Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Tackling the Fundy

So what's the answer to someone like Alan Craig, who was interviewed Saturday on BBC Radio 5 Live and rather held his own, and was (to secular ears at least) pretty offensive and exclusive towards Jayne Ozanne, the recent organiser of the YouGov Anglican attitudes to LGBTs survey, and married Erika and Susan? Erika and Susan would like to have been married in a Church of England church, but cannot by its rule-book.

He sounded offensive simply because he said God wants everyone to be heterosexual, with sex only within heterosexual marriage, and thus blanked out everyone who has a fulfilling relationship on any other basis. Effectively they cannot be Christian if they don't "pay the price" that Jesus charged. But in comparison he left others back in their sophistications and semi-removed arguments because he was able to be simplistic and literalist straight off the page. Jesus had said a man marries a woman and becomes one flesh for eternity. That's it; end of argument.

Just to say, back in Anglican days I was once invited to join Erika and crowd going to Leeds but declined to do so, and thus after so many years of online contact was surprised to hear that Erika had not even a residual German accent. In fact all three women sounded terribly Anglican, where you can imagine dinner parties and candles and a quick prayer at the beginning. As a northern pleb I discovered this terribly Anglican way when an agnostic and mixing with the chaplaincy briefly at the University of Essex.

The weakness of Jayne Ozanne's position is that she claims also to be evangelical but has to use 'the Jesus ethic' implied, and the supposed 'core message of the New Testament as a whole' to make her argument, but this leaves a lot in between of absent information and technique. Erika can say how damaged evangelical youth become because their individual gay discovery is rejected by people like Alan Craig, particularly in supposedly supportative fellowships that are anything but. That's an ethical argument that then needs another argument about theology and ethics. The wish to marry within Anglicanism is a disjuncture between personal biographies and the institution.

Packed into this argument, of course, is Jesus as trump card, so no one wins an argument against Jesus and Alan Craig kept quoting Jesus, or claimed to do so.

One argument against him is to state more clearly that no one claiming to be Christian is obliged to treat the Bible like the Qur'an is within Islam. Even if the Scriptures 'contain everything necessary for salvation', these can be treated with more subtle reading. The problem with this is the Rowan Williams' institutional argument, where despite all he had written previously, he discovered as Archbishop of Canterbury that the scriptures contain nothing positive regarding gay sexuality. This justified his efforts to secure an Anglican Covenant based on the institutional exclusion of gay ritual inclusion (marriage included, but much more), a Covenant which the Church of England rejected but which Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby obviously assumes was passed. (After all, this whole business that The Episcopal Church is excluded from doctrinal, ecumenical and interfaith votes as a "consequence" of inclusion is Anglican Covenant talk. Who cares what a synod votes when Anglican primates can act otherwise?)

First of all Alan Craig would be tackled on his bald statement that Jesus founded the Church. No he didn't and nor did he intend to do any such thing, not even a new synagogue. Jesus, he could be told, was a Jewish rabbi, an end-time rabbi.

Second point is that the Bible cannot be treated as reportage. The New Testament is all post-Paul and mainly in the Paul camp, and it is not reportage of Jesus but originally primary documents of the beliefs and expectations of mainly Gentile early Christians in diverse churches.

Therefore we cannot know what Jesus did actually say. However, we might assume he did say what is claimed about marriage because he will have understood and observed mosaic law.

This is where Jayne Ozanne was interesting, in that she said we now know so much more about sexuality, that it is not all male-female and she quoted the example of intersex people. She might have quoted people of one sex in body and the other in the brain. In other words: Jesus was wrong. Jesus was culturally limited.

This is the crux of it. Just as he and Paul were wrong about the last days, and the whole supernatural structure of existence, so they were wrong by being of a limited cultural world view.

