Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Objective Turn

One of my stranger journeys by car some years ago was to travel from Unitarian College to Matlock and visit Rachel Marszalek, before she and family discovered their move to London. It was like going from the most liberal to, well not quite the most evangelical.

I first knew of her through her appearances into the Internet in fashionable self-presentations, a sort of alternative to the dowdy reputation of female clergy. However, very quickly I was interested in her writing output, and what was a sort of a postmodern (conservative-type) theological writing that had an internal logic but seemed to have the seed of its own contradiction, its own destruction even.

It's of the 'internal logic of the Church' approach seen in George Lindbeck and ecumenical Protestantism, and constitutes 'mediums of interpretation' without privilege but from within some institutional and cultural set position. The Anglo-Catholic equivalent is Radical Orthodoxy, and another variant on both is Rowan Williams's narrative-detail theology.

I contend that these positions adopted are voluntary, that is one just chooses to be within a Church logic of performance, or this bubble of Platonic perfection or this one part of multicultural group-talk (Rowan Williams).

The other pole of this cultural freezing and wall-building is liberal postmodernism, of the kind of Don Cupitt and Lloyd Geering - that is sometimes called theological nihilism. That there are no objective anchors means that one may as well take from Buddhism as well as Christianity, or from humanism especially.

Now, Rachel, as an ex-English teacher might, had a very strong style of writing that is economical and dry, but adds to the whole 'performance-literary' nature of her approach. Deriving her material from an evangelical resource, she had a built-in conflict with that source's own conflict: she is in favour of women's ordained ministry, including her own.

The problem is that she can draw this from feminism, and issues of liberal equality. But such would start a slippery slope towards a broader non-realism in her logic.

In any case, the very theology expressed was itself potentially its own gravedigger. There are no guarantees with performance theology of staying within any of its artificial boundaries.

One conflictual way of keeping boundaries is to experience a largely non-Anglican entertainment spirituality of the big neo-Pentecostal gathering. It is conflictual because the theology of cultural boundaries is opposed to the experiential-expressive. This is another road to liberalism, to the subjective 'I prefer' and it is indeed another internal conflict in Rachel's system, as she describes it. I suspect there is some magical thinking in this, and it is not pure experience for experience sake. In fact she has some aspects of being a medium, once asking me about the significance of a green garage door... Revelation and magic are rather close together, just as is the Catholic approach to eucharist even when they insist it is supernatural rather than magical (reference here to Liberal Catholicism in the Theosophical mode that is magic at the altar, and Catholicism in the general mode that claims the supernatural at the altar: in the first the 'man' is the key to the repeated performance and in the second the 'man' is the communicative means of the performance that relates back to the apparent Christ event).

As Rachel encountered me and others - like those sympathetic to full female ministry - she realised the ideological dangers chose to dig herself into the more pure evangelical theology. After all, she knows it is one snake on the Snakes and Ladders board that can take her all the way from her position to outright humanist Unitarianism. She can throw one number to avoid it and another number to go on the slide. Other numbers have shorter snakes. Of course I am happy to oblige because from my side the snakes are ladders.

She associated herself with the likes of John Richardson, the Ugley Vicar, the one-time next door neighbour of Unitarian minister turned Anglican vicar... Richardson is opposed to women in ordained authority over men; Rachel therefore is forced to go into some convoluted biblical theology to justify women's headship - forced as well to accept that Paul wrote Timothy and Titus, which any reasonable liberal and not-so-liberal scholar will dismiss as the work of some later traditionalist.

Now I know where this next goes. She'll say she is digging into a resource with its own form of objectivity, its own deep well - this is also the Rowan Williams approach. Except, of course, Rowan Williams as a speak of many different languages can also give a resourced lecture on the Bhagavad Gita and the Qu'ran; he can talk about Sharia Law as an additional law for another community. Evangelicals keep the blinkers on, in contrast.

Yet behind this approach is still the cultural choice, the apparent absence of wider objectivity and she says, "I'm not daft," and, "You're not daft," when it comes to wider scientific and social scientific findings about the natural of reality and her choice to use the logic of the church.

She further is saying that there is no neutrality, so I pick my humanism as she picks her Christianity, and Christianity led to humanism anyway.

Here is the exchange via Facebook that led to this blog entry:

Rachel Marszalek But it's *church* making decisions regarding Bishops, hence your bringing a secular world view to bear is simply that- bringing a secular world view to bear. I understand that world view, I'm not daft, the church makes it's decisions within another set of parameters, you know that, you're not daft either.


Adrian Worsfold I knew you'd say that, but there is a price that follows - the price of divorce from the world and sectarianism. Divorce and the turn into your own private world. You are not daft, but the price again is to be daft in order to follow a logic that has no bearing outside. And that is unacceptable to me. Theology wanders off into its own world.


Rachel Marszalek All world views are constructs including the secular one, you know that - the great thing is we are given a choice regarding which becomes the one in which we live and move and have our being - the Christian one has, of course, been the shaper of the secular one you think you neutrally inhabit - you don't.


