at all surprised if he, I dunno, goes off and has a three year drug-fuelled affair with a gay prostitute.

But, hey, it’s not like Mark doesn’t know what he’s talking about here: he has plenty of experience with sin and temptation himself:

On one occasion I actually had a young woman put a note into my shirt pocket while I was serving communion with my wife, asking me to have dinner, a massage, and sex with her. On another occasion a young woman emailed me a photo of herself topless and wanted to know if I liked her body. Thankfully, that email was intercepted by an assistant and never got to me.

Well, thank goodness Mark is such a great holy man that he’s able to resist the evil advances of these brazen harlots! We all know how those poor women’s tiny brains can become all addled and confused and filled with lust in the presence of such a fabulous specimen of a man such as himself!

Driscoll then goes on to say:

Christians cannot be guilty of playing plank-speck with non-Christians on matters of pornography and homosexuality and be guilty of going soft on sin in their own leadership.

Maybe the problem is that we pay too much attention to sexual sin? Maybe because the Evangelical church is so busy seeing the gay bogeyman (now there’s a mental image) hiding in every closet it’s setting itself up for far more of a fall when someone does fail to live up to their rules in this area? I’ll put my hands up and say that I don’t fall into line on the whole condemnation of homosexuality thing, but seriously: the bigger deal you make of something, the harder its going to hit you when you fail to live up to it. And you can guarantee that eventually, someone is going to fail, because we’re human, fallen and very, very good at failing.

Mark then goes on to suggest a whole stack of ways that pastors can avoid getting into situations where they might fall prey to the wicked wiles of loose women: well, at least he has as low a few of men as he does of women, I guess. Men are weak, women are sluts. Glad we’ve got that one cleared up.

The cult of the rock-star Evangelical pastor has claimed a number of people over the years. It won’t stop claiming people, either, if the church keeps holding these people up and expecting them to be utterly infallible paragons of virtue. How about we stop banging on about holiness and purity and start doing all that fighting for justice, helping the poor and feeding the hungry instead? That sounds like a much better idea to me.

Billy Kennedy

Saturday, November 4th, 2006

Billy Kennedy spoke at our church, um, a while back. He was probably one of the best speakers we’ve ever had, and he’s also apparently a good friend/prayer partner of our senior pastor, Frank (who I also respect a great deal). Anyway, he’s got a blog, and in his links list are people like Tall Skinny Kiwi, NT Wright and a whole bunch of other emergent types.

So, he’s going on the links list over there <----. Please make him feel welcome. Or, uh, something.

A few thoughts

Friday, November 3rd, 2006

I meant to write something about this earlier in the week but never really got around to it. Anyway, the preacher at Ivy on sunday had a “revolutionary” message for us all, the broad essence of which was “Stop treating mission like a fight that Christianity has to win, it doesn’t work”. Okay, I can see some people probably wouldn’t have heard anything like that before, but if you’ve paid any attention to the developments of the Emergent church and “Missional” approaches it probably won’t be anything new.

Anyway, he quoted that bit from near the end of A Generous Orthodoxy: Brian McLaren talks about the Christian child who asks her mother why a muslim woman is wearing a veil. The mother responds that it’s the muslim woman’s way of showing she loves God, just like they show they love God by going to church and reading the Bible. The next time they see the muslim woman, the little girl points and says “Look, mummy! That lady is showing she loves God!”; the muslim woman comes over, embraces the child and tells the mother “If only other people understood and taught their children so well”.

The story resonates because in the modern church we have a deep-seated fear of syncretism: that is, the merging of different religious ideas to assert an underlying unity – or, more simply, the idea of “One God, Many Paths”. But I think what happens is that in embracing the idea of Jesus being the only way to the Father, many Christians then go one step further and embrace the Greek mindset of there being things that are “of God”, and things that aren’t: and therefore anything that doesn’t directly and explicitly emphasise the idea of Jesus being the “only way” is bad and evil and wrong and, moreover, should be publically identified as such. This is sad, and I think it leads to people being unable to appreciate the divine in the world. When we hear of someone of another faith (or no faith at all) doing good in the world, do we see that as a reflection of the divine? When we see the muslim woman showing her devotion to Allah by wearing the veil, do we see that not as someone who’s “got it wrong”, but rather as someone who has recognised the divine and seeks to embrace it, irrespective of whether we think she’s worshipping the “wrong” God or not?

By claiming to have the sole claim on all that is good in the world, the Church puts up barriers and makes itself confrontational. This does not encourage people to seek out Jesus. Rather, we should seek to be a witness to the divine wherever it may be found, and through that, hopefully point to Jesus.

One final and tangentially related thought: when Jesus said that “No-one comes to the Father but by me”, I’m not sure he was actually speaking in the context of Christianity being the One True Faith: rather, in context this passage seems to be speaking about the duality of his nature, being both fully human and fully God. We approach Jesus in his full humanity, and in seeing that, we come to see his divine nature also: he restores the connection between humanity and God by taking on the nature of both, and that is why no-one comes to the Father but by Jesus – not because all the other religions have “got it wrong”.