So where that leads is Christianity as 'the cult of the individual', and that Jesus is followed. Alan Craig will tackle this simply: Jesus is God Incarnate and therefore, as he said, knows all about homosexuality and polygamy. He no doubt knew all about nuclear energy as well, if you asked him, given that nuclear power is rather important for the workings of the cosmos. He'd have told James Clerk Maxwell and Albert Einstein a thing or two as well.

It is drivel, of course. Human beings are not made by God but evolved, including all its apparent gurus. We came about because some random rock out of the sky knocked out the life support for dinosaurs - a huge extinction took place. Evolution is specific and chaotic, only systematic in its interactions. And all humans go back to a single cell organism. The argument about intersex, which is scientific, clashes against readings of scriptures, which is mythology. Mythology tells us nothing other than how cultures believed and arranged themselves, and how others imagine.

In the end, Christianity comes down to a dogma of priorities: the cult of the individual guru, the priority and sufficiency of scripture, and it leaves the compromisers like Erika, Susan and Jayne in having to become ever more sophisticated in their acceptance of these two premises and yet be fully included.

My answer is thus to deny the label Christian, and clearly I am not because for me Christianity is belief in the incarnation of God in the man Jesus. I don't believe this, nor in what this implies. I don't understand the label liberal Christian either when it comes to those others using the label in Unitarian churches or Quaker meeting houses. People can call themselves what they like of course but there is no 'ethical league table' available historically at which Jesus can be placed at the top. It doesn't work like that. Also I think there is a departure between Christianity and ethics, simply because Christianity's first loyalty is to its Christian interpreted guru and the scriptures from where much but not all comes.

So I am not surprised that someone like Alan Craig can run away with it, and give full rein to his unethical offensiveness. The rules are biased in his favour. He can be challenged of course, by other Christians, but he gets away faster and clearer while they are interpreting the starting gun.

As for young people: well change and a bit of trauma is all part of being a teenager and coming to adulthood. Transition is part of learning. We come to realise that things are not quite as we thought - more abstract, less concrete, and motives are mixed. It is their task when the fellowship is stifling to leave and find a new path. They are not in cults, and people also do leave cults. It's bad but they'll get over it. If they don't seem to be able to recover then get help and not from such Christians.

Tough about the Church of England. The days of cultural support for a Church as a Church (in the Troeltsch sense) are pretty much over. The choices are (on his categories) between being a sect or mysticism. Mysticism never priorities another guru or a book. We live in interesting times, as they say.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

History on Pluralist

More slowly these days because it is as the interest takes me or because it is a resource I've been meaning to do but only recently got around to it. It is the latter case, this time, using some materials to write a web page on the Anglo-Saxons, and Jutes, and the Vikings, and what came after the Romans and until William the Bastard decided to install his own feudal system. It all adds to the choice of history materials that I have made over time. it's all on my website.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Anglican Homophobia Part 2

So the at the press conference Friday 15th Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby did mention LGBT people. The statement didn't but the communique did. The audience and questioning meant a different tone from him, as a sort of gloss to the administration carried through.

And here's a thought. The language of "consequences not sanctions" is the language of the Anglican Covenant. The Covenant, I seem to recall, was voted down by the Church of England, but this doesn't seem to matter. Meanwhile the Americans on the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) seem to be sure that the Primates have no power to remove their participation and voting, and that therefore there are no consequences.

Consequences can only "follow" if the Covenant is agreed and operating, but it isn't, and so the consequence of this is nothing may have happened. Unless The Episcopal Church decides for itself not to vote on doctrine, not to do ecumenical things and not be represented at an Interfaith level. But in the ACC the American Church might just carry on.

Questions for the English General Synod then: Was the Archbishop operating the Covenant? On what basis?

Friday, 15 January 2016

Anglican Institutional Homophobia

The process of an institutional reconciliation method is to produce the least sanction that can hold the whole together. This is where few are satisfied the most but most are dissatisfied the least that can be expected.

The Episcopal Church, that is the one inclusive as a Church, is thus sanctioned for three years, in that it is reduced to observer status in doctrinal and interfaith matters - it cannot make its own input to those concerns at a Communion level. Beyond that comes lots of jargon about love and including the institution.