Adrian Worsfold No no. This is the postmodern get-out that won't do. There is a hierarchy of knowledge, starting with maths as form and physics as object. This is important because one requires discipline and is realised in the physics of experiment. Chemistry builds on that physics, and then biology. Social science also uses experiment but has more handling of the subjective - the validity argument as opposed to regularity. Then we get to the arts and the problem of 'what is a good painting' just as is the problem of 'what is a correct religious belief'. As you can tell, I understand but no longer go along with the postmodern view, liberal or conservative. Once you expose the unhinged radical orthodox view, it has to apply to the liberal view. Just why does the religious liberal follow general narratives of meaning today? Is it because it is today's running fiction, a sort of ongoing working meaning, or because it might actually deliver results. These results (that can land a craft on a comet) are real and objective and often defy one's own wishes. So there is not an issue here of neutrality, but one narrative that is towards the correct and one that is part of a replaced world view. In the evangelical logic, many wheels go round but nothing actually explains the cosmos as it exists.


Rachel Marszalek Why those of us who live by faith need explanation all the time - it is not that the one requires a dispensing with the other, it's just that there is that that can not be explained: revelation and the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit - these are perceived by faith and can not be studied under a microscope ....


Adrian Worsfold Now you are jumping around again. When the cultural argument breaks down, you hop across to the experiential. But (as we are indeed not daft) you know that this is at conflict with the cultural argument - the one that has its chosen boundaries of expression and for you is an institutional Church one. 'Perceived by faith' is a jump both to individualism and to a supreme objectivity (except you can't find that but via subjective experience). If this is your line, then it is nothing to do with non-neutralities, bur rather that I am wrong. And on this basis I will discuss maths, physics and all manner of naturalistic truths and pitch them against Christianity any day. It's a difference argument.

The blog entry by Rachel this responds to is here:

I used to include the postmodern in my theology, but I was never entirely happy with it. I tried it regarding a Christian narrative while at Barton (2004-2010), but it underwent a kind of decay of parts and then large parts - a sort of theological dementia. I participated less and less, said less and less. The priest was sympathetic, he had his 'whole tradition' approach rather than me being a selective liberal chopping out the unethical. He too was postmodern, cultural, and added in a bit of the Anglo-Saxon for good measure. The high point was the bones eucharist in the other Barton church held by English heritage, in which the bishop allowed some prior to 1662 material as well as the Old English Lord's Prayer. Fantasy and Phantasm.

An interesting part of this was reading Don Cupitt and disagreeing. His book Jesus and Philosophy was a remarkable turn towards objective history and, I thought, bizarrely wrong - the notion that a sayings Jesus was more credible than the (very problematic) narrative Jesus of the gospels. It was apparently earlier and more primitive, it even brought the fifth Gospel into more credibility as containing earlier material. It was also a homage to the Jesus Seminar - historians doing history from the secondary sources of the Gospels. How odd for a non-realist to go this way! OK, he was soon back to the usual global non-realism, but then asserting a choice of general narratives rather than neither deriving from the narrowness of the Church as the premodern postmoderns of Radical Orthodoxy were doing nor inhabiting the magical worlds of the New Age. This raises a question. Why?

Why these narratives? Why the general humanist ones of science and technology as explanations? Might it be because they are true or truer?

Yes, the point about liberal religion is to make a faith that is consistent with contemporary narratives. To this extent, I'm with Cupitt, though for him to be with me he's had to stop presiding at Anglican services and even attending. He can be quiet in a Quaker gathering, and might (but doesn't) throw in some programmatic Buddhism.

I'm aware of Thomas Kuhn and paradigm shifts; I'm aware of explanations undergoing shifts of perspective as the falsifications move on. I'm aware of insights that get tested, first mathematically and then objectively.

But here is my stance now. What's wrong with Platonist Radical Orthodoxy calling sociology 'secular theology' is that sociology does research and that research produces answers we don't like as well as ones we do. Sociology is not some chosen alternative world view as credible as bubble Platonism. It actually is rooted in reality.The same is true with evangelical resource theology. It might delve into its own history, or the twists and turns of biblical content (I can do that for a touch of unitarianism - small u - and Arianism too). But in the end it is superseded. Its cosmic arguments are wrong: it tells us nothing about science, little about history as it lacks sound method, bad on ethics, destructive of social organising (gender, gays etc.)... It is mythological, so Jesus the end-time rabbi is turned into a subject of early Christian communities.

Just as the weather is a chaos that becomes a system, and is no longer prayed for like the ancients supposed, so is indeed much of our evolved reality: from simplicity to interactive complexity: where intelligence is late and not at the beginning. This applies to all equilibrium systems, from nature to economics. We have a mathematics with (real!) virtual numbers that produces complexity out of simplicity, and we have the beauty of simple equations that describe reality and are balanced.