But in three years the primates of the Communion may well gather again via threats and intended actions, and the same occur again. By then the Canadians may well have developed a consistent Church-wide policy of inclusion, so it would be added to the demotion to observer status.

Justin Welby has done his managerial task of institutional reconciling. He has done what Rowan Williams did. The assumption is it pains Welby less, because he comes from the evangelical wing. Probably, but Welby sees the social consequences for the Church of England and its marginalisation from society, whereas Rowan Williams was an enthusiast for a stronger worldwide Communion to become something more like a Church and with a greater episcopal authority at its core. Welby had considered even a looser Communion, depending on whatever kept the operation going. As it happens, he has balanced it on the basis of those who want a Communion of a believing fellowship, another view of authority. There wasn't an institutional live-and-let-live solution on offer, which is what he was considering. In the end, the solution is of either being on one side or the other, and thus exclusion to observer status of the one Church that has moved to inclusion.

So the ethical and the institutional are separated. Ethics do not come directly from the Bible simply because people in authority choose which passages they accept and reject. They reject passages against divorce; there is no Anglican Church isolated because it tolerates divorce: they all do it. Once again, the institutional is forwarded on the basis of marginalising one identifiable group of people. A second class Church (inclusive) must mean a second class Anglican: and its the same folk yet again (and this time they are not even mentioned in the communique).

The Episcopal Church has to accept the punishment because if it seriously walked then the pressure would be on for the Anglican Communion to take in the Anglican Church of North America, the GAFCON inspired breakaway. This only encourages of course an Anglican Church of Northern Europe... The institutional fix does not preclude entryist activity in the Church of England and on the continent.

The Church of England as pivotal in this once every three years lowest common denominator institutional activity is the one Western Church frustrated into being unable to change. LGBT in England people keep thinking they are making progress only to realise that they cannot make progress in this institution. It is not available. Plus these bishops are the least radical in proportion than for many a decade: they are institutional people. I simply point to the new and female Bishop of Hull, Alison White. When asked to comment on the removal of Jeremy Timm from preaching, she waffled on about "patiently" and "respectfully" having conversation and listening. In other words, the women have been co-opted, brought in, and very good of course, but they immediately adopt the institutional system. No one can budge. Well, Alan Wilson has become the exception on the edge of bishops that shows the rule.

I read what many gay folk say about their religious beliefs and their strained relationship with this national Church  (it is time it was forfeited this role: the State is going to have to be increasingly careful how it uses this institutional inheritance for civic religious roles, and may have to consider a new approach across the religions). I note Colin Coward's own expressions of broadening theology, but he is not the only one. I'm not surprised because as one detaches from an institution - as one is rejected by an institution - the result is some cutting of the rope. Given the pantomime to come in another three years, and given the Church of England's own freezing away from ethical progress, these folks either have to get out or become guerillas in the midst of the institutional sclerosis: misbehaving, shock tactics or similar. But they would have a more harmonious and self-affirming future outside. These days one does not have to stay with the same: there are choices and you can even do your own. Let the Church of England take the consequences of losing its moral authority.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

London Rapid Transit Suggestions

I have posted on this before, but then I have done much since. Many issues for London Underground and London Overground are now covered in my suggestions maps.

Explanatory webpage
Diagrammatic Map excluding Crossrail 2 and Barking Riverside
Diagrammatic Map adding Crossrail 2 and Barking Riverside
Geographical Map excluding Crossrail 2 and Barking Riverside
Geographical Map adding Crossrail 2 and Barking Riverside

The London Overground is turned into Chords so that routes are recognisable. They are named to be memorable and related. A Chord is an adopted name for an outer non-central serving railway, but for simplicity the Overground can call all its routes Chords. They offer travel choices: perhaps longer journeys but less crushed at busy times, different routes to the same place, negotiating pay zones better. In addition to Chords are the functional routes like for airports or crossing the river - all services would be part of the same ticketing, including the boats and the buslinks.