Paul Dirac is a modern prophet more than equal to anyone within Christianity. He says an equation to describe reality ought to be simple and beautiful.

These are of form. They make real predictions and physics has turned them into objective pursuits. Chemistry has physics into mixture. Biology turns chemistry into evolving life - no God at the tiller. Social science analyses intelligent life - psychology being partly scientific but also partly an argument, economics using maths but arguing over human behaviour, sociology using regularity and small group validity, politics using arguments of organising for outcomes. History has rules of primary source evidence. Geography borrows from science and social science as well as surveying. The arts become oh so subjective - what is a good painting, what music is beautiful (but is it regular only?), and then of course there is theology - what you choose is up to you, or your group. It is as subjective as the arts.

Is there a power game involved here? Yes, there is. There is because one is saying, this is true - this involves truth methodology - and is set against older forms of mythological thinking.

Again, aware of the critiques of the philosophers of language, never the less language even as a rich filter of meaning, a distorter perhaps of some meaning, is not the be all and end all, forcing a view that all is within a dictionary. No it is not - language is a servant, and if language distorts then the answer is to know it (and we do) and to refine it. And that's my other argument against Don Cupitt. Just as when he tried to make (wrong in direction) positive claims about Jesus the soothsayer, so he is wrong (yes, wrong) to say we live within the dictionary, simply moving from one meaning to another.

That way we may as well be Radical Orthodox or Evangelical or New Age or anything you like. But it is not so, thanks to research, thanks to the maths and physics that can land a spacecraft on a moving comet.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

On Printing A5s on A4 Landscape...

I've been busy recently, having taken on the voluntary working task of doing the Hull Unitarian Magazine, and learning just how constraining is A5 as a format. It is half the size of A4, retaining the width to height square root of 2 dimensions. Text has to be readable, but the problem with a big screen and A5 is the text turns out to be tiny. I've been using games software (crossword maker, maze), image software (for layers of image and text), Desk Top Publishing (to fit texts in shapes and flow the text through different shapes and pages), text processing (for throwing text around, forcing line endings), and Word Processing (for columns, emphases).

Each of these are saved to A5 .PDFs. Some are single pages, some double pages. I've been working on the principle of odd pages have superiority and the double paged spread. I'm at 20 pages, and no filler like jokes. The result evolving in page order can be viewed but I should say as I wait for the article of the Chair of the congregation, I am making parts easier to read. This includes the picture on page 2, the inside front cover. That's on its side, to turn the booklet to view the picture. I may use instead a Unitarian poster picture of Stonehenge in which one adds poster text - I may add feature article text, if it fits. There are ways and means. It is already at the correct dimensions for a .PDF (if at A4). I could convert it and text to an image and have text relaid over the top a second time for clarity if needed and involve a fade out of the image under the text.

All these .PDFs at A5 each get merged into one document of 20 pages.

The printer business receives the .PDF in page order and makes the A5 booklet up. So it runs in multiples of 4, and they do the donkey work. Otherwise, for 20 pages, the arrangement would have to be:

Outer: 20, 01; 18, 03; 16, 05; 14, 07; 12, 09. Inner: 02, 19; 04,17; 06, 15; 08, 13; 10, 11.

So 10 and 11 are the centre-pages. The commercial printer business used insists on A5 with a 10mm margin all round so it is not possible to have 10 and 11 as a landscape A4. I haven't asked, however. I'm sure it is possible, but likely to be out of automatic arrangements.

If you want an early read, and a read before it is finished, it is here:
but it will change. The finished version will go on the Hull Unitarian website.

Well, what about some home testing with printing out? One would not believe how difficult this is. Apparently Adobe Reader does have a facility for a booklet print, where A5 doubles up to landscape A4 on a print out, but many (like iPrint) simply shrink the A5 further.

I don't want to have Adobe Reader. It is large, cumbersome and domineering. It's like Real Player - get rid of it. But one needs to have the software that somehow recognises the problem.

A solution is to make at A4 and then shrink. Print that to .PDF when shrunk. It is not the answer, as everything will be too small having used A4 and of course it is no good for the commercial printer. Another solution is to use MS Word and print with its facility. Guess what? I don't have MS Word on my main computer. Nor do I want to be constrained to a Word Processor. Another solution is using a Desk Top Publisher - after all, they are designed for posters, booklets and leaflets. I have a Serif DTP but this would mean doing everything via DTP. Well, it is possible but not by first choice: games software I use with image software together but using DTP would be just one further stage. Serif irritates me too, having to shove things out of the way to bring from the back to the front (and so on).

It's a .PDF issue. Look around the Internet forums and you see the only answer is Adobe Reader.

Well, not so, because I have a similar solution based on Nitro Reader. You do choose A4 size to print, but use its facilities for a side by side printout.

So whatever printer is used (including to .PDFs!) one selects A4 paper. This is the Epson irritating printer dialog (American spelling) box that forever tries to trick the user into buying Epson ink or freezing the printer. Be careful what is pressed when the ink goes in. Then comes the main Nitro dialog box, the one from this software and differs from other .PDF readers/ semi-editors.