There are four stations on Holloway Road so Holloway Road is renamed Holloway. Caledonian Road and Barnsbury is renamed The Cally, as it says on the bridge. There is now only one Bethnal Green so the other is renamed Weavers Fields. The decision to call a station Battersea Power Station when it isn't one is reversed in my suggestion, where the line is extended to Clapham Junction one way and connects with the (missed) Victoria line the other via a new station of Lambeth South. That would be expensive, but the extension is for little real benefit and having to go to Kennington before turning north is ridiculous.

The Northern line as was is broken into its two logical lines: Unity line and Cricket line, according to my renamings. The District line is reduced so that the Tennis line runs between Wimbledon and Edgware. The Metropolitan line is less unwieldy by taking advantage of the Overground and Buslink so removing its Uxbridge spur and relocating West Harrow.

The Victoria line is extended to the north beyond its sidings to Angel Road and to the south beyond Herne Hill to Tulse Hill (for better connectivity). The Bakerloo line is extended but only to Lewisham - the Chords do the rest. The Cricket line, as renamed, goes into the Morden sidings and across the road to join the railway there and thus extend the Underground route to Sutton. The Tramlink is extended to South Wimbledon, across to Bromley - as its council prefers, rather than the Hayes line (Wolf Chord) becoming the Bakerloo - and the tracks to New Addington continue down along/ alongside the grassy areas and roads out across to Biggin Hill Airport and its settlement. This is why a Gatwick Express service must stop at East Croydon.

York Road is reopened as York Way and Maiden Lane is reopened too, providing a walking connection. It doesn't take masses of money to create some Overground connections. Brixton is awkward but not impractical.

What was the Northern Heights Railway, now Mill Chord, might cost some money, but the track bed is there - use of overlapping and single tracks can work with sufficient passing loops and double lines.

Buslinks link spurs and outer stations where useful. Goods lines are brought into passenger use, so better goods lines outside London are necessary. A podlink is driverless programmable vehicles on guided roads to help (in the case of Brent Cross) with the shopping. There are no guided buses.

One would like to see anything near this kind of investment in the north, but the capital city was starved of investment for a long time and needs it to get people moved about more effectively.

Some issues like Charing Cross being, really, two stations and Embankment as actually for Charing Cross are better left to sleep on. Dedicated walkways do the connecting and we now have walking down streets elsewhere. After all, if Crossrail 2 is built there will be one station called Euston Kings Cross St. Pancras International, and include Euston Road. I limit connections to 500 yards but even that is too far for many people. Such outdoor routes need to provide shelters and even covering. So many platforms are outdoors, but they provide shelters.

As for airports for London: there's Heathrow, Luton, Stansted, Gatwick, City and don't forget Biggin Hill.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Website in Eighteenth Year

My website has entered its eighteenth year of existence; it is eighteen itself next November, in 2016. In that time it has absorbed the relevant remains of a website I set up for YMCA Bonskeid House, once the facility closed, and has tested a Setam Mini-Website. The space I use hosts the Creative Learning Centre Website in Hull, that I wrote, and although there are links the two are separate. I was able to acquire the pluralist.co.uk name and have kept it ever since. It was based on a Unitarian faction, a sort of humanist and multi-faith progressive side contrasting with a liberal Christian conserving side. I was ahead of time in those days: the direction of travel has been mine. But Pluralist includes liberal Christian in the sense of its resources, just not exclusively. In between, however, I was out of the Unitarians and tried the Christian myth liturgically one more time, and it slowly then rapidly unravelled under a liberal theological critique.

I have given the website one big makeover in terms of look, to try and make it more consistent. it also had one big move. Well, starting from Freeserve it moved to several FreeUK accounts for a long time, but then moved to the Dropbox cloud that facilitates free broadband and not having to bother with File Transfer Protocol programs - the Dropbox is automatic FTP.