It says All in the dialog box because the .PDF used has two pages, the minimum. In a larger .PDF document, the pages to print must be selected. Multiple pages (to show) is selected. Look at the view - it may be unnecessary to select Auto-rotate and centre. By the way, the OK is just visible because I doggedly use 800 by 600 screen.

That does the job. Nitro Reader is free. Its extra pay-for facilities are provided by other free software. This is rather like Foxit Reader sticking an evaluation mark on. I still use it because PDF-XChange will take it off. And I prefer the older version of PDF-XChange as it isn't trying to flog a pay-for version and does all I want.

So there we are. I'm already building up material for the February-March issue, but it is not certain I'll be doing it. If it doesn't work I'll lose the task.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Drunken GDP Expansion: Hull's Prostitutes

My friend insists I should. No, he is wrong. This is bad self-advice and advice to me. What is said in the car should stay in the car.

Ideally he wants his talented artistic son to videotape his pub rantings on the world and everything, and this can include the car journeys back from the pub - back because that is when the alcohol is doing its narrating. I worry about him because a real tension-busting outpouring happens every week no matter what the topic; I hope it is tension-busting, but it could also be dam wall breaking and I once knew someone called Buster Bloodvessel. No I didn't, but making that claim is the kind of dodgy historical recall that might be wrapped up in one of these rants.

My friend likes cheese and this would be an alternative to booze. To paraphrase that "cunt", the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he should, 'Cheese life. Cheese a job. Cheese his shop. Cheese his fucking Sky Television, cheese the late night disaster meal, cheese the bog for the necessities, pissing your last in an extended home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the talented offspring brats you've spawned to replace yourself.'

What happened tonight is five of us met up. Usually it is four, but a baby sitter was found so it was the three plus two this time. The two had 'preloaded' and were merry from the off. I stay alcohol free.

This leads to a dilemma when the doctor told me to lose weight by drinking less alcohol. Seeing as hardly any ever touches my lips, I'm not sure what I should do - throw up alcohol?

I normally leave that to others, but constitutions are well-built by now. 20 years since the couple of the five first met, and my friend in the car worked out that it's been 35 years since who became his wife and another woman had him covered in shaving foam with a picture taken by the bloke there and then. More years have passed of consistent and persistent alcoholic consumption, paying towards the NHS via taxes on beer. By the way, 35 years must be wrong. The events are likely to be not later than 1982 and cannot be earlier than 1980. I wasn't there when the naked shaving foam incident happened as the relationship building was semi-independent of the historical friends. Scarborough, apparently. The persistent alcohol, though, goes back to 1977.

I can drive home with all others dropped off, and the other local friend having taken an earlier bus to get up for early part time work, and so my friend can twitter away like a self-powered bird as the car powers us home. All I need say is, "I see, I see," just to keep things rolling. So the other night I discovered the price list of prostitutes.

The full fuck is £77, and £40 for a blow job, and a hand job is less... Still, I said, if traffic is low. Oh no. He recalled when up a ladder painting the shop and the lass below appeared and disappeared eight times within the early hour. How does he know the price, when he never visits these? Ah, the shop is the in and out of information. And the prostitutes - as we saw this week and last on our travels - gather close to the shop. Indeed the rubber throaways have to be removed from the barbed wire at the back of the shop, dribbling on his neck (he says) as he reaches up to get them.

This price information ought to be recorded by the Office of National Statistics because in the desperate bid to expand the economy the Gross Domestic Product (and boy is it gross) now includes prostitution and illegal drug dealing. When I commented today on the reasonable appearance of two prostitutes stood together, near the shop, my friend said "never, ever go to them" because it is always a disappointment. So, I said, well, last week it was a price list and now we're having a survey of the quality of the product.

This is why our fucking cunt the Chancellor stole Irvine Welsh's word-use, because as Chancellor he now includes the drugged up and the semen
extracted as part of the economy's supply and demand.

That MP, who sent pictures of his knob to some reporter in a sting. Suppose it had been a genuine woman? What's that worth when added to the Gross Domestic Product?

And why re-introduce the unemployment version of the truck system, so that not only is the dole measly and desperately inadequate, especially with the Tory/ Lib Dem Bedroom Tax and 20% Council Tax [don't forget that one, Mr. Miliband], but will by Tory intent come in prepayment card form so you can only buy food and transport. I mean, if you can't pay the occasional prostitute, what will that do for the GDP? What a vicious fucking cunt is the Work and Pensions Secretary as well as the Chancellor. Talk about the Nasty Party. It's all coming out now, like barren semen mixed with blood.

Apparently back in 1977 my two friends, the same ones, paid £12.50 for me to receive the experience of a prostitute but I "ran away" and missed my chance. I would prefer to wait for such experience, and did a long long time. Although he varies as to the precise price, one can pass this inflation information to the ONS as well.

I am not going to turn this blog into a record of trips home. I have a diary to do that, and often the conversation doesn't even feature. It is but a piss into the wind. Otherwise it is dodgy memoirs of girls when at school, sexual encounters long gone, and more up to date comments that really ought to go no further than their echoes. Tonight, for example, was in part about arses and blood, and coughing up blood, and that really isn't a topic for the public.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Constitutional Mess

I'm pro-European and a confederalist - that's to say, pool sovereignty practically in the European Union but ultimate sovereignty is held by the nation state via reserved unanimity votes. This was why I was instinctively a Yes voter, if I lived in Scotland, plus I hate the Tories and dismiss the turncoat Liberal Demcorats. Oh to be rid of them forever. However, I drifted towards No and only at the end saw the Yes as a definite revolutionary step to shift reform into the constitution of countries in the British Isles.

However, I think we knew that the Noes were relatively silent and the 10% gap wasn't a surprise. However, we are now in a constitutional mess, and had politicians been more generous in tone we might have had a neater outcome via a Yes than we have now.

We are in a constitutional mess. David Cameron has linked the newer promised Scottish powers with English purity over those powers, probably because Tory back benchers started saying they wouldn't back the three party leader commitment towards maximum devolution.

Cameron's simplest solution won't work. Imagine a government elected on a mandate where it has an overall majority but with Scottish (and Welsh and Northern/ North of Irish too) MPs excluded on certain voting areas, the government would not command a majority and be unable to govern its domestic agenda. The government where it did have rights to bring in the Scots, Gaels, Ulsters and Celts would frustrate the finances of the domestic majority voting. So there would be a government that couldn't govern, and a domestic vote that would be held up by the government.

The problem with an English Parliament - the clean federalist solution - is that it would frustrate the people of the north whose culture is closer to the Scottish. Leave neo-liberalism to Essex, Kent and London! Regional government is an alternative, but it couldn't have the powers of the Scots.

On a historical basis we could have three English Parliaments. One would be north of the Danelaw, one south of the Danelaw and one in Cornwall. Assemblies like Yorkshire and the Humber don't make sense from the point of view of identity. Newcastle voted No and the idea was dropped.

How simpler it would have been for the Scots to be independent and then have a Council of the British Isles. We could even bring Ireland in proper, and reassure the Northern Irish, who might consider Independence and the Welsh too might see its potential. The Council would meet to agree on matters of currency, foreign policy stances and mutual defence.

Labour wants a term in office and a constitutional conversation (presumably after delivery to Scotland making the West Lothian question even more begging). If it took power, once more, it would probably introduce proper proportional representation, thus making government coalition based - but do we really want UKIP replacing right-wing Tories? Look how neo-liberal is the Scottish UKIP MEP. We almost have to devolve to an English Parliament with an English government, and then devolve again to the regions.

Better surely to have them all independent and then devolve?

If the Tories welch on the deal with Scotland because Labour won't address the West Lothian question until after the next election (the assumption being it wins because of the electoral bias, the effect of UKIP on the Tories and the demise of the turncoat Liberal Democrats), the demand will grow for another referendum in Scotland.

The Gordon Brown plan, endorsed by three leaders, could have swayed 5%. If it did, that's neck and neck for independence without it. Welch on the deal and expect another referendum. Expect the return then of Alex Salmond to say they were all cheated.

What a mess.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Puzzles and a Picture

I'd be the editor of the Hull church bimonthly (i.e. once every two months) rag. It needs to be of a format and appearance for the outsider. I did a working out of 12 pages that observed the rule of odd number pages primacy and some facing pages features. Page 1 (cover) I'd have a local map and service time, simple as that. On the back page I'd put a map of the remaining eight Yorkshire Unitarian Union churches - doesn't include Doncaster and Sheffield. That's page 12. I can fill every page; indeed I could do it monthly.

Problem is, I'm too controversial. It needs a safer pair of hands, although recently one issue had some words scrubbed out and the last one was pulped because of unusual events - why it was late and a bit filled-up with web chat. I didn't know that, and it was why I offered.

So instead I've offered content. Plus I was asked to contribute an autumnal picture as a cover. I've done that, and provided various forms of content. Two of these pasttime pages have been put on my website.

First is a crossword, which outsiders via Facebook Unitarians have found too hard. That's because it relies on local knowledge, or an online map for around Hull, and perhaps read my more historical pieces in Learning / Religion / Unitarian via the menus on my website. But it relies on wider denominational knowledge too. Surely these are bleeding obvious, and if you don't know the first minister at Hull (Presbyterian then) you know the heir. One is a surname and one a first name...
  1. No priest he and to Jean Michelle Jarre's countryman with discovery.
  2. House bird - no! of Hugenot 'dissent'.
  3. First minister and heir.
You can find out about Melsa online - via a very significant Latin and English book. And this minister at Nottingham had a first name Gerald.