The website was subjected to a piece of research at the University of Lincoln, on the basis that it was principally a personal website on a similar basis of a photograph album. Yes, and no: it is simply a snail's trail of where I have been and what has interested me. But it is also of broader and general use. Elements used in teaching are available to all; the In Depth Group theology sessions provide a theological resource for anyone. I have just added a page on Search Engine Optimisation, perhaps scraping the barrel when it comes to website content, but it may show the odd employer that with SEO I know what I am talking about. I took the opportunity to overview and add to the Learning/ ICT menu and add in the Music Clips for NoteTab use and the existence of novel writing software.

Most recent changes are ongoing and are to the music list of CDs made for Unitarian services in Hull and to my novel effort that moves along with bursts and pauses. It houses a second place for Hull Unitarian Magazines because I write and compile them, and also because I'm the only one who uses impression software to produce front and back facing book-order pages.

Amazing then that this website is seventeen and a month old, and the very first Internet page is twenty five years old. It took me under eight years to join the number of websites. I remember how the first page I uploaded didn't happen, and it took a few goes with a deliberate choice of .html after the index page name before success. I learnt frames, CSS, how to bolt in Javascript, how to add in a few Java applications, and HTML 4 (XHTML) and then aspects of HTML 5. I understand it all comes under .XML and how that concept has expanded across all kinds of software documentation. My website remains simple, menu driven, mainly for reading and looking. I moved some galleries to Facebook and realised those running it changed the URL links. I asked to my website on a mobile phone and decided to keep frames but to retain the simplicity that other websites were forced to rediscover.  There are no video clips on it. I want it it without adverts and resource lean. It never takes long to load. I intend to do no more than add to it, and respond to anyone telling me something is out of date, if I don't find it first. The worst part for updating is external links, and so I keep these to as few as possible. I'll have to view the Learning external links again for dead ones. I see already that I have some work to do.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Sing Along Time

I don't like this time of year. So here are some carols (I hate) to celebrate. One is a bit naughty. Only one.

I hate carols so here are some made more relevant by me, these having appeared on Facebook:

Once in loyal David's city
Stood a local betting shop and pub.
There our hero drank then put his bet on:
Chose the favourite horse called 'Rub a Dub'.
There he watched it on a screen:
It came first; it ran just like a dream.


Silent Night? Noisy Night!
Live along the M1
The fence they put up doesn't them shush
For twenty four hours they go past in a rush
Never a decent night's sleep!
It makes the whole family weep.


It came upon a midnight clear
My friends had become rat-arsed:
They drank real ales to great excess
In emptying glass by glass.
Their thought was strained, the toilets gained,
Their talk turned into shout;
And then they tried to walk to homes,
In the gutters they did pass out.


Oh little towns of Hull and Barnsley,
They did once build a railway.
It competed with the North Eastern
It went in a round-about way.
It never was a total success:
The other was best for time;
But, in the end, the legacy is such,
It provided Hull's high level line.


This one I won't put on Facebook, for obvious reasons, and takes several verses to work through. Not for the faintly offended.

Ding dong merrily on low,
This woman came and slept with me.
Ding dong on my own pillow,
She lifted her legs and bent her knee.
Gloria, Maria in excessive!
Gloria, Maria in excessive.

E'en so here below below
I thought about an entry.
Had to get myself to show,
Be stiff and charged for plenty.
Gloria, my own self is elusive!
Gloria, my own self is elusive.

Come on, dutifully prime!
Her mouth worked on the donger.
So impressed was I this time,
My rear welcomed her finger.
Gloria, Maria in excessive!
Gloria, Maria in excessive.

Yet so, a girfriend did not land,
She left me to the season;
A flop, reject, one night stand -
It didn't stand to reason.
Gloria, Maria in exit lost!
Gloria, Maria in exit lost.

Since then I have shut my eyes,
To image what she was for;
Come to terms with the bye byes,
And online seeking one more.
Gloria, any for access there!
Gloria, any for access there.