So the crossword is one item. It's using software installed, not a website. Also using software is a great maze-maker Amaze and by processing the picture result I can make it into bendy tipsy images. The result in a .PDF incorporates a sign from the old chapel building that I have processed to be correctly horizontal and the verticals to be parallel. That sort of processing used to be expensive but now is available free and plugs into a free Irfan View. A maze is really filler. I do have some old word searches software that actually does them within shapes.

The final product of the magazine editor is 12 pages in .PDF format. The present editor does things in MS Word and then makes it into .PDF, but my .PDF would come from many software directions and then be plugged together either in page order or in 12 page booklet order, which I'm guessing here now is 1, 2, 11,12, 3, 4, 9, 10, 5, 6, 7, 8. That'll be the professional printer's order. If they're done at A4 then the conversion to A5 is easy at the printing stage, but I think one has to consider the reader's ability to see. I would thus have all text at 14 point arial to make it easier to read.

Recently updated was a piece on Liberal Catholics that was in The Inquirer but became out of date. This is an example of  adding .PDF pages to others and making a new document.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Best Wishes Scotland

I've made my mind up. Oops, I don't have a vote. I was always sympathetic to Scottish Independence, simply on the grounds that an identifiable people should run their own affairs, so long as they were easily part of other unions, and this means the Europen Union.

Then more recently I was less in favour on the same principle, as in what is wrong with the United Kingdom. Actually, there is plenty wrong with the United Kingdom, including its inability to devolve to the English. Westminster could reduce itself if there was an England-wide Parliament; I'm not in favour of regional devolution. I'm in favour of what emerged out of Wessex and Mercia, from Alfred and Aethelstan, and of the Celts before them and continuing. The Normans afterwards plastered their rule over the rest of us, like a ready-built hierarchy, and England has been class-ridden ever since, from feudal power and monarch to capitalism, including inviting the Dutch to invade and get rid of the Stuarts.

Scotland is complex. It is silly for Scotland to have a welcome sign in Gaelic in Aberdeen. Gaelic was never spoken in Aberdeen among the ordinary population. Gaelic was always part of Scotland, to its west, and of course suffered ethnic cleansing at the hands of the English and the tut tut of modernist Scots. It was an English power that could take kilts from the Gaels, ban them culturally, and then pop them on to royals, while people had to leave and sheep took their place.

That's the difference between the Gaels and the Welsh, in that Welsh is of the whole of Wales. Indeed, properly speaking, Welsh is part of the whole of England too and up to the Scottish border. Celtic is continuous with Welsh - old manuscripts can be read today in Cymraeg but try and get the English to read Anglo-Saxon. Anglo-Saxon may as well be a foreign language - it is, through time.

I'm in favour of Scottish independence and here's why, and despite losing left-leaning votes (though these days Labour is so right wing and compromised it's hardly worth the loss). Set against the nastiest, most right wing government we have ever had in modern times, including those turncoats called Liberal Democrats (who'd have thought it - I didn't but I will at the ballot box next time), the Scots seem civilised, collective, communal. They properly believe in communities and responsibility, one to the other.

What we have is a London that is a casino, and notions that Liverpool to Leeds should be another urban casino. Somewhere in between is Birmingham. Gone are the real notions of manufacturing, serving, craft, skill and career; it's all instrumentalism from school and college to mobile CV. If you are not a profit centre individual, you will exist on the margins in a no-world of meagre benefits with a system to force you to become one of those individuals. It's a dog eat dog world of liberal economics and Tory self-satisfaction.

What Scotland will become, independent, is a beacon of decency. It might not be quite as rich as a dog eat dog land, but it won't be as unequal either. It will consider things as a community, across complex populations and a rich inheritance. The English surely won't stand for it, to see the Scots enjoy a decent life while we are run by class-soaked right wing boys. The English gwerin can't be the losers all the time, to see the collective protections at work dismantled, and forced into the trough. They'll rise again, but it will take the Scots to show them how, and the Scots need their own power to do it.

Here's the contrast: English politics has Douglas Carswell defecting to UKIP on the usual narrow-minded agenda that has Cameron promising a referendum on in-out once he has negotiated a narrative to claim to stay in. This is about the British elite divided, uncomfortable with the European political elites but some more practical than others. The Scots are somewhere else: this politics is irrelevant. It should be irrelevant (although the democratic deficit in Europe is not irrelevant: but positive reform not removals).

Given the situation in Ukraine, we need the European Union more than ever - not politicking about how to leave.

The right wing Tory nutjobs will be with us for some time, unfortunately, because of a de-politicised South East gives them their space. The rest of us, also English, have to wake up. Otherwise we could lose Wales too, and even the Cornish. But then they might also teach the English how to behave.

Or, another idea, why not just dump London and let the rest of us organise our lives better?

Sunday, 24 August 2014

A Contemporary Religious Realism

I don't know Ian Paul. He's probably a very nice chap. He doesn't appear to be a very nice chap in his writing, however. He seems narrow-minded and authoritarian. If you expect self-defined Christians to come across as warm, pleasant, engaging types - well, he doesn't. He may be quite different in reality. He's just combative. I can be combtive too, in words, though I'm really a fluffy bunny.

He's been arguing with me, and many, on Facebook. He seems to enjoy it.

As I understand it, his position is that the Bible taken as a whole (the usual evangelical priorities and inclusions) is not an inclusive document, so that we take a text, and try to discern the original meaning, pr its context, then relate it to how we live, with our societies, then relate it to the revelation of God and the identification of God, and then have the ethical result.

So on the gay inclusion issue, the texts are blunt in their own context (but blunt about much else too). We live differently, now, but the texts won't stretch to say what was black is now white. Unlike with the authority of women, there are no contradictory texts when it comes to sex. There might be friendships, even close ajd loyal same sex ones, there might be relationships today that are not covered by Paul referring to Pagan same sex encounters as one of a list of sins. Jesus says nothing on homosexuality but then upholds strict views on marriage and divorce. The ethic which derives is therefore, no matter how much one pushes a different society, the maintenance of the biblical text means the exclusion of same sex and therefore the exclusion of same sex marriage. It means, in contemporary terms, the Church is forced to be homophobic, and it means the ethic derived clashes with contemporary inclusive ethics.

All this is to uphold the status of the Bible. But why so? Well, because they say so, because part of a Church has said so, the Church that made the canon has people who uphold the canon as the privileged source of revelatory text.

Now my sympathies are with the people who are for inclusion. I hope Colin Coward, recognised by the State with his MBE, succeeds in changing the Church of England. But I note how he does it. He does it by regarding the Bible as a flawed document and has an expansive view of the love of God. He gets this view from, I think, natural theology, and he is a critic of authoritarian Church and Bible. He is a critical participant and user of both. Others, however, stretch the text via the heremeneutical divide between then and now to include present loving, sexual relationships whilst maintaining the authority of the Bible, but not obsessed by sex. In contrast evangelicals appear to be obsessed with sex, which may be because that's the bit that remains off-limits by texts that mention sex by those who focus on the sex question.

The critical matter is the then and now divide, and the now divide has become all the greater: a time when they believed in a supernatural world, some of them in its last days (something that periodically affected ourselves in the past in times of weather and economic and conflict stress), and where we have believed in a world of its own regularity and now in a world of mathematical chaos (accompanied by some with a kind of philosophical chaos). The latter two positions have, for most thinking, God as a transcendent extra, not something that pushes up crops or allows the birds to fly. In terms of direct believing, a one time sacred canopy is replaced by choice and its loss, a working class resistance to organised religion in Europe and similar followed by just about anyone. Decline is affecting choice based America now and so active religion is still associated with magical and supernatural cultures, and with fear, and economic sub-development, or nationalism.

Thus the Ian Pauls of this world have to become defenders of identities, of rules of association, and in his case via the privileged Bible. And it's more than Bultmann's 'it's in the text' ahistoricism about how to understand 'the kerygma' of what was the basis of grasping the gospel. It is real information about understanding who Christ is.

Bultmann was aware of the problem of history, and the difference with science and other subject specialities. He and the anti-cultural revelationists, like Barth, and Bonhoeffer, whilst different from each other in so many ways, were searching for that space to organise biblical religion when the culture is not just hostile but urban, technological and indifferent. Others, like Tillich, created systemic parallel systems by which Christianity retained its systematic interrelated nature, but not as accessible from the outside as it tried to appear.

They were theological managers of decline. The fact is that history in its various historiographical schools has rules of procedure, and particularly regarding primary sources. Christianity doesn't have primary sources. The New Testament would be primary sources of the early Christians, and that's about as close as it gets to making Christ out of Jesus. They are their own, if related, supernaturalists and magicians. They are involved in the switch from end-time tribal leader of some Jews with a universalist Christian faith that focuses upon the messianic figure.

The closest we can get to them is imaginatively via the texts, if we want to. Why do we want to? I don't. I see no need to follow this 'cult of an individual' who is as evolved and mistaken and time-limited as anyone else. The rest is mythology of that time, and adapted since into traditional religion.

Religionists in the manner of evangelicals like to fashion themselves on the universality of text and communication and the 'linguistic turn' (until it comes to supernaturalism again - that Christ is really Christ as he always was, rather than accept the price of the linguistic turn). They'll blab on philosophically about language, but not like the liberal postmodernists for whom such text leads to a kind of non-realism regarding all religion. Once again it is pre-selected performance-text, just as some postmodern conservatives have reinvented a performance-Church, an identity that for some is Protestant and others is Catholic, all based on selecting and freezing past cultures. It's a game of preservation again.

My final Anglican minister of religion said to me he was not a liberal but followed the whole tradition Catholic-style because he wanted to gain the whole benefit from the discipline of doing it all and whole. At the same time he'd say he agreed with Dawkins on biology and contemporary physics and all the rest. His package was a kind of doing, based on former times and inherited. This to me, in the end, is a cop out because it says religion is impossible in contemporary times. It is like Chasssidic Jews who'd return to the older, better times, and try at least to culture themselves accordingly.

It's like the Rochdale bus driver who does his day job, but his home is full of the civil war society memorabelia that guides his life-view in between re-enacting battles with his wife in some smoky hut doing some weaving.

I used to be 'story-based' in doing religion, one as a Christian-dharma, a path, with some consistency, but was still selective. The trouble with the 'whole tradition' is that it carries harm along with the benefits. It isn't ethically checked first.

Unlike with Ian Paul, ethics must come first, ethics decided by collective debate and individual conscience. But then comes knowledge, and how we know, even in the context of talking communities of friendship (in the MacMurray sense). The issue of language has captured even liberal postmodernists into a kind of language fundamentalism that I find misleading, misleading because research delivers back results that show language as a filter only when dealing with results. We make progress through these results.

So first we have mathematics, with form and structure. These are realised in physics, in pure falsified knowledge, and then expanded into chemistry. Then comes biology, or chemistry coming to life (where it does) and then we are led to psychology (some theories are speculative!) and anthropology (animals and humans). So into sociology, and economics (and politics even) and then the houses of history. So much geography seems derived from economics and social science, applied spatially. Then you get to the arts, where objectivity and subjectivity are merged, as is the case with religion pure.

I no longer attempt to apply a non-objective-subjective merged language postmodernism across the board. Its relevance in religion, as in art, maintains where objectivity and subjectivity have merged and collapsed. In physics, subjectivity is part of the objective system - the observer principle. In religion, this principle is far more pervasive.

Buddhism understands the individual observer-participant principle, and it is at the core of its activity. So is the mixing, at the deepest level, of the objective and subjective, and yet Buddhism didn't pay the price of Western continental philosophy with its anti-realism. Buddhism held to the real and the transitory nature of all things. At the deepest samsara and nirvana meet, and nirvana or nothing is also real, real if away, the transitory state itself at its ultimate. There is not a meeting of Western non-realism and Buddhism, and indeed the Stephen Batchelor's of this world realise that Buddhism is yet another package, but one of insight.

I don't agree with Don Cupitt and his pervasive non-realism and the application of the philosophical sweep. Rather I think there is a hierarchy of knowledge where theories are speculative and guiding as underpinned by the best falsified tests and research. It's not all language when social science delivers results we'd rather not see, and this is the answer to the Radical Orthodoxy's tripe that sociology is but secular theology. Not when there is research.

And I don't agree with Ian Paul about the privilege of a text. Why? He says the move of liberal religionists to history and science was disastrous. To whom? To people like him, to a religion based on past world views. As for the disaster, well tough. No wonder he appears combative. A number of his inclusionist Church friends are going down the liberal route - usually sticking and compromising at some awkward and artificial point. Peter Berger (the sociologist) could see the gravediggers in action, and the awkwardness of the compromisers over the sectarian traditionalists.

I'm interested, instead, not in gurus but in forms, like fractals and beautiful equations, like signals of transcendence (another Berger insight), where behind complexity is simplicity. Chaos theory now is seen throughout reality, from weather and climate to economics and evolution. Evolution and chaos almost forbids a designer God - it just is so that the copied mutate, and the mutated gain advantage in localities. Out of these chaotic growths come interactions that prove systemic, and systems give stability until they crash.

At the moment our link with dinosaurs are a few reptiles like crocs, aligators and, oh, bird life. Birds are dinosaurs! But the big meteorite 65 million years ago wiped out the big reptiles and gave space for the mammals including us to grow. Those who follow an 'incarnation of God' realism regarding Christianity have to account not just for the accident of the meteorite so that 'the Christ' didn't have a lizard skin but the outcome of mutations good and proper that led to us being the most self-reflective ones on this blue dot.

Oh I'm being silly. No I am not being silly. It's how people used to believe. If it is now 'text' and 'story' then say so, but the world is not the equivalent of a novel, even if your religion is so. I'd like religion to be more than a novel, to use cultural resources and means of reflection (yes, dragged from the past in some extent - there is method in its madness) to reflect on what there is - in terms of human misbehaviour, science, history, chaos, systems, space, time.

By the way, I don't agree with Colin Coward's natural theology. I think nature is cruel, nasty: evolution operates via death, and much of life has been just transitory. What is good has to be made good. The transcendent, if it exists, is not simply good, but gives a capacity for beauty and the good. Nor do I think he and liberals like him will necessarily succeed. I think his Church, despite the ordination of women -and women use experience, that alternative to 'text' - is struggling and the money and suburban churches are going the way of definition. Inside sects the old supernatural and magical universe lives on, unless otherwise organised.

My view of Christianity is - thanks for the introduction. The graveyard you built is over